I have a dream… that one day, national leaders from all faith traditions will gather to solve the problem of clergy sexual abuse.
I have a dream… that these leaders will include survivors in their work, listening to our voices and learning from our experience.
I have a dream… that they will enlist ordinary clergy and congregations in this work, finally aligning all of our interests and creating real solutions.
Friends, are you sitting down? This is not a dream! This gathering actually happened in Australia, and has happened since 2004. The Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune just spent three weeks “down under” as the guest of the Safe Church Project of the National Council of Churches in Australia. She led trainings in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne and keynoted the Safe As Churches? conference in Sydney. (Imagine your denomination inviting Marie Fortune to keynote a convention! At this year’s national gathering of the UCC, I couldn’t even find one workshop on safer churches, much less a keynote address.)
Marie Fortune has worked with churches in Australia since the late 1990s. Ten years ago, she began to notice “efforts across denominations to put policy and procedures in place to address complaints of clergy misconduct.” This year, she was thrilled to see 180 people from a variety of faith traditions gathering to learn, strengthen relationships, and plan for an even greater future.
Something good is happening in Australia. I still get chills watching an address by the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, last June. As his army investigated allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, Morrison gave the strongest possible message to his troops. If I shared all the words I admire, I would be quoting his entire speech. You owe it to yourself to watch General Morrison’s message.
We need a David Morrison. Obviously the church is not an army, so what we really need is an army of David Morrisons: individual church leaders who will stand up, speak boldly, and unite with other leaders. I hope every U.S. bishop and judicatory leader will read Marie Fortune’s Australian trip report, pick up the phone, and call a colleague in another faith tradition.
We often pray for the church “that we may all be one.” Is there any issue that calls for Christian unity more than this one?