“The Church is a complex human space, a place of discipleship where diverse peoples and cultures grapple with what it means to be the people of God, living as sisters and brothers and salt and light in the world for which Christ died. Sadly, it hasn’t always lived up to this ideal,” says Bishop Dr Joe Aldred – author, broadcaster, church leader, and recently appointed Patron of the Christian charity, Thirtyone:eight, the UK’s only independent Christian safeguarding charity that works with churches and Christian groups to help protect children and adults from harm and abuse.
Safeguarding in churches is increasingly making headlines, in part due to the government’s ongoing Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which has broadened its scope to focus on Christian denominations outside of the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Churches. When it comes to their safeguarding responsibilities, churches are expected to take reasonable steps to follow good practice guidance given by the government. Churches may claim God’s authority over their mission but, as charities, they are regulated in the UK by the Charity Commission. Therefore, their activities in pursuit of their mission must be subject to that authority, but perhaps, just as important for churches, is the biblical mandate to protect the most vulnerable people in society.
Bishop Aldred, who is responsible for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations at Churches Together in England and also a Bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy, says that when it comes to issues relating to abuse, the Bible is very clear on God’s expectations and the responsibility placed on His Church to create safer places for everyone. “I am afraid the Church’s record on safeguarding issues is not as good as it has needed to be,” explains Bishop Aldred. “Some of the reasons may be that society as a whole has not taken safeguarding seriously enough, and churches are part of society. I for one welcome the current and increasing focus on keeping people safe. Whether children, older people or vulnerable adults, everybody must both feel safe and be safe in our custody. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, shows how to be welcoming to people from all walks of life, typified by His ‘Let the children come to Me’ rebuke to His disciples for shushing them away. The Gospel is about salvation, redemption, flourishing in this life and the next, and the Church at all levels must simply work harder to ensure the value we place on the image of God in ‘the least of these’ is reflected in how we care for everyone.”
Thirtyone:eight has been trusted by churches for over 40 years to help do just that, and continues to be recognised as the go-to organisation for thousands of churches who already benefit from the charity’s complete safeguarding solution. The charity, which recently changed its name to thirtyone:eight, seeks to equip, empower and encourage the Church in responding to the biblical mandate laid out in Proverbs 31:8 to “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable” (CEB).
In taking on his role as Patron, Bishop Aldred says he seeks to raise the profile of safeguarding within churches, and highlight the support that is available through thirtyone:eight to help them respond to God’s call to create a world where every child and adult can feel – and be – safe. Following the announcement of his appointment, Bishop Aldred said he is hopeful of the role churches can play in fulfilling this vital part of God’s mission. “Agapé love towards one another as individuals and groups is an essential component if the Church is to function as God’s missional instrument,” explains Bishop Aldred. “In the midst of its imperfections, the Church manages by the grace of God to be a catalyst for good more often than might be thought possible. Thirtyone:eight has been helping churches create and maintain safe spaces for many years, but it is not sufficiently well known in some spaces. I hope that my ambassadorial role as patron can assist even a little in making the organisation more visible, and its services taken up in more churches in the sector I work with and beyond, so that more lives may be protected.”
To find out more about the services and support that are available from thirtyone:eight, and how they could help your church better protect the people you care for, visit https://thirtyoneeight.org or follow them on social media @thirtyoneeight.