Category Archives: Reviews

“…vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.” Review by Mary Caygill of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions:
Faith Seeks Understanding

By Anne Stephenson 2016, Garside Publishing, 86 pages
Reviewer: Mary Caygill

in Methodist newspaper Touchstone March 2017

In this book’s opening pages the author states clearly her intent in writing this resource, which is nothing less than naming what she calls the elephant in the room no one wants to name, and especially no one within religious institutions.

The naming of this ongoing reality is exactly what this author does. She claims quite rightly that no religious institution is devoid of the need to deal justly and compassionately with both ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ when incidences of adult sexual abuse are brought to light and faced up to.

I deliberately choose to juxtapose these two words – ‘justly’ and ‘compassionately’ – as this is the approach the author takes in this valuable resource written out of personal experience.

The subtitle of the book – Faith Seeks Understanding – captures accurately what this book sets out to accomplish and I believe achieves in a most succinct, readable, and informative manner. As such, this book will be a valuable resource for all manner of people both inside and outside of religious institutions.

The author conveys well the complex issues that frame instances of sexual abuse. She helpfully identifies some of the key warning indicators along with some of the key psychological frames of reference that we need to understand to grasp the full extent of adult sexual abuse and particularly how and why it occurs within the context of religious institutions.

It is fair to say that all religious institutions have needed an urgent wake-up call to become aware of the realities of adult sexual abuse by its spiritual leaders. This crisis and the way it has been addressed have proven to be very impetuous.

In many cases there is a need to both address and  establish far more robust procedures that work towards ensuring the pastoral and ethical accountability of those in key positions of trust and influence.

The language used by the author of ‘offender’ and ‘victim’ are rightfully used throughout the book to clearly identify and then address what is at heart an abuse of power which breaches the all-important ethical principle of ‘fiduciary duty’.

As the author establishes, within religious institutions this amounts to breaking the sacred trust between the leader (the one with power) and the congregant who has deemed the leader to be trustworthy.

Because of this sacred trust the consequences are life- changing and the healing required is immense and of a specialised nature both for the victim and offender. The author conveys well the full extent of both the abuse and the healing journey required.

I commend this book as a valuable pastoral resource. It is vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.”

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Like a Dove – Review in Touchstone Feb 2017

Like a Dove – A memoir and biography in honour of Sione Tavo Manukia

By Rubinstine Manukia 2016, Philip Garside Publishing, 98 pages

Reviewer: Motekiai Fakatou in Touchstone February 2017

“Sione Tavo Manukia was a grandson of Arthur Frances Tindall, a missionary and trader to Tonga. Sione migrated to New Zealand in the 1970s. He was a man full of hopes and dreams with humble faith and a deep conviction about his purpose in life.

After he landed on the shore of Aotearoa, his balanced life grew immensely and started to unfold in new ways as he was nurtured by his parents.

His parents Sione senior and Sela Soakai Manukia were staunch Methodists and a local business couple. Sione Sr was a lay preacher and a steward for many years.

Sione’s inner most character was expressed through his ordinary life in extraordinary ways. He lived out his faith practically which explains why so many people, including those who have written in this book, pay tribute to him.

He was a man of tenacious courage coupled with an   enduring faith and a sincere compassion.

Sione’s strong characters have helped him and his family along with many other families. Through his tremendous efforts over the years they have realised their hopes and turned their dreams in to reality.

Throughout the years Sione faced many challenges but this book, written by his daughter, shows how a person can sustain him or herself through the pressures of life and still reach out to assist others so that they can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

The three main elements mentioned above – courage, faith  and compassion – are the three strands that weave together as a strong cord that strengthened Sione over the years.

This solid cord stems out of his great family heritage from both his paternal and maternal family.

His entrepreneurial sense of life came from his grandfather for whom he was a trader in Tonga and around the South Pacific during the early 1900s.

Sione’s steadfast faith was nurtured by his parents, and they encourage him to participate in the life of the church early on. This is where he deepened his faith and displayed it by hard work in dedicating his time and effort to honour God, support his country, and care for his family.

Sione Tavo Manukia is a compassionate father, committed preacher, successful entrepreneur, effective community worker and faithful man of God.”

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Tui Motu Interislands review of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith Seeks Understanding

Reviewer: Kay RyanAugust 29, 2016
for Tui Motu Interislands

“This book is written in response to a deficit within religious institutions where processes to address sexual abuse by pastoral leaders are being inadequately addressed. Based in Christian tradition and drawing on personal experience, Stephenson reveals often hidden dynamics involving sexual abuse by pastoral leaders. She reflects on the current situation, provides information about the psychology of offenders and the effects of abuse on the victim. She gives instructions for Church leaders and community workers on how to support victims while taking responsibility for the criminal acts of offenders. There is practical advice and a structure about how to proceed with complaints.

