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IN its toughest attack yet on pedophilia within the clergy, the Anglican Church has agreed to form a national screening program for potential church workers.
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Church leaders from across Australia have ratified several child protection initiatives including the “Safe Ministry Check” for applicants and a national registry of clergy.

The registry aims to stop offenders moving from diocese to diocese and will include details of any refusal by a bishop to ordain a person as a deacon or priest because of an “adverse risk assessment”.

Other measures given the go-ahead at the church’s general synod meeting in Fremantle include a nationwide code of conduct and behavioural guidelines for clergy and church workers.

The Safe Ministry Check procedure, which dioceses will be expected to follow, includes a questionnaire that asks extensive queries of clergy and lay workers, including inquiries about sexual and criminal history.

Parishes all over Australia will be asked to embrace the code of conduct and behavioural guidelines, which include advising against being alone with children or driving children home unaccompanied.

The changes come as a Victorian Anglican priest, the Reverend John Crump, 58, was suspended after being arrested on possession of child pornography charges.

Church leaders at the forefront of the initiative described yesterday’s decision as monumentally significant.

Garth Blake, SC, the chairman of the church’s child protection committee, said the initiatives would go a long way towards restoring the public’s trust in the Anglican church.

“It is the first step in rebuilding trust for the victims, the members of the church and the community,” Mr Blake said. “It is only the first step but it is a very big one.”

AAP