1. ITV Report

Methodist Church apologises for historic abuse

Hinde Street Methodist Church in central London Photo: PA

The Methodist Church in Britain has apologised for failing to protect children and adults following nearly 2,000 reports of physical and sexual abuse within the institution dating back to the 1950s.

Publishing a 100-page report today, the Methodist Church in Britain said it wanted to be open about the past and to have stronger safeguarding procedures in the future.

The report highlighted 225 safeguarding concerns in Nottingham and Derby between 2000 and 2014.

A number of safeguarding concerns over the same period were also highlighted in the following districts:

  • Birmingham: 47
  • Chester & Stoke-on-Trent: 51
  • Lincoln & Grimsby: 47
  • Northampton: 102
  • Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury: 60

However the report noted that a high number does not necessarily indicate more abuse or concerns occurring. In at least one district with high figures it was because of diligent and thorough recording keeping and reporting.

Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Conference said:

On behalf of the Methodist Church in Britain I want to express an unreserved apology for the failure of its current and earlier processes fully to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by some ministers in Full Connexion and members of the Methodist Church.

That abuse has been inflicted by some Methodists on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame to the church.

– Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Conference

He described as "deeply regrettable" that the church had "not always listened properly to those abused" nor had it always cared for them.

In respect of these things we have, as a Christian church, clearly failed to live in ways that glorify God and honour Christ.

I am certain that the Methodist Conference will want to resolve to do all in its power to improve its systems to protect children, young people and adults from abuse within the life of the church and on church premises, and to review them diligently on a regular basis.

– Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Conference

The independent review, which has taken three years and was led by former Barnardo's deputy chief executive Jane Stacey, considered all safeguarding cases for which there were written records and those recalled from memory by ministers and members of the church going back to 1950.

These included cases that occurred within a church context as well as those which were reported to the church as a matter of pastoral concern, but which occurred away from the church.

In each identified case, the church's response was reviewed on whether it had been safe, pastorally appropriate and compliant with current legislation and policy. Where possible and appropriate cases have been referred to the police or other remedial action has been taken.

The church said the aim of conducting the review and writing the report was "to learn the lessons of the past so that safeguarding work within the Methodist Church is of the highest possible standard and the church is safe for all".

The review identified 1,885 past cases, which included sexual, physical, emotional and domestic abuse as well as cases of neglect. In approximately one quarter of these cases (26%), church ministers or lay employees were identified as the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators. In 61 of these cases there was contact with the police and there are six ongoing police investigations as a result.