The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has now been established for over a year. How are Christians to respond to the overwhelming evidence of extensive, long term failures on the part of churches to guard and care for those about whom Jesus Christ declared, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14)?
“There can be no defence or minimisation” says the Centre For Public Christianity. “Words will not suffice. Even an apology will sound hopelessly inadequate given the weight of sorrow the Commission is bringing to light.”
But there is one response, a form of words by which all Christians can respond to the Royal Commission and the horrifying stories that emerge from it—prayer.
“Even if there is nothing the church can plausibly say on this matter to the wider community, Christians remain confident that their Creator and Saviour stands ready to hear their plea. It is the Centre’s hope that individuals, churches and organisations will commit afresh to prayer for this important period in our national story.”
Lord of truth and grace
Hear our prayers for the Royal Commission into
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Grant the Commissioners wisdon and strength,
The patience to weigh testimony,
Insight to pose questions,
And success in all their deliberations
For the health of our nation.
Above all, most merciful Father.
grant to the victims of abuse
the courage to tell their stories,
strength to endure pain,
and healing for their wounds.
In their sorrow, give them your peace.
And refine your people, Sovereign Lord
By the light of your truth expose in full
The darkness in our institutions.
Inspire remorse and establish justice.
By your Spirit renew us,
for the good of all,
And the glory of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
“In my own church we have been praying for the Royal Commission, occasionally, for months,” John Dickson, a director of CPX told Eternity. “ We have been praying for Commissioners and victims, and for the Church. Talking about this at the CPX office, we felt that a prayer was something we could do for Christians around the country—to give them a voice, maybe not to the world but to God.”
“People tend to look to the Centre for Public Christianity for answers, defences against the criticisms of Christianity, but we don’t feel there is any defence, there is no apologetic, that is appropriate in the face of child sexual abuse.
“This is a prayer intended for all Christians in general to offer to God. Some will need to pray specific prayers of personal repentance. Some will offer prayers dealing with the actions of colleagues. Others will pray as victims. But this is a prayer for all Christians to pray .
What was the hardest thing to write in the prayer, we asked. “Probably the most important part of it—the third paragraph asking God to be merciful and gracious and strengthen victims of abuse. It’s hard for an outsider who has never experienced this to convey a sense of what that hurt can possibly mean. We were very conscious that we did not want anyone to feel hurt or patronised.”
Asked if all Christians should feel ashamed, Dickson responds “I think we all do.
“Because we are connected to these institutions, these communities. I hope individual Christians, around Australia, will come to the final paragraph…and feel the collective—you say shame, you could say repentance—and ask God to forgive us.
“At CPX we have spent a long time writing this prayer. We’d love to think that churches and Christian institutions will use it. We hope this is a helpful guide for people.”