Monday, September 14, 2009
The Christian Institute has made a statement about the new government vetting programmes which will apply to all who have contact with children.
You can read it here: Christian Institute Statement
There is a chance these laws could be repealed - if the incoming Conservative government state that they will abolish them, then the organisation will be unworkable till after the election.
Christians in the ordained ministry, involved in camps, Sunday School or churches need to be clear about what is involved in the Independent Safeguarding Authority procedures.
It appears to be less hassle than CRB checks, as it will be a one off round of paperwork.
But while CRB is a check on actual convictions, this is a registration on an ongoing database file. If anybody makes a complaint about you by telephone, saying that they feel you are having a problem relating to children, or you discipline your kids harshly, or struggle to relate to contemporaries, or tend to be a loner... then you will be investigated.
Receiving unreasonable complaints and being on the brunt of unjust allegations comes with the territory of being an ordained minister. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken with who have got hatemail or been threatened by various people. The ISA will take such things as evidence against you - no smoke without a fire.
Under current law, you would only be investigated as to whether you have committed a crime. Under these new procedures, if you raise two red flags in the assessment, or there are several anonymous complaints, then a judgement will be made on the probability of you committing a crime in the future.
If banned, you will be unable to be near children legally for ten years. If you are ordained, you will lose your job. If a Sunday School teacher you will no longer be able to be near kids. If you are a parent - social services will need to consider whether further intervention in your family is required. Your ban will last ten years.
For the above reasons, putting your name on the ISA register is a colossal risk - you are entrusting your career, reputation and family-life to a government quango which has no meaningful accountability to traditional views of evidence or justice.
There is a chance to force the ISA to be disbanded. Write to the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling MP, saying that you appreciate that he has said the ISA needs to be 'cut back'. Tell him that this is not enough and that you hope he can state publicly that it will be dismantled.
MPs take letters seriously, it is assumed that for every one person who writes, a hundred others agree.
The address is:
Chris Grayling MP
House of Commons
Friday, September 11, 2009
On a number of occasions I have suggested that British evangelicals need to be realistic about the cultural situation we are currently living in. Our culture is becoming rapidly more and more oppressive to churches and families which desire to embody Christian principles of speech, behaviour and mission.
Evangelicals in the UK are often well educated and concerned for evangelism. It is odd then that so few seem to make the connections between current government initiatives, and their inevitable impact on society, mission and family.
To take only one recent example - the full extent of powers of the new 'Independent Safeguarding Authority' have now been made public.
People who have regular or frequent contact with children will be subject to new checks and database recording, in addition to current CRB checks. The organisation's website goes into some detail about the nature of 'regulated' activity and so forth - notice any historical parallels?!
The director of the Indepependent Safeguarding Authority is quoted on the BBC site as explaining:
"We want to make sure we have got appropriate safeguards in place so that people with backgrounds we don't want to work with children and vulnerable adults are not entering the work place."
But exactly what sort of people are the sort that 'we don't want to work with children'?
Obviously, the groups top of the list are paedophiles and child killers - the energy to set up the ISA came in the wake of the Soham murders. But make no mistake, the remit of the ISA goes much further than the paedophile. Society has already accepted government regulation which enforces anti-Christian ideas about what kind of person is permitted to adopt a baby; is there any reason to think that after trampling over Christian views in the adoption case, suddenly there will be fairness and generosity?
'Soft intelligence' will be taken into account in vetting people - translated into vernacular that is accusations made anonymously which are unproven. Again - ring any bells historically?
The ISA is covered by most of the main newspapers in today's media. Each paper picks up on different aspects of the organisation. One part of the approach that will be taken by the ISA which ought to gravely concern Christians is the assessment of beliefs and lifestyle:
'The scheme will even take into account lifestyles, relationships and beliefs when assessing an individual’s background.' (Daily Telegraph, 11 Sept '09)
How is all this going to affect Church Sunday Schools, Christian Camps, families, Home Education and Churches?
That is a question the vast majority of evangelicals will ask. Tragically, most will fail to ask the questions that should be asked subsequent to that. Questions such as, how far should I as a Christian accept the State controlling me and my family? Where is the point to draw a line and say, I will not submit to what you are commanding? Will evangelicals work together to resist things which will undermine the Gospel? What is the role for passive civil protest?
A certain kind of person can actually get excited about the prospect of having more bureaucratic regulation to fill out - it gives such a sense of legitimacy and acceptance. It can also be shortsighted. The inevitable impact on evangelism and family life and church needs to be seen clearly.
Do evangelicals realise that to the people who will be assessing their beliefs, teaching orthodox views to children about sex, is viewed as tantamount to abuse? Will evangelicals who have tacitly supported a government which has done so much to damage the spread of the Gospel, be able to recognise their weakness and repent? The Book of Common Prayer talks of the need to confess 'things left undone.' There is much that has been left undone. Will there now be any public, effective leadership?
Ventures such as this have in other periods of history been part of the end of Christians being able to live and speak freely. They have been harbingers of people fleeing countries for freedom elsewhere, families getting broken up, discrimination, prison and even death. What will a mother say to the investigators who call at her home, instigated by an anonymous phone call from a nosy neighbour who takes offence at Christian beliefs and discipline?
Even atheist, anti-Christians such as Pullman are outraged by the new remit of the ISA. He is making public statements, resisting the organisation and pointing out its injustices. I can't find a single public response yet from an evangelical Christian leader, and recent history does not give much hope to the idea that Evangelicals could work together to offer effective leadership in an area such as this. In the absence of evangelical comment on something which will have considerable influence on church and family, here are links to a small selection of the secular commentators:
And the web site of the ISA:
Independent Safeguarding Authority
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Am (slowly) translating one of Augustine's sermons on Romans 7. Augustine exposes a link between sinful behaviour and the interpretation of the passage made by his opponents.
Augustine describes how people justify their own sin and comments:
Putant se apostolo esse similes. s. 151.1.
They think the apostle himself to be the same.
The assumption that the Bible will simply say what we would say, is always a temptation. Indeed, it may well be a root of most of our errors. It is very difficult to avoid thinking that we are similis to God, for in a post-Genesis 3 fallen order, it feels natural to assume that we are indeed 'like God.'
Augustine's insight on Romans 7 flowed from his ability to follow through on one of his central theological beliefs - people are dissimilis to God in two important respects - we are created and we are sinful. When we assume that God's Word will say what we would say, we may have forgotten in what respect we are dissimilis to God.
Practical application? Pick up the Bible and expect to be surprised!