Church must be safe for all: CoI primate

Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke has called for the underpinning of a 'safe church', not just for children and young people but for adults.

Archbishop Richard Clarke said it was imperative the church took its safeguarding responsibilities seriously
Archbishop Richard Clarke said it was imperative the church took its safeguarding responsibilities seriously

Dr Clarke, speaking at the church’s general synod in Armagh, said safeguarding in ministry must particularly be conveyed to adults at risk of harm and those in need of care and protection.

He said: “Our church needs to be a model and symbol of generosity; and being an ‘agile’ church. As Christian disciples living in ‘liquid modernity’, what are we to do; in the words of the Psalmist, ‘What can the righteous do?’ We must, first and importantly, recall the solid foundations on which we are to rely in any place and time – in the words of the traditional prayer for the work of the general synod, that we may ‘evermore hold fast and abide in the Apostolic and true Catholic faith’.

“We must also be ready to think carefully and critically about everything around us, and indeed about ourselves.

“We need first of all to be a safe church, a place not only where people may be safe, but also where they may find safety.

“There are dreadful levels of domestic violence in this country, The civil authorities, in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, rightly demand very high standards of compliance in safeguarding young people and, as a church, we must seek to mirror this in our safeguarding of children.

“From this general synod onwards, there will also be a code underpinned in church law, again fully compliant with civil law, not simply of good practice but of essential practice in our ministry among adults at risk of harm, and those in need of care and protection.

“This will impose heavy demands on parishes, large and small, in every part of this island.

“This is not an option, it is an imperative. The state demands we take our safeguarding responsibilities with huge seriousness. But it is also a fundamental Christian duty to ensure that no carelessness or apathy on our part endangers anyone; all must be able to know for certain that they are not only loved, but safe within our church communities. Short cuts are not to be tolerated.”

The primate added: “We know that for many people on this island, the idea of the church claiming to be a place of safety seems risible and contemptible. We must ensure that such contempt can never be justifiable in the future. It is not only a matter of our reputation in the eyes of society. It is an unequivocal demand of the Kingdom of God.”

Dr Clarke also suggested that a spirit of generosity might be extended in helping to unravel the Stormont political impasse.