Safeguarding & Survival Systems – Loyalty vs Trust

by the Revd Canon Rosie Harper & the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham – co-authors of ‘To Heal and Not to Hurt’

Rosie & Alan

In an interesting quirk of coincidence the book that we co-wrote, To Heal and not to Hurt, was published on the same day as the BBC Panorama program Scandal in the Church of England was broadcast.

Panorama was very carefully researched and took a cool, measured look at serious safeguarding issues in the Lincoln Diocese. The degree of cover-up was extraordinary, except of course that it was actually all too ordinary. The Safeguarding lead bishop, Rt Revd Peter Hancock, did all the familiar hand-wringing and apologising. He seemed very sincere but offered not the slightest glimmer of hope that anything was actually going to be different.

In our book we look at 15 examples of the type of abuse that happened (they are true) and is likely to continue to happen within the church. We make some concrete suggestions which, if implemented, would make a considerable difference. Of course there is resistance from the top. They do not want to make any of these changes, mostly it seems because they introduce both accountability and taking responsibility for the consequences of cover up and wrongdoing.

Instead we have more courses, training, staff and meetings. It’s still a tight circle and needless to say survivors are mostly kept out!

The other dynamic of the book  (do buy it!) is a long hard look at the internal drivers: theological, cultural, emotional. It comes down to that oft quoted point: ‘good people do good things, bad people do bad things, but it takes religion to make good people do bad things.’ But why? Why when we preach that ‘the truth will set you free’, do we then find ourselves watching open-mouthed as senior clerics make defensive statements that are peppered with inaccuracies. What is happening on the inside that makes such behaviour seem reasonable?

Whilst discussing with a mutual friend the multiple high octane apologies from people who seem genuinely deeply sorry for the suffering of survivors without being able to help them effectively we came across the following theory.

It makes a lot of sense, but if it is true it is chilling.  It is based on the concept of Systems of Survival, which was first developed by Jane Jacobs – an American Urban Activist.

Her basic hypothesis is that that there are only two ways of making a living (ie. Surviving): Either (i) you have Territory, a space on which you can grow, hunt, fish, farm etc , or (ii) you find or make things to Sell.

Each of these two Systems of Survival is based on a separate set of values.

The first system is based on Loyalty and the second on Trust.  The Loyalty cultures are Politics, Government, Armies, Church etc.  The Trust cultures are based around commerce where deal-making is vital. As a society we need both.

The error that we, and many like us have been making, is that we expect folk in the Loyalty cultures to be Trustworthy when we should in fact only trust them to be Loyal.

This explains why in certain institutions that they may have very tight and well-developed whistle-blowing policies, in the end it is inevitably the whistle blower themselves who lose their jobs.

It also explains how, if you are critical of anything in the Church the response never ever tackles the actual issue. The offence is not being right or wrong, the offence is being disloyal. The offence is daring to speak at all!

This would help explain why George Pitcher, who until 2011 was Secretary for Public Affairs for the Archbishop of Canterbury, had no compunction in commenting in a memo: (IICSA Day 8 Page 154-5 (Chichester))

“+Hind may have to be thrown to the press as a sacrifice. The potential scale of the scandal though — it seems to me — is such that the backwash must reach the Archbishop (quoting from a previously received email).

The real danger here is that these stories are used to suggest that the CofE is as bad as Rome, both in abuse and cover-up”

The game is to say what is necessary to protect the Institution. The actual truth is, it seems, secondary.

And Loyalty is what we have seen in Church Safeguarding.  Loyalty to those who are in the team, in our camp, flying our flag.

However hard outsiders like the two of us implore the Church to put survivors first they are genuinely unable to do so.  They can tweak the internal systems and processes, and they can wring their hands, but as for putting survivors at the heart of things – that is impossible.

That place in their heart is already occupied by the Institution.


‘To Heal and Not To Hurt’ is available for £9.35 from WH Smith and is published by Darton Longman Todd.











This entry was posted in Human Sexuality, Rosie Harper, Sexual abuse, Spiritual Abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Safeguarding & Survival Systems – Loyalty vs Trust

  1. Martin Sewell says:

    This is a fair analysis, however the model you are applying works within a law abiding civil society: there is one transgressive other mode of survival which also needs to be considered – predation.

    The implication of that mode is rather frightening. It encompasses not only the prospering of narcissistic individuals like Savile Smith Ball and Smyth, but also the entryism into existing successful institutions like Militant and Iwerne.


  2. Pingback: Archbishop Cranmer

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