Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care (RCI)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Dear Pastors

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care (RCI)

This Report What the Royal Commission is about | Abuse in Care - Royal Commission of Inquiry is now expected to be released to the public in three weeks’ time, on the 26th June or very shortly thereafter. The report will undoubtedly result in a national conversation about how we as a nation cared for vulnerable adults and children in both State care facilities and Faith-based facilities between 1950 and 1999. Based on two interim reports, numerous news stories since 2018 and a TV documentary on Dilworth School, this report is going to be very hard to read. It will also be incredibly sad.

The report will be the culmination of close to six years of work during which the commission received almost 3000 accounts from abuse survivors and witnesses, held 133 days of public hearings and analysed over 1 million documents. In April, Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith told the United Nations’ Human Rights Council that with nearly $170 million in funding over six years, the inquiry “has the most extensive scope and funding of any inquiry undertaken in New Zealand”. “Through the inquiry process, serious issues have been raised around possible breaches in international and domestic human rights in the care system, including the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Convention Against Torture.”

In the Commissions Interim Report of February 2021 stated the following:- “We think more than 600,000 people were in care places. We think up to 250,000 people may have been abused. We cannot be sure how many people were abused in care because not all the information is there. We know people are still abused in care now” .

It is going to be very interesting to see how the Government responds to this Report but respond to it – it must. This may have implications for Churches and other Faith based institutions like schools and camps for example who care for children and vulnerable adults.

The crucial question for me however is, how will we as the Christian community respond to the findings in this Report for we too will need to make a response. Here are a few thoughts just for starters as more will need to be said as this unfolds.

  1. That we read the RCI Report carefully.
  2. That we adopt a humble posture.
  3. That we pray for God’s leading and discernment as to how to respond…..specifically what we say.
  4. That you discuss it as a leadership team and together decide how you as a local church will respond.
  5. That we discuss it in our pastors groups both inside our denominations and locally (inter-denominationally) when we meet in pastor groups in our suburb, town or city.

There are two pressing questions that may be on your minds.

  • Should we talk about the RCI in our local church? Yes, I would recommend that we do. Though it is a very sensitive topic and though it could trigger some people, on balance I would recommend we are open about it and that we each discern what to say, how to say it and when to say it. Let’s be honest this is going to be talked about everywhere and your people are going to be involved in conversations about it…..that is a given. If the local church doesn’t talk about it in empathetic ways that could imply that your church is not a safe place for people to disclose abuse experiences. Talking about it is also an opportunity to clearly state how you as a local church are reviewing safeguarding practices in your own context.
  • Should we make a public statement? Yes this may be an appropriate response. You may consider making a well-crafted public statement and/or apology that is heartfelt and 100% genuine. In doing so you could acknowledge any harm caused, express empathy and compassion for survivors and even outline your commitment to new safeguarding practices, accountability and change. If you do make any kind of public statement can I urge you to be sure it has a ‘tone’ that reflects deep sadness, lament and repentance.

Finally, I would be ever so grateful to hear from you about what you have already done in your local church or Christian Ministry in respect to making your place ‘safe’, or what you are planning on doing in the near future. Thankyou.


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