I like Stephenson’s courage and her resolve to put responsibility for addressing sexual abuse by clergy, firmly into the hands of those in power. She outlines what is needed and how it should be done. Church leaders are challenged to be alert and not allow offenders to keep offending. The offender “cannot be healed with grace, forgiveness, reconciliation”, but must engage with the Criminal Justice system. She is a strong advocate for victims and states how important it is that we get it right for all concerned.

As well as noticing some editing issues I found myself looking for references to other current writers on sexual abuse and trauma, perhaps from a secular perspective. I think this may give more credibility to her general assertions that this is the way it is.

While some victims may view this as a useful text that validates their experience, I think others may find the prescriptive nature of the writing – the do’s and don’ts –  difficult to relate to. I think it is important also to acknowledge that the person’s process itself leads the way. Even though there are certain themes that can be recognised, each person’s response to trauma is different.

Stephenson’s instructions to pastoral workers are clear. However I wanted to hear more about some of the complexities of disclosure within community settings. Instructions such as: “Do not pay attention to what erupts”, needed more explanation.

I agree with the author that this book would be most useful for Church leaders, those in positions of power, clergy and pastoral workers. It may also benefit counsellors who are working with victims of sexual abuse as it gives insight into Christian communities and what they may be struggling with.”

Kay Ryan is a psychotherapist in Auckland.

This review is online at: https://hail.to/tui-motu-interislands-magazine/publication/KrJM98L/article/FaqM3YN


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Kapiti News publishes article about Anne Stephenson and her new book

This informative article about our author Anne Stephenson and her new book – Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding – appeared on page 1 of Kapiti News 17 August 2016.

Click the image to see the article as published or read the text below.

Kapiti_News_article_17_Aug_2016_thumbnail


Opening door on taboo topic

by Cloe Willetts

A Paraparaumu woman has opened the doors on a controversial topic by writing her first book, which will be available at libraries and universities around the country. Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding, written by Anne Stephenson, is a hard-hitting piece that began in December last year. but had been on her mind for more than 40 years.

She approached a sociologist. a psychologist and an independent organisation to see if they’d help her co-write the book, but none of them wanted to, though they all commended her for doing it. The book, according to Anne, discussed sexual abuse of adults by clergy and spiritual leaders and highlighted procedures that needed to be put in place to deal with offenders and their victims.

Her 86-page book, which stemmed from personal research and understanding, covered a range of areas including characteristics of sexual offenders, suggested procedures for dealing with a complaint, victim support and the potential for victims to go on to have fulfilling lives.

Anne, a retired Methodist minister who worked for many years as a registered nurse in New Zealand and Australia, has had training and experience working with sexual offenders and abuse prevention, as well as support of victims and families. With her own experience of abuse as a young church-going wife and mother of three, and having gone on to have sexual abuse counselling, Ms Stephenson said her book was based on 20 years of education, which she hoped would assist in societal change.

“Positive change can come out of the current chaos regarding the handling of sexual abuse within religious institutions,” she said. “This book doesn’t exist to unsettle the good functions within communities, but to highlight areas where there are cases of sexual misconduct. I hope my confidence in the world l know, to reform and restructure as needed, will give insight to religious institutions, offenders, victims and those who support the people involved with such matters.“

The book is available from Paper Plus Paraparaumu, or through Philip Garside Publishing Ltd. For more information Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding visit www.realityrev.co.nz


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Video Celebrates NZ Methodist Theologian Jim Stuart

In this video, David Bell of KiwiConnexion  praises Jim Stuart’s approach to theology.

Click these links for information about and to order Jim’s book The John Wesley Code: Print edition or eBook editions.

Click here for a free Study Guide to the book.

 

Video of readers responding to League of Lilith

Readers find Rosalie & Troy Sugrue’s thriller The League Lilith enthralling.

Click the video to hear from readers and the authors.

You can read a sample chapter here

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“This wise and wonderfully comprehensive book … will benefit many who carry pastoral responsibilities” Review by Anne Priestley of Earthed in Hope.

