Acknowledging Survivors

Friday, July 5, 2024

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Dear Pastors

Acknowledging Survivors

Following on from my blog yesterday I thought I would share a piece I wrote yesterday on my personal FB page (without any edits).

It is easy to forget that this whole horrid thing is about 250,000 people who were abused in some way in both State and Faith-based care between 1950 and 2019. According to the Commission there are more than this and it is still going on to this very day.

Please Note: The Commission looked into all kinds of abuse, physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, intimidation, bullying etc.

Brothers and Sisters we need to sit with that number for a while. 250,000….a quarter of a million precious people abused.

I have never been abused. Because of that it is actually very hard to understand the world of a person who has been or currently is being abused. Instead we can get focused on the technicalities of the problem. Things like - should we apologise for something we personally didn’t do – the statutes of limitations – the precise wording and timing of public statements and media releases etc – extent of financial redress – protecting our reputation - etc etc etc. These things are important but none are as important as these precious 250,000+ people who have been made in the image of God and whom God deeply loves.

Just this Wednesday night I met a young women who has been coming to our weekly Kai Time that we put on at our church at Te Whanau Putahi. I’ll call her Mary. Mary does not attend our Sunday morning services (yet) but she does come to Kai time regularly since the start of this year. On Wednesday night she came in early which meant I could talk to her as I and other team members have done previously. But things were different this week. She looked terrible, her pre-schooler wasn’t with her and she had a big bandage on her hand. Saddest of all she wouldn’t talk to neither me or our Pastor. She was almost in a dazed state. She was very hungry. There is no doubt in my mind that she had been severely beaten up earlier that day and her young child probably witnessed it all.

Over the many years of pastoral work, Jeanette and I have sat with quite a few survivors of abuse. As with Mary, I’m telling you it is always heart breaking stuff. Abuse especially sexual abuse as a child or teenager is life altering and often life defining. It is too sad for words. That it happened in the context of a church is reprehensible.

So now as individual Christians, local churches, denominational HQ and other faith-based organisations and institutions we have an opportunity to sit with the broken hearted, the bruised reed and the bewildered survivor. What follows is my first message to survivors. Do with it whatever you wish.

A message to all survivors of abuse in Faith-based Institutions - Part 1.

I am writing to you today as a Christian leader for over 40 years here in New Zealand. I am keen to talk to you for a few moments before the Royal Commission’s Report goes public which will be very soon now. I know that there are hundreds of Pastors, Ministers and Vicars who share my deep sadness and sorrow as well.

It wasn’t your fault.

You were not complicit.

You weren’t complicit if you didn’t fight back.

You weren’t complicit if you went along with what an authority figure wanted.

You are never to blame.

Your clothes didn’t cause it. Your age didn’t cause it. Your body didn’t cause it. Your friendliness didn’t cause it. No…… not even your behaviour didn’t cause it.

The predator (abuser) caused it. Only him or her.

The Royal Commission has previously told us that according to their research 250,000 children, disabled people and other vulnerable people were abused in some way between 1950 and 2019 in State and Faith-based care. This number of people is nigh on impossible to comprehend.

Irrespective if you had an opportunity to speak to the Commissioners or not, I am hoping and praying that you will all find a safe person to talk to and that you will get full and fair redress as the Commission has already recommended.

I know I can’t speak for others, but I can’t tell you how sad I feel and how sorry I am that this abuse ever took place especially in the context of a church which should be the safest place on earth. I know without a shadow of doubt that God also weeps over this.

Once the Report is out and I have had a chance to read it I would like to talk to you again.


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