A new report has criticised leaders in the Methodist Church for failing to respond to allegations of misogyny and sexism.
The report – led by former Labour MP and church safeguarding expert Meg Munn – was leaked to The Times newspaper.
It described a culture referred to by one woman as “misogynistic and toxic,” and said the Church continued to be “unsafe”.
A quote cited by The Times said: “Some victims and survivors told me that there is a culture of sexism within the Methodist Church. In the words of one woman, the culture is ‘misogynistic and toxic’. More than one woman described abuse they experienced from ordained and lay people.
“This included commenting on clothing, inappropriate touching, lewd remarks and demeaning asides, sometimes of an explicit nature. Women spoke of being belittled by men with remarks concerning their ability to undertake their role.”
Natalie Collins – a Christian consultant on issues of abuse, exploitation and gender – told Premier Christian News that she was disappointed, but not surprised.
She said: “I wish I could say that I was shocked and horrified.
“The reality is, as we're hearing so many things that are coming out at the minute about misogyny, about mistreatment of women about mistreatment of young men.
“I think probably what is most depressing is that it wasn't that the Methodist Church said ‘we are committed to public scrutiny, we want to bring light, and we want to bring hope and truth into this situation, and so we are going to be transparent,’ it's that somebody had to be a whistleblower.
“Somebody had to send this to The Times and get it in the newspaper, because they had poor confidence that it was going to change anything.
“What a lot of these situations are indicating is that the optics and the brand and the protectionism is more important than the truth, and that is something that God is not going to be happy with.”
A spokesperson for the Methodist Church said yesterday: “We recognise that there are reported incidents of sexism and misogyny within our church and properly listening and responding to those who have been abused still needs to improve.
“The report was commissioned so we can better understand how our processes effect those involved in them, particularly how we have failed those who have not been heard when they have complained and how we can address this behaviour when it happens.
“We will continue to work to make sure everyone understands abuse of any kind is not acceptable in our churches. As part of this report we spoke to many survivors, and we are grateful that they were willing to describe their experiences as this will better inform our work in the future.
“Alongside this work in safeguarding, we have also introduced a service for people who have experienced discrimination or abuse, brought in analysis of equality and diversity data that will help us identify patterns of abuse, and developed an anti-bullying policy as part of the on-going review of our safeguarding policy.
“We will study the recommendations of this report carefully and use them as we continue our work to improve our response to survivors of abuse.”