The United Reformed Church (URC) is launching the second phase of its Past Case Review on 4 October 2016 when the public are being invited to raise concerns formally about the behaviour, or conduct, of anyone affiliated with the URC since its formation in 1972.
The first phase, which ran from September 2015 to May 2016, involved reviewing all URC ministers’ files – both Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Church Related Community Workers.
The Revd Richard Church, the URC’s Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship), is responsible for the Past Case Review. He highlighted the progress to date and outlined the next phase of the ‘transparent, comprehensive and robust’ process. He said: ‘A specialist team read the records of everyone who held ministerial office from 1972 onwards, around 2,500 files, to look for any historic incidents of inappropriate behaviour or abuse that may have been overlooked at the time. Some significant cases emerged, but the majority were found to have been handled appropriately at the time.
‘We are committed to listening to people’s experiences, taking each complaint seriously and responding appropriately. We will offer practical care with churches and synods giving pastoral support as they can, while the URC website will also include details of a range of support services outside the church.’
To raise a concern in the Review’s second phase, individuals are invited to share basic contact details by secure phone, email or web form on the URC website (www.urc.org.uk/past-case-review) by 31 March 2017. Complainants will then be allocated a listener who, either through a telephone call, email dialogue, or face-to-face meeting, will give an account of the concern.
At every step, complainants can let the URC know if they want to stop or continue the process. The URC, in turn, will keep the complainant informed as to what is happening.
When the complainant gives the go-ahead for the process to continue, their account will go through the Past Case Review team to an allegations panel of two people who will make the first assessment of the case. After that initial assessment, the account will be reviewed either by (a) an independent specialist or (b) an allegations’ reference group. The recommended action will depend on the level of:
- severity, and
- available information.
If, at any point, it is clear that the account is current, rather than historical, the complainant will be linked with the person in their URC synod who handles active cases. When called for, a concern will go to a statutory authority. At all times, each case will be managed in synods by adherence to strong and agreed processes.
A learning group will be reading all anonymised accounts and make recommendations about change reflecting good practice for the church in future.
Past Case Review team, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7916 8682 to register a complaint
Further resources and information, including a comprehensive list of pastoral care organisations, are available online at www.urc.org.uk/past-case-review.
URC Church House, 020 7916 2020
Karen Carter, Communications Officer, 020 7520 2715 or 07976 753 950
Gill Nichol, Head of Communications, 020 7691 9865 or 07769 201978
Launch of Past Case Review, Phase One: http://urc.org.uk/latest-news/1756-the-united-reformed-church-conducts-historic-case-review.html