The URC Past Case Review Process
A time to acknowledge past abuses, show Christian love and build a stronger, safer church community. The United Reformed Church Past Case Review phase two is an open invitation for anyone to raise concerns about the behaviour or conduct of anyone affiliated with the United Reformed Church since its formation in 1972. Why is this happening and what does it mean for us?
There is the highest level of public and political concern about past failings in the behaviour of national bodies which have resulted in past abuses being ignored or covered up. A number of high profile cases involved national figures in positions of authority or influence who were found guilty of abusing their power, authority or celebrity status (such as Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris), in particular involving the abuse of women and young people.
The churches have recognised that they have ignored evidence about past abuses. Some church leaders have been found guilty, including a Scottish Cardinal and a former Anglican Bishop of Lewes. The Pope has said that abuse of children was like "leprosy" infecting the Church, according to the Italian La Repubblica newspaper. Pope Francis has strengthened the Vatican's laws against child abuse and has sought forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse by priests. Sadly, there have also been a few cases within the URC.
Concern about abuse is now widespread around the world and several countries have established public enquiries. The UK government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is investigating a wide range of institutions including local authorities, the police, the armed forces, schools, churches and mosques to consider the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation; to consider the steps which it is necessary for State and non-State institutions to take in order to protect children from such abuse in future; and to publish a report with recommendations.
All the UK churches are reviewing their own files and past practices concerning all forms of abuse. A consistent finding is mistreatment is usually associated with abuse of power by people exercising authority. Examining these cases has therefore inevitably led churches to explore the ways in which power is used and abused within the church, in particular, the concept of spiritual abuse, meaning the use of spiritual authority or The Bible by an ordained or lay church leader to coerce, intimidate or ill-treat people, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
The URC has established a formal process to receive, evaluate and respond to any allegations involving ordained ministers and also lay church leaders. All churches are being asked to draw this to the attention of congregations. To share the review with others, you may download:
A Brochure (explaining the process in detail) PCR Poster for local use. This PCR church magazine article may be placed in local magazines, used in full or edited. This clear statement to churches may be read at any church meeting.