|Archbishop kisses the feet of abuse victim|
|By Sharyn McCowen
25 February, 2015
The Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Archbishop Christopher Prowse, kisses the foot of abuse survivor Mark Stiles at the National Repentance Service in Canberra. Photo: Ramon Williams
It was with repentance for the scandal of child sexual abuse that a kneeling Australian Archbishop Christopher Prowse washed and kissed the feet of abuse survivor Mark Stiles.
The Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, together with Anglican Bishop Stuart Robinson, Australian Christian Churches Pastor Shaun Stanton, and Salvation Army Commissioner James Condon, who instigated the service, performed the symbolic washing of feet at the ecumenical National Repentance Service at the Parliament House Great Hall in Canberra on 15 February.
Sexual abuse “is one of the tragic and major challenges that all of us face in Australia”, Archbishop Prowse said in his address.
“With the Royal Commission in full flight we are constantly brought to repentance and shame for the abominable acts that some within our Churches have committed.”
Mr Stiles was physically and sexually abused as a child at a Goulburn Salvation Army home.
“I had no self-worth whatsoever … life was without meaning. I mean, I spent years in church but I couldn’t see God,” he told Sight magazine.
After years of battling depression and attempting suicide, the Queensland electronics technician rediscovered his faith.
“For me, the primary objective is to let people know that Jesus is Lord and let people know that when He forgives and we forgive and we learn to love, it’s just the full release of everything,” he said.
Mr Stiles was one of several abuse survivors at the service who spoke of their experiences.
“If there’s one other survivor out there of child abuse, of institutionalised child abuse, who can find the Father, then to me [taking part in the day] has all been worthwhile,” he said.
Archbishop Prowse said all those present at the event gathered “in the shadow of the Cross”.
He cited Luke 17:2, “when Jesus says that those who do harm to the young, it is better for them to be placed with a millstone around their neck and thrown into the river”.
“But, at the same time, we must be able to stand alongside the victims and listen to their story and truly believe them and move ourselves from a position of indifference to a position of solidarity with them.”
The “terrible episode” of sexual abuse “that we are all enduring in the Churches at the moment” is the product of “even a deeper scandal … the scandal of disunity among us Christians”, he said.
He commended the organisers of the Day of Repentance and called on people to place “the victims of sex abuse in our upper most mind and heart”.
“May it bring the Churches together on our knees as we all gather around the Calvary Cross.”