Doing Funerals Well

Earthed in Hope:
Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective

By Alister G. Hendery
Published by Philip Garside Publishing Ltd

EIH_front_cover_20141015_100w_BReview by Anne Priestley, published in Tui Motu InterIslands Oct 2015

“A quick scan of death notices in a newspaper reveals the fading influence of Christian faith in this country. Many funerals now are held at a crematorium or a funeral director’s chapel. Some of these funerals will be taken by a minister of religion; but increasingly funeral directors and celebrants have taken over the traditional roles of a minister of the church. We live in a world where there are multiple views on “what comes next” after death, mostly at variance with the theological witness of scripture. Even church funerals often celebrate the life which has ended, rather than proclaiming Christian hope in the midst of grief and death.

This is the terrain surveyed by Hendery, a Pakeha Anglican priest. His writing is marked deeply by his trust and hope in God’s grace and equally by his long pastoral experience.

He begins with sociology and theology, chapters which are most lively when earthed in contemporary New Zealand practice. The second half of this book has a strong practical bent, as Hendery discusses pastoral and liturgical issues in journeying with the dying person and in the stages before, during and after the funeral service. He includes thoughtful commentary on the rich resources of A New Zealand Prayer Book /He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, the Anglican prayer book (this material, valuable for Anglican ministers, will be less useful to others). Here, as elsewhere, he provides ideas from a wide range of religious and cultural sources.

Hendery pays attention to the complexities arising from a death by suicide and to special questions concerning children and death. He is not afraid to criticise the Church for less than helpful theology and practice, both past and present.

Hendery’s theological commitments and generous pastoral instincts stand in unresolved tension — the tension of God beyond and God within. For me, this reflects a great challenge of funeral ministry: how to speak the language of the bereaved, in our changed and changing world, and also to proclaim faithfully the good news of God.

I also appreciated Hendery’s determination to be blunt. To say the words “die”, “death”, “coffin”. To face the fact of one’s own death. To accept that, facing death, we do not know everything.

This wise and wonderfully comprehensive book about funeral ministry in Aotearoa is not a quick read, but will benefit many who carry pastoral responsibilities.”

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“Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.” Review by Rosemary Dewerse of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight.

‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe
Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight: Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist Parishes 2006-2014

(Wellington: Philip Garside, 2014), 68pp.

Review by:
Rosemary Dewerse, Mission Educator, College of St John the Evangelist, Auckland.

(This review will be published in the December 2015 issue of the
Australian Journal of Mission Studies
.)

“In our part of the world where practitioners significantly outnumber academics in the field of missiology, we often do not benefit from their wisdom because they are too busy “doing.” This is especially the case with Pacifica leaders. In this remarkable little book Rev Ngahe, a Tongan Methodist minister working in Auckland, New Zealand, does, however, take the time to pause and record his ministry strategy across 2006-2014, a strategy that because of its deeply contextual and outward-facing commitment exemplifies missional church leadership.

Ngahe’s strategy is straightforward. He seeks out visual images that can capture his own but also his people’s imagination and then explores their riches as he leads his community in building connections within and beyond their own boundaries in service of Christ and the people.

For himself as a Tongan the image of a Fala (a mat woven by one’s family) keeps him humble in reminding him that when he joins a community he joins a history and comes to contribute to that. It keeps him open as a Fala’s purpose is to invite family and others into talanoa (conversation seeking agreed solutions). It also keeps him mindful that when he moves on it is good for the people to be continuing to weave a closely interlaced Fala.

When Ngahe arrived in Avondale, Auckland, in 2006 he found the local icon of the Avondale spider. This got him thinking about the care with which a spider (in his imagination, God) weaves a web that despite the weather holds fast. The legs of the spider he saw as us all doing God’s work in reaching out across the community web through good and difficult times. Such thinking saw him lead the renewal of a rundown church building by seeking and welcoming help offered by likely as well as unlikely groups (eg the NZ Methodist Church, local businesses, the Mormons, the Department of Corrections). The congregation had a vision of being ‘Christ’s light to the community’ by running a homework club as a way to begin reversing endemic unemployment in the area; it was a vision others wanted to support, though there was some discomfort at first amongst parishioners with some of their partners. Though Ngahe left in 2010, the club, and other community activities, continue to this day in the refurbished church.

In Manurewa the image drawn upon was the name of the suburb: in Maori it means “soaring bird.” There, as Ngahe notes, “the listening and storytelling took pictorial shape” (p26). A mural on this corner church was painted with the help of local businesses, community police, local graffiti taggers, and MPs, as well as church members. They and nearly 40 other community groups now see “The Corner of Hope” (the name of the Church) as a place of welcome and belonging for all people. Hospitality and transformation are the two key theological themes underpinning all that happens there.

