October 22 marks the first anniversary of the historic National Apology to Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
A year on from the landmark apology to survivors and their families, the Uniting Church in Australia acknowledges and laments the role of the Uniting Church in causing harm to children and renews its commitment to be a Church that is safe for all people.
Uniting Church congregations across the nation have been invited to mark the anniversary with a Liturgy of Acknowledgement and Lament to be adapted and used on or near 20 October.
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is a shameful part of our history that we must never forget,” says Moderator Rev Sue Ellis. “We remember the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children and we also think of those placed in institutions of care for a whole variety of reasons. Children were placed in care for their wellbeing and that has not always happened.”
In a recent visit to South Australia Sarah Lim, National Director of Uniting Church Redress Ltd, shared some sentiments of the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
“We must never forget what has happened,” she said. “That is all that the survivors want. They want us to remember and never to let it happen again to anyone else.”
President Dr Deidre Palmer acknowledged the Church’s ongoing role in correcting the wrongs of the past.
“The Uniting Church is committed to redress for survivors and the safety of children continues to be at the forefront of our Church’s work with children and families.”
Sue urged congregations and faith communities to recognise and mind the lament that we hold for the survivors and victims of child sexual abuse. Her sentiments were echoed by Deidre.
“This liturgy has been developed to mark the anniversary, to acknowledge and lament the role of the Uniting Church in causing harm to children,” she said. “It acknowledges the terrible breach of trust and the damage done to individuals, communities and relationships. This is part of our story that we will continue to acknowledge so that we never forget and never become complacent.”
The UCA is a participant in the National Redress Scheme, has established a National Safe Church Unit and committed resources to child safety in our Synods, congregations, schools and agencies.
“The Royal Commission showed that, for too long, these harmful acts took place in the dark with survivors being dismissed or silenced. It is only by continuing to speak openly and honestly about the abuse and its impacts that there can be growth for survivors and communities, and ongoing diligence in protecting children in the future,” reminded Deidre.
Sue offered God’s words on reconciliation from 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NRSV): “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”
The Liturgy of Acknowledgement and Lament can be downloaded below, along with a letter from President Dr Deidre Palmer.
Last week 200 Australian Christians and 15 Pacific church leaders held almost 100 face-to-face meetings in Parliament with the nation’s politicians, including senior government ministers, as a part of the Micah Australia Voices for Justice Conference.
Synod Standing Committee meeting updates are published to inform the wider Uniting Church SA community of the discussions, deliberations and decisions arising from each meeting of the Committee. This update refers to the recent December 2019 meeting.