Racism and bullying are also rife in the Methodist Church – it is not just the allegations of sexual abuse revealed today (Thursday 28 May) – Unite, the country’s largest union, said.
Unite, which includes the 2,500-strong Faith Workers’ branch, said that it is ‘dealing with a number of very serious cases of racism in the Methodist Church’ and that there is ‘an epidemic of bullying within the church’.
Unite’s concern comes in the wake of the UK's Methodist Church’s commissioned review which uncovered nearly 2,000 reported cases of abuse - including 914 allegations involving sexual abuse – dating back to the 1950s.
Unite national officer Sally Kosky said: “While it is to be welcomed that the Methodists are apologising for historic abuse - there is still much they need to do to eliminate racism and bullying.
“Unite operates a Faith Workers hotline for our members we have been alarmed at the high proportion of calls which relate to bullying – it is an issue across all churches and faiths.
“Today’s horrific revelations add an extra sense of urgency to deal with the whole range of abuse issues. We are dealing with a number of very serious cases of racism and an epidemic of bullying within the church.
“Unite does not want to elaborate on the individual cases, however, we would like to have in-depth discussions with the Methodist Church to create structures that would eliminate racism, bullying and all kinds of abuse within the church.”
The Methodist Church commissioned the review - which took three years to complete - because it said it wanted to be open about the past and have stronger safeguarding procedures in the future.
In total, it identified 1,885 cases - including alleged sexual, physical, emotional and domestic abuse, as well as cases of neglect. Allegations of sexual abuse formed the largest number of cases.
In a recent letter to the Methodist Recorder, Unite said: “Bullying can affect ministers, lay employees and members, and it can be inflicted from all areas of church life, congregations, stewards, ministers, superintendents, chairs and connexional figures.
“It can be very difficult to deal with and ministers in particular are not protected by employment law and so have no independent body, such as tribunals, to turn to.
“The effects of bullying can be badly underestimated – especially by those who have never suffered. Often by the time a minister rings the helpline they are already off work with stress and at their wits end.
“It leads to a loss of confidence, inefficiency, isolation and depression. It is not unusual for a caller to be in tears as they describe what has been happening to them. Apart from being unchristian, this makes the church less effective and damages our mission.
“There is an epidemic of bullying within the church and by its very nature, bullying happens behind closed doors. It must not be swept under the carpet.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.