Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson apologises for church’s handling of child abuse
Newcastle’s Anglican Bishop has fought back tears while apologising for past church cover-ups and the poor handling of complaints about child sexual abuse.
Greg Thompson marked 500 days in the position by saying sorry for “the terrible harm done [by] a culture of not listening”.
“If you are a victim or a survivor of abuse I want to encourage you to come forward,” he said.
“I want to assure you that when you do share your story the church will believe you and you will be supported in that process.
“I know that as a diocese in the past we failed some victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
“Not only did we not support them when they came forward, but we fostered a culture that intimidated them and kept them silent.”
Bishop Thompson said that system of operation within the church hierarchy was over, and now was the time to expose past events.
“I’m devastated by the accounts of abuse,” he said.
“We are in the storm clouds at the moment but, in the midst of that, the rain is coming.
“The smell of the rain, in the midst of this process of facing the past, is coming and we are doing something about it.
“We’re facing what has happened and we are ensuring that this will not happen again.”
Bishop Thompson said more than $4 million had already been paid to abuse survivors in the Hunter region, but no amount of money could compensate them for their pain.
“In the end, I think that most victims want to be heard,” he said.
“Money is a way of getting through things but it is not the healing.”
Bishop Thompson also said threats had been made against him by bullies within the church.
“If they are prepared to try it on me, what are they doing to other people in the community?” he said.
“I won’t be silent about it.”
His comments come at a time when a police strike force is investigating.
The child abuse royal commission is also expected to examine historical allegations of abuse within the Newcastle Anglican Diocese.
Bishop Thompson said some clergy members and office bearers had already left the diocese and others could follow.
“There have been people who have been stood down and there could be more,” he said.
The ABC has previously been told about alleged cover-ups and allegations of a paedophile ring involving Anglican clergy operating in the 1980s.