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Hallo again to all.

Surely you have heard of, or played, the little game called 'word association'. See the Wikipedia article if you've not encountered it. Part of this game is that there is no score kept, no winner or loser, no rankings. The joy is in the playing, not the winning. In truth, we're not sure what it would mean to win or lose a game of word association. We play for the giggles.

We suspect that in a game of word association this week, the word 'church' would morph to 'abuse' and then perhaps to 'cover-up'. Within the Anglican world there has been for some years now a steady drumbeat of revelation of abuse and coverup, with church leaders more concerned about protecting reputation than helping victims and punishing perpetrators. This week there was news of a massive coverup by Roman Catholic bishops in Pennsylvania of 70 years of abuse of hundreds or thousands of children by several hundred clergy in that diocese.

In the past the story has been pretty much the same. Abuse (primarily of children) happens. Church authorities find out. The authorities are more concerned about the reputation of the church than disciplining the perpetrator or helping the victim. A cover-up ensues; the cycle continues.

In the past few years, reports of ongoing or unpunished past abuse have surfaced in Chile, Australia, Britain, and the USA. Abuse of aboriginal peoples (referred to as 'first nations' in Canada) came to light a decade ago, but may well be still taking place.

Almost none of the unchurched people we work with in our secular day jobs care to distinguish one denomination from another. In lunch-hour conversations we have learned that they see no reason to differentiate, say, Greek Orthodox from Assembly of God. Charismatic, liturgical, evangelical, hierarchical. None of that matters: in their minds it is all, collectively, 'the church' whose members are 'those religious people'. Noting the difference between Roman Catholic and Anglican? Huh? What difference? Who cares?

A smirch on one church is, in the eyes of the average non-churchgoing person, a smirch on all of them. To them we are all the same.

Several decades ago we were in a coffee-hour conversation in a North American Anglican church, discussing the etymology of the word 'rector'. That parish's rector overheard our conversation and jumped in with a forceful explanation of the concept of rector regis et regni, in which he derived 'rector' from 'regis' and told us that the rector was the king of the parish. For him it was a topic central to his sense of self, and we realized then that he might have chosen the priesthood as a source of power over people. His flock. Today, in trying to make sense of the news about Pennsylvania, we remembered that old conversation and wondered how many of the guilty clergy had chosen that profession to enable their predation.

Most clergy are not abusive. Some are. Most people who seek the priesthood are not abusers. Some are. Most bishops are not spineless cowards. Some are. It falls to all of us to help in any way we can, because failure to punish wrongdoers will cause any group to rot from the inside.

If you have ideas about what caring Anglicans can do besides wring their hands and gnash their teeth, tell us and tell others. Put it in an AO Letter to the Editor. That will reach a lot more people than posting it on Facebook*, and vastly more than if you don't write at all. This issue might be the church killer. If no one takes action, it is likely that there will be no church for our heirs to attend. The very worst thing we can do is to turn our backs, as some bishops have done for decades.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

19 August 2018

*We have a Facebook page because some people prefer it. If we didn't want you commenting there we would not have that page. But if you have something to say, don't just say it there. Spread your word.

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