Methodist safeguarding resources produced in partnership with survivors of abuse

05 September 2022

A safeguarding study guide has been sent to churches across East Anglia which has been produced in partnership with local survivors of abuse.

The resources, including a 4-part study guide, came out of conversations within the Methodist Survivors’ Advisory Group and the experiences shared in the study guide are powerful real-life accounts from survivors. They will be sent to every district in the Methodist Church to share with their churches with the aim of inviting careful and prayerful consideration of how churches can become safer spaces for all.

It’s the first time the Methodist Church has produced joint resources such as these and it’s hoped they will also be of interest to other church denominations seeking to learn from what survivors have to teach about their experience.

The study guide Reflect and Respond could form an Advent study course or a stand-alone programme for groups and are based on and around the four themes of the Methodist Church’s ‘Our Calling’. Each church will also receive leaflets offering advice and support to survivors of abuse.

Vivien Almond, a member of the Methodist Survivors Advisory Group & East Anglia District Safeguarding Group said: “As a survivor of childhood abuse and a life-long Christian I have often struggled with organised religion and many of the presumptions and ideals, for instance: forgiving and moving on, ‘Things like that don’t happen here, we’re a nice congregation’. The attitude to safeguarding and survivors has made it extremely difficult to feel comfortable in these settings.

“Since transferring to the Methodist Church, and becoming a member in the early 2000s I have searched for a way to try to change attitudes to survivors and safeguarding. When I was asked to become a member of the MSAG it took time to trust that the Church really did want to hear us, so from tentative beginnings we grew as a group and began to believe that we were going to be heard.

“It has been a privilege to help shape the resources which include a leaflet to give guidance to those who wish to support survivors who have never felt able to share their experience, and to give some pointers regarding what is helpful and, more importantly, what is unhelpful.

“I hope the bible study will enable small groups to learn in a deeper way, from the survivors’ own words, that people who have suffered abuse are not just ‘A problem’ but real people who have different needs and views due to the impact of their childhood.

“I believe the Methodist Church is working hard to understand the complexity of the impact of childhood abuse and trying hard to ensure the Church is as safe a place as they can possibly make it.”

Rev’d Julian Pursehouse, the District Chair for East Anglia said: “I am personally delighted, that the British Methodist Church has listened carefully to the experience of survivors, reflected upon what we can change and sought to reshape its life and practice so that we might become a more welcoming, accessible and safe Church for everyone.”

Secretary of the Conference Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler said: ‘The abuse of children and vulnerable people is a cause of shame to the Church but that the Church is able to learn from the survivors of abuse and that those survivors have been gracious in enabling the Church to learn are signs of hope and healing for the future.’