For Ngahe it is clear that finding a language that embeds God’s mission in the local context and in words and deeds that all people can understand and feel embraced by is crucial. It is exemplified not only in his approach to his ministry but also in the way in which he has written this most accessible book. Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.”

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“The psalms and a number of the poems lend themselves to liturgical use…” Review by Lynne Frith of The In-between Land

The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku
By Mark Gibson
Review by Lynne Frith

Published in Touchstone October 2015

“There’s an element of risk for the writer in publishing a first collection of poetry. How will it be received? Will it resonate with readers? Will it sell? Mark Gibson has taken those risks and more, with this his first published collection of poems. These deeply personal reflections on his spiritual journey from the time of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes carry with them the additional risk of self-exposure.

Not surprisingly, given the context, raw emotion is to be found in these pages. It is expressed in a way that will enable both those who have lived through and with the earthquakes and those without such direct experience to recognise and connect with the highs and lows, the despair, and the glimpses of grace and beauty.

The collection, as the subtitle indicates, is divided into three sections – psalms, poems, and haiku. The 15 psalms provide a prelude to the body of the collection – some 50 poems grouped thematically – and the haiku are almost a postscript.

It’s an attractively presented volume – the cover photo, presumably the poet’s own, though unattributed, draws us in to the natural world that features strongly in all the writing. The voice is consistent with the Mark Gibson many of us know, with his strong concern for ecology and the environment.

The psalms, in time honoured tradition, pick up themes of praise, lament, and hope. Take Psalm 3, for example: “when the sky is grey for days on end, / we praise you!” And, towards the end of the psalm, the phrase from which the book’s title is drawn: ‘O God, we praise you for your love / in this in-between and often graceless land.”

Psalm 8 cries out in lament: “how long will it take until the river runs clear again? / when will the inanga run once more.”

And Psalm 12 strikes a note of hope: “what unexpected joy can come / when we risk conversation with a stranger.”

The body of poems, with the unnecessary markers of place and date, gives the sense of being a journal. There are poignant lines in some poems. For example, in Twenty- Seven Reasons: “the kids have secretly / compiled a list with / twenty seven reasons / why we should return / to our old house.”

In other places, the essence of the poem is wrapped in too many words, as in No one comes: “open the doors / set out chairs / make everything ready / sit down and wait / anxiously watch clock / no one comes.” This would have been stronger if it had moved from “make everything ready” to “ no one comes”.

If I had edited this work, I would have placed ‘Torrent Bay Escapes’ at the end of the poems, inviting the reader to consider his or her place of escape to a safer, more harmonious environment, far enough away from the challenging realities of daily life. And there I would have ended the collection.

Whatever I might think about editing, the content of this collection does what it sets out to do, which is to tell the story of the people who lived through the earthquakes, to encourage appreciation for the natural world, and offer hope for the future.

The psalms and a number of the poems lend themselves to liturgical use, and I would expect that many readers will find a plentiful resource for their own reflection and nourishment.”

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“…insightful, and often deeply moving.” Review by Jim Consedine of The In-Between Land

Book review published on Tui Motu Interislands Facebook page 4 August 2015

The In-Between – Land, Psalms, Poems and Haiku
By Mark Gibson

Review By Jim Consedine

“Mark Gibson is a Methodist minister, a 6th generation Cantabrian, attached to the New Brighton Union parish in East Christchurch. He has been their minister right through the earthquakes and has been very involved in community re-building since. East Christchurch is the most damaged suburban part of Christchurch. Mark also leads the River of Life project and co-leads the Avon Otakaro Network – both based in the east.

These groups with others are struggling to maintain public access and ownership of red-zoned areas (earthquake damaged land where no building is permitted) between the city and the sea. They are struggling to make the Government and the local authorities hear what ordinary people from the grassroots say regarding their future. This struggle is reflected in much of the poetry.

In this, his first book of psalms, poems and haiku (small 3-line poetic observations), Mark shares with insight observations into the ordinary everyday things of life. One can feel the ground shaking as he describes huddling under the kitchen table, or being caught in his church, or being on the beach as the quakes rumbled. One can see the sunsets, hear the birds and wonder at the beauty of these parts. One can feel the creative Spirit of God echoing through the lines of this deeply spiritual man.

The In-Between Land is insightful, and often deeply moving. It carries the reflections of a man with a heart for justice and the soul of a real poet. Let’s hope we have more from Mark’s pen in the future.”

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