04 Mar, 2024 Responding to the ‘Royal Commission on Abuse in Care’

Re the “Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care” 

Before this report comes out, here are thoughts on how we might wisely respond to any resulting negativity toward the Church, as Christians and Christian churches across Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The report will tell of abuse that took place under State and Church care.

People will understandably and rightly be angry – as hopefully we all are too!


The scale summarised

With the time period of 1950 to 1999 as the focus, there are an estimated 250,000 ‘victims of abuse’. The scope of pain is not small – and is strongly felt in the generation who suffered it.

While much of this relates to State care, there is certainly a portion related to Church care. Churches have historically been leaders in care (and our faith is also the source of our entire culture of care).

This will understandably generate media attention – naturally including a level of anger toward ‘the Church’ for wrongs done by bad people in the past. This might include unfair accusations because of the understandable emotion involved – combined with anti-Christian cultural prejudice present in sectors of our society in the present time.


The challenge summarised

It must be accepted that we (‘the Church’) became complicit the moment any church leadership team ‘swept a wrong under the carpet’ rather than directly confronting it – and this has happened.

Furthermore, we remained complicity if we didn’t then create policies / processes to avoid the possibility of similar happening again. Repeat-offending is said to be common in the reports.


FOUR ATTITUDES to foster regarding the ‘Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care’

Attitude 1:The Royal Commission on Abuse in Care a good thing – It is right that these matters are brought to the light, so they can be addressed and the pattern of them stopped. We view this positively because it is about a stand for what is right.


Attitude 2: Wrong is wrong – Irrespective of any inconvenience we agree unreservedly together that this investigation was needed, to shine a light on past wrongs.


Attitude 3: No defensiveness – Where the ‘Church’ is attacked, we are wise to be humble rather than defensive – agreeing with the legitimacy of the anger at wrong actions. We hopefully all feel the same way – and we have every right to be doubly angry in noting that it is our faith these people discredited while not even obeying the teachings of our faith!


Attitude 4: We are supportive of building a stronger culture of awareness – As a people called to be salt and light within our communities we must be committed to becoming the safest places within those communities. This logically necessitates the embracing of good governance practices and education, to create a culture within which there is a robust awareness of abuse and its many forms – as a preventative measure.

>> Fostering the above attitudes amongst our people is important <<

What might a wise response look like? 

We all know the problem here is that there were people who served or worked within Church care programmes who didn’t follow the teachings of the Christian faith they were supposed to represent.
  • The problem isn’t with our faith
  • It’s with the failure of people to follow our faith.
  • The resulting wrong is, however, a significant one. Our churches and their associated care programmes (Orphanages, Boarding Schools etc.) should be amongst the safest of all places!
We must journey this sensitively – because wrong has been done, and unwise words are to be expected as hurt people speak out of their emotion.
Consider this response:

“I’m a Christian, and I totally agree with you. What was done was so wrong – and I know everyone in our church is really angry about it also. This has to be brought to the light and dealt with!”


Note: This is a ‘sandwich’ statement – agreeing twice, while positioning ourselves INSIDE the Church. 

  • 1. We AGREE – because wrong is wrong. This removes tension.
  • 2. We RE-POSITION – noting we are Christians and to go a church – and that we are also all angry at these past wrongs.
  • 3. We AGAIN WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE – This Royal Commission was needed to address wrongs, enable healing, and ensure any ‘cycle’ gets broken into the future.



Simple humility will be the best pathway – with no defensiveness.
We concurrently look to God to help us preserve his reputation – in the mix of what is otherwise a right and needed Inquiry, to recognise, bring justice to and prevent future repeat of wrongs of this nature.


We hope this helps.


DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.

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