“Safe Church is central to the mission of the Church” – Bishop Cleophas Lunga on Safe Church in the Province of Central Africa

The Rt Revd Cleophas Lunga is the Bishop of Matabeleland in the Anglican Church of Central Africa and a member of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission. In this article, he reflects on how Safe Church and safeguarding measures are being introduced in his Province.

Safe Church offers guidance and support

The work of the Safe Church Commission is gradually spreading across the Anglican Communion, and I am glad to report that the Province of Central Africa is experiencing its positive impact. In some parts of the Communion, the concept of safeguarding is relatively new and often challenges the culture of the faithful.

The discomfort caused by uncertainty and the possibility of change for any community or organisation ought not to be underestimated. This can happen when Safe Church and safeguarding measures are introduced. The fear of managing difficult conversations, dealing with conflict, and negotiating situations that could disrupt administrative systems and relationships, can create invisible obstacles to embracing the idea of safeguarding.  

Mentioning policy formulation and the implementation of safe measures can be intimidating when one thinks of the processes involved. However, Safe Church does not obstruct how we ought to minister. It is not an elephant in the room but rather a figure standing at the crossroads, offering guidance as to which road to safely take.  Safe Church is not imposing itself on any province. It offers guidance and any required necessary support to the well-being of the Church as an institution.  

Doing business differently calls for adjustments in an organisation’s operational system and therefore sets the tone for transformation. Safe Church is central to the mission of the Church, and it has a transformative element.  It also contributes to the Church’s respectability.  

Abuse is real  

Last November I shared information on the work of Safe Church to delegates representing their dioceses at the Provincial Synod of the Province of Central Africa. A delegate narrated an ordeal relating to the sexual abuse of a girl in her neighbourhood. Delegates valued the input and discussion because it brought the realisation that abuse is real in our communities.  

I called for a collaborative approach in tackling the subject matter and encouraged critical thinking by Synod delegates. They learned more about the current challenges facing the Church, and there was a consensus that abuse is a reality in all countries despite our diverse cultures.  

The role of senior leadership is key 

It is through the work of the Safe Church Commission, of which I have the privilege to serve as a member, and the encouragement of our Primate, that engagement with the Province of Central Africa on safeguarding issues has been made possible. We have realised that the role of the senior leadership is key in advancing transformative initiatives and we are integrating this into our provincial and diocesan strategic planning.   

The engagement of the Commission with churches outside of the Western context provides a space for the faithful to actively participate in diagnostic mapping exercises in their situations and to make context-informed recommendations towards mitigating abuse through policy formulation and implementation.  

 Taking Safe Church to the next generation 

New concepts and changes are sometimes better embraced when first taken to people during their formative years. In December 2023, the Province of Central Africa gave a presentation to theological college students at Bishop Gaul Theological College in Harare. It looked at the concept of safeguarding, pastoral care for the vulnerable, and how safeguarding measures can apply to the Church of today. There was a positive response and keen discussion. This has set the ball rolling, and dioceses are keen to hear more.  

The leadership, chancellors, registrars, and the faithful in Central Africa look forward to the upcoming Safe Church Conference in Zimbabwe in September 2024. We praise God for a transformative Church.   

Guidance 

For resources and guidance on implementing Safe Church, visit the websites for the Lambeth Conference here and the Anglican Communion Office here.

Bishop Cleophas spoke during a recent webinar on Safe Church. Watch it on Facebook here.

Visit the page for the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission here.  

open to all:
the Phase 3 webinars