Safe Church Guide

The process of creating a Safe and Inclusive Ministry within the Anglican Church of the Province of South Africa (ACSA) is not unique in the Anglican Communion.

There have been various resolutions at a number of Anglican Communion Conferences in which the vulnerable circumstances of women and children are recognised, and at the Lambeth Conference in 1988, member churches were asked to make an intentional effort to work toward eliminating abuses affecting women and children.

In 2002, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa published updated procedures spelling out the standards expected of clergy and other office-bearers in the Church as they minister to God’s people. These are known as the Church’s Pastoral Standards and are incorporated in the Church’s laws (Canon Law). They apply to all clergy and lay people who hold licences to minister and includes those that hold office or carry influence in the church.

This intent was amplified by the testimony of the Lambeth Conference in 2008 to the many forms of abuse of power within society as well as the church from which women and children suffer disproportionately, and the challenge to reclaim the gospel truth of the dignity of the human person and to exercise power in ways that would always be life giving

In 2016, the Anglican International Safe Church Commission was formed with ACSA as a leading member. A meeting of the Commission was held in George in May 2018. The Commission set in place a framework for dealing with and responding to complaints and the process to create a safe church.

In the light of reports published early in 2018 of sexual abuse in parishes, institutions and organisations of the Church, the Archbishop and Metropolitan asked the Canon Law Council of Southern Africa – which includes senior and experienced lawyers who are also members of the Church – to assess the efficacy of the Church’s procedures and practices with a view to ensuring that the Pastoral Standards are effectively upheld and disciplinary procedures fairly and firmly enforced when there are contraventions of the standards.

A report of the work of the Anglican Safe Church Commission was then presented to ACSA’s Provincial Standing Committee (PSC) in September 2018 and the resolution was passed to give effect to the screening requirements set out in the Pastoral Standards requiring police clearance for licencing and ministry.

These developments and other processes, dealing with questions of inclusivity and its intersectionality with safety, resulted in the creation of a safe and inclusive ministry team that worked on a framework and charter for ACSA in January 2019.

In February 2019 the Bishops of the Church signed a Charter for Safe and Inclusive Church, in which they committed themselves to a Programme of Action to promote a culture of safety and inclusion amongst all our people, organizations, institutions and places of worship, and through ongoing education and training to equip all who minister to prevent the occurrence of abuse and create spaces where justice and restoration can take place.

In September 2019, the Church’s Provincial Synod adopted a Resolution of Permanent Force which established the Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission tasked, inter alia, with serving as the advisory body for the Province, dioceses, organisations and institutions regarding the implementation of the Charter, its protocols and guidelines, and with identifying and developing safeguarding measures.

There are detailed processes for dealing with abuse and all complaints of abuse are to be sent to: safechurches@anglicanchurchsa.org.za and the complaint form to be completed can be found here in Word format and here in PDF format.

The different categories of abuse included are defined here.

The Pastoral Standards governing the behaviour of those who hold licences to minister in the Church are available online. Of particular relevance are Sections 4 (Pastoral Standards, Values and Practices) and 5 (Procedures for Clergy and Laity in Ministry).

Also online are the Canons providing for judicial proceedings (Canons 36 to 41) when a cleric is alleged to have committed an offence. Of particular relevance Canons are:

We celebrate, as a community in penitence, God’s reconciling and life-giving mission through the creative, costly and faithful witness and ministry of men, women and children, past and present. Yet we are keenly aware that our common life and engagement in God’s mission are tainted with shortcomings and failures, such as abuse of power and privilege and human weakness.

The time has come for the Church to take a stand in faithfulness to God’s mission. Our Church is committed to taking seriously every complaint of abuse and to ensuring that we develop a comprehensive and holistic response to the scourge.

We will do all we can to provide practical measures and procedures to assure our people that the Church cares and is committed to create an environment that achieves the wholeness of human life, a wholeness which is aware of incompleteness and partiality, successes and failures, but which reflects Jesus’s assurance that He came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)