Anglicans thriving but abuse crisis looms in UK
The West Australian, www.thewest. com.au , p 18, Monday, October 22, 2007
CANBERRA -- The Anglican Church is growing after "turning the corner", its Australian synod has been told as it was revealed in Britain that the Church faced a crisis over unchecked child abuse.
Kenneth Kearon, the Anglican Communion general secretary – the Church's top bureaucrat – told the three-yearly synod of the Australian Church that the Church would survive the debate over homosexual clergy that had brought it close to schism.
Church numbers had grown to 85 million, he said.
In Britain yesterday it was alleged that information that could have prevented child abuse had been "lost or damaged", concerns about individuals had been ignored and allegations had not been recorded so the Church had no idea how many paedophiles were in its midst.
Lawyers warned that the Church faced a crisis as catastrophic as the one that engulfed the Catholic Church and cost it millions of dollars in damages.
Richard Scorer, a solicitor who has specialised in child abuse cases, said that the Church of England's mistakes amounted to "an appalling, shocking level of negligence" that was likely to leave it open to claims from victims who had been too afraid to speak out in the past.
The Church plans to launch an urgent investigation on an unprecedented scale.
Leaked Church documents show that it proposes to look at the records of thousands of clergy, including those who have retired, Church employees, lay workers and volunteers dating back decades in an attempt to find those who have escaped prosecution and identify those who pose "current risks".
Dioceses will appoint independent reviewers with access to all of their personnel files. These are due to be examined over 18 months.
The documents show that even if Church wardens, who are lay officials, are found to have previous allegations against them, the Church has no power to suspend them.
The Church of England had been relatively free of instances of sex abuse until this year. In May, the Rev. David Smith, 52, of Somerset, was jailed for 5½ years for sexually abusing six boys over a period of 30 years and in April, Peter Halliday, 61, a choirmaster from Hampshire, was jailed for 30 months after admitting abusing boys in his church choir in the 1980s.
London-based Canon Kearon told the synod that, worldwide, congregations were growing, even though the last solid church-going generation was dying. In Australia, Anglican attendances are still declining.
He said other churches and secular politics were also struggling with questions of sexuality, which had plagued Anglicans since the American Church appointed an openly gay bishop in 2003.
"I'm very proud that it is the Anglican Communion that is facing up to this issue honestly and squarely in a way that other churches are not," he said. #