Sunday’s lectionary reading was one of those hard passages from the old testament about keeping a watch out for sinful behaviour and all the potentially dire consequences of calling it out or not. In addition to quoting examples from the secular world, our preacher drew attention to times when the church has not called out behaviour that was wrong even though it may have been aware of it, made excuses about it or minimised it. Ezekiel made it clear that if we don’t do the right thing and something bad happens, we will be held responsible in God’s sight.
Adopting a safeguarding mentality requires us to be like Ezekiel’s ‘watch’ men and women, setting aside any aspect of friendship or misplaced loyalty, and any concerns about the personal costs. However, to call out the sin, and report it is not easy, when faced with the weight of the factors pulling you in a different direction – it was only once, it was just a small thing, I might have been mistaken, I don’t want to make a fuss or get someone into trouble, it might cost me a friendship.
So how can people who have a concern about what they have seen, heard or directly experienced be supported to do the right thing? Not feeling that you are totally on your own with this is a key consideration and so that’s why the Methodist Church has very recently sent a glossy poster to every church in the Connexion to remind people of our policy and standards. The posters also supply the local details of who can be approached for a conversation to help make sense of what may be concerning. We need to make it as safe and as simple as possible to call out bad behaviour and making it easier to know who to talk to is a good first step. But it doesn’t stop there of course and so we will continue to review what we do at each stage in our safeguarding procedures to make sure we all keep a careful watch.