Churches 'need to be places of refuge, not harm'

(Photo: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez)

A one-day conference is taking place at All Souls Church, Langham Place, in May to help churches become safer places for everyone.

'Church as a Refuge', on 15 May, will bring together Christians of all denominations and none in learning more about the misuse of authority, preventing abuse in churches, and helping survivors to heal.

Dr Diane Langberg, an American psychologist who specialises in clergy abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, will deliver the keynote address. 

The conference is endorsed by Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, who said it was important that churches are able to openly discuss the problem.

"Abuse within the church is a tremendously important issue, and it is critical that the church learn to discuss it openly and address it proactively," he said. 

"It's a conversation that church leaders need to have, and Diane Langberg is a trusted voice in this space."

The conference is being organised by Jacqui Wright and her husband Cliff Turner. 

Wright, the daughter of missionaries, suffered abuse within a church context but found help and healing through a Christian-based trauma therapy ministry.  She now feels called to share her experience with the UK church. 

Today, she works as a healthcare professional, while her husband is a psychologist and former chair of the safeguarding boards in Dorset and Wiltshire.

They are encouraging the leaders of churches and Christian organisations, as well as therapists and safeguarding officers to attend the conference.

"Some Christian leaders have misused their position of power to deceive, coerce and control people, sometimes with tragic consequences. Churches need to be places of refuge, not places of harm," they said. 

Dr Langberg has dedicated her career to studying trauma and abuse patterns, and spent the last 35 years speaking around the world on abuse in church and family settings. 

She said: "I am convinced that we must start training Christian counsellors to work as 'missionaries' of post-traumatic consolation and care, able to deliver the comfort of Christ himself to a very needy world." 

Tickets for the conference can be purchased at