One of the Church of England's most senior clergy has called for a radical overhaul in how the Church deals with issues of safeguarding.
The Dean of St Paul's, Very Rev Dr David Ison, has spoken out in an article posted on Christian Today and Via Media following high-profile cases where survivors of abuse have revealed their deeply troubling treatment at the hands of Church authorities.
He called for 'robust structures and practices' aimed at stopping the abuse of vulnerable people by clergy, urging a change in the Church's culture to ensure particularly male pastors were enabled to understand issues of vulnerability. 'An inadequate pastor will be flattered or frightened, or assume that it's all about me, the pastor, rather than all about them, the person in need,' he said. 'If the pastor is also emotionally vulnerable, they can exploit the vulnerability of the person in need who is drawn to them – hence so much emotional and sexual abuse in the church and in other caring organisations.'
Controversially, Ison backed calls for the CofE to set up structures for safeguarding and discipline independent of the bishops, whose ministry he said was 'compromised' because they had to administer both pastoral care and discipline.
He said an independent body would also address the issue of 'the close relationship between the Church's main insurer [Ecclesiastical Insurance Group] and the Church itself', and 'the difficulty of trusting bishops and clergy to discipline themselves, set as they are within a network of personal and professional relationships and a complex and difficult legal framework'.
Campaigners including 'Gilo', whose case has been highlighted by Christian Today among others, have criticised the Church for what they say are repeated failures to deal with abuses by clergy. An independent review of Gilo's case, the Elliott Review, last year gave a damning critique of the CofE and the office of Justin Welby's handling of the case.