In the November 2020 General Synod debate on the IICSA Report about sexual abuse, there were proper calls for the conversation between survivors of church-related abuse and the Church of England to be marked by - among other things - justice, truth and reconciliation. In a personal contribution to that conversation, David Atkinson (former Bishop of Thetford) and Dr Sue Atkinson (survivor of abuse, author) have written a detailed article on "Redemptive Justice: - a Gospel framework". It explores the biblical perspectives on "God's justice", as "putting things right" which is a much richer and broader concept than "fairness", and merges into compassion, mercy and steadfast love. God's justice lifts up the vulnerable and powerless. The healing ministry of Jesus is about redemptive justice, and seeks to enable "shalom".
The article explores the relationship between justice and truth, and looks in particular from a survivor's perspective at "truth of experience"; 'truth and disclosure'; "truth about trauma" "truth about surviving in a church service".
There is a major section on the problems associated with the great Christian words "forgiveness" and "reconciliation." "Forgiveness" is often trivialised on the one hand, or else made into a legalistic demand on the other, whereas in the Gospels forgiveness is a costly, relationship word which in its fullness is appropriate after repentance and seeks for restoration (both very complicated for survivors). However if 'forgiveness' is understood in terms of "letting go" of resentments and bitterness, that can be a route to healing that can be healing.
The full article is available on the website of Survivors' Voices if you scroll down, and we hope it will help towards a healthier culture and practice within the Church.
David Atkinson and Sue Atkinson