Church’s response to Grenville Christian College controversy likened to residential schools case

The Anglican Church’s entanglement with Grenville Christian College and its initial reluctance to address abuse allegations at the institution are reminiscent of its mishandling of the aboriginal residential schools case, says an editorial in the church’s national newspaper.

The editorial, signed by Anglican Journal editor Leanne Larmondin, appears in the October issue of the paper under the headline, When Will Church Learn Lessons About Abuse Scandals?

Ms. Larmondin is critical of Bishop George Bruce of the Eastern Ontario diocese, where Grenville is located, for issuing a “pastoral statement” stating that at no time did his diocese have responsibility or control over the school.

The statement, she says, was “utterly devoid of any ‘pastoral’ sentiment” – given that three former headmasters were Anglican priests, the school used the Anglican worship liturgy, bishops and other Anglican dignitaries presided at ceremonial occasions and the school flew the Anglican flag.

“It is all too reminiscent of the residential schools system, which saw Canada’s mainline [Christian] denominations – including the Anglican Church – operate boarding schools on behalf of a federal government that was implementing a nationwide policy of assimilation of aboriginal people.

“When the [residential school] litigation against the church began in the 1990s, the church’s defence was that the schools were not theirs: they ran them at the request of the government. That claim did not sit well with some former students who associated the schools with churches and the church members who were in charge.”

The editorial in the Anglican Journal, which has an independent editorial policy but is sent to every church member in Canada, notes that Bishop Bruce subsequently accepted complaints against two priests still associated with the school and began an inquiry into their behaviour. The Ontario Provincial Police is also conducting a criminal investigation.

Turning to the Anglicans’ association with Grenville – most of whose staff over the years are alleged to have been avowed members of a Massachusetts religious organization labelled a cult in the U.S. news media – Ms. Larmondin writes that the church “ought to be scrupulous about the groups with whom it associates.

“Regardless of whether the Anglican church was a founding body of Grenville, there appeared to be a close relationship between church and school…

“Any rumours of misconduct at the institution should have been investigated. It was not a matter of whether the school was an Anglican school, it was thought of as such and the church must protect its integrity and care for society’s most vulnerable members.”

• Original title: Church’s response likened to residential schools case

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