Biblical principles that shape our approach to safeguarding
CSS views safeguarding as an important practical expression of biblical principles. As evangelical Christians, our belief is that Scripture is authoritative for all areas of life and conduct. There are many passages in Scripture that shape our thinking in relation to safeguarding.
One that encapsulates our perspective is 1 Peter 2:12:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (ESV).
Despite our society becoming increasingly secularised the Church nevertheless has many new opportunities for spreading the gospel. However, this does also present us with some challenges. Many aspects of society and current worldviews may conflict with a Bible-based approach. There are even sections of society who consider some Christian views as extreme.
Throughout history the gospel has always been a source of offence to some. Today Christian beliefs, for example, on the sanctity of life and marriage, may be regarded by some as oppressive. There are those who may be actively opposed to faith groups, including evangelicals.
At the present time the important and controversial issue of safeguarding is subject to ever-increasing demands for regulation. There are calls from certain quarters to subject Christian practice, especially in the evangelical church, to ever closer investigation and official regulation. CSS believes it is vital that we respond to these developments positively. We need to demonstrate, not least through outstanding professional commitment to best practice, that we do safeguarding well!
Biblical principles that drive and shape our approach to safeguarding, include the following:
Inherent and intrinsic value of all human life
The idea of human rights for everyone actually begins with Scripture. But Christians also believe that all human life is given and sustained by God himself so that as living souls each person is made in God’s image. Accordingly human life is supremely sacred.
Jesus Christ loved and cared for everyone regardless of their position in society. He touched the untouchable, accepted those who’d been rejected and He valued those that society did not. Jesus dealt with both women and children. He cared for the sick, the poor and the oppressed. Treating them with the same love and compassion that he exercised to the powerful and wealthy. Scripture commands us to follow Jesus’ example, showing no partiality but loving each person equally.
The world in which we live
Although originally created perfect by God, Christians believe the world became fallen and corrupted through sin and rebellion. Nevertheless God intervened to save the world, supremely through the Lordship of Jesus Christ who eventually will usher in a new and perfect world. Until then, we live in a world where the consequences of rebellion against the ways of God are sadly only too evident and where for example, pain, exploitation and abuse are common.
The community of God’s people
The Church is intended to be a community of grace, love, kindness and compassion, in which Christians gather together as those who have responded to the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. As such, the Church should never be a place where abuse or exploitation are experienced. However, the reality is that all human beings are inherently weak and capable of behaving in ways that are unacceptable and potentially harmful to others. So the Church must always be vigilant and never complacent. It needs to recognise that it’s unrealistic to assume that every member will alway live up to their high calling. Scripture and experience confirms the wickedness and deceitfulness of the human heart. So we must all be constantly on our guard.
Within each church community, there is a diversity of people co-existing together, including wide variances in commitment and experience. Churches are in an unusual position from a safeguarding perspective. The Church as an inclusive community involves welcoming strangers and the acceptance of all. That inevitably implies accepting even those who could pose risks to children, young people or vulnerable adults.
The Church’s acceptance into its community potentially introduces risks that many organisations may eliminate through specific policies of exclusion. Since the Church by definition doesn’t seek to exclude people, the handling of associated risk requires great care, wisdom and discernment - and of course a professional and informed approach in accordance with the very best standards of protection for vulnerable people.
Responding to the presence of sin in the Church
A fundamental principle involves dealing in love with those who have fallen into sin. This includes actively seeking their repentance and hopefully restoration before God. Such sin should never be covered up nor ever excused. Leaders must be held especially accountable. They carry greater accountability, authority and responsibility and as such strong action may need to be taken by the church including removal from leadership.
The love of God for a broken and corrupt world
God loves those He has created. The Church is called to minister in our communities and to seek to bring the love, compassion and healing of Christ to those around us. This inevitably should bring us into contact with strangers and outcasts, the weak and vulnerable. God’s heart is for the protection, the strengthening and the healing of those in need so we should care for them as Christ would. Caring with love and acceptance whilst seeking their healing and blessing. Scripture is clear that as His people we must care for the weak and vulnerable and that exploitation of such people is a complete contradiction of the Christian faith.
Rulers and authorities are appointed by God
Scripture is clear that Christians are to honour and to respect those who God has set in authority over us in government. They seek to obey the law, be exemplary citizens, and live at peace with those around them. Sometimes, this can be challenging, especially when matters of conscience or justice are involved. Christians often openly oppose oppression and injustice and will be active on behalf of those who are exploited and oppressed.
While there are challenges for us all, it is important to appreciate that safeguarding principles do not contradict biblical principles. At CSS we believe that the Church is well able not only to meet its legal requirements but to significantly exceed them and be exemplary in the way we approach and deliver safeguarding practice.