Response to Article - YWAM Perth Australia

Response to Sunday Times Article - July 4, 2021

Youth with a Mission Perth was founded over 35 years ago. Our mission has been, and remains, to know God and make him known in Perth and all over the world.

We believe in the immutable word of God as set out in the Bible.

It is among the central tenets of our faith that we must maintain a lifestyle that is founded on upholding biblical standards of conduct, including as to the obligation to spread God’s word, the covenant of marriage between man and woman, repentance, in forgiving those who do us wrong, respecting human dignity and abhorring any type of violence. The traditional values and beliefs we hold are well known.

We undertake our mission (being evangelism, training and mercy mission) through various programmes, including the Discipleship Training School (DTS Programme) in Perth.

The DTS Programme and other programmes are conducted or supervised by experienced teachers who have had several years of experience and training in Christian missions.

We operate and undertake our programmes with the assistance of, almost exclusively, volunteers who wish to be part of our missionary work.

Over the last 35 years, in excess of 11,000 people have completed our programmes. Of those, over half were young people undertaking the DTS Programme.

Potential participants are made aware of our core values and beliefs before they are admitted to the DTS Programme.

In that regard, before undertaking the DTS Programme, participants are provided with access to details as to the nature, contents and purpose of the DTS Programme through our website, the registration process (and the information provided in the course of that process) and communications with our school leaders.

Prior to submission of the application for the DTS Programme (for which we require 2 written references, including 1 from a religious adviser), we understand that participants normally discuss their participation in the DTS Programme with their family, friends and/or religious advisers.

The feedback we received from our participants has been overwhelmingly positive.

We consider that this reflects the fact that vast majority of our participants appreciate and become involved with our programmes because they share, and believe in, our core Christian values and beliefs.

Further, as a direct consequence of the training and experience in the DTS Programme, some of our participants have chosen to remain in missionary work, whereas others have moved on to further studies and employment after shorter periods of missionary work.

Following recent concerns expressed due to our decision to accept Jarryd Hayne into the 2019 DTS Programme, we invited our staff and participants (present and former) to provide us with any feedback that they wished to share with us as to our decision to accept Mr Hayne into the DTS as well as any other concerns.

Some of the feedback we received has indeed been concerning.

We unequivocally would like to state that the experience of some of our participants and staff, as related to us, is not reflective of our values or our beliefs. 

We sincerely regret and apologise to those of our staff and participants who may have been affected by any shortcomings in ensuring that the values and beliefs that we share have been adequately and properly communicated and implemented on the ground.

Without commenting on individual complaints that have now been expressed, many of which relate to incidents some time ago (and which it is not possible or appropriate for us to comment upon in detail), we would like to say as follows:

1. If a participant who has suffered recent or historical sexual or other abuse discloses that fact to us during the DTS Programme, our policy is as follows:

a. We believe that whether or not to make a complaint to the relevant authorities is a deeply personal decision to be made by the participant. We support whatever decision the participant ultimately makes in that regard.

b. As part of the separate process of spiritual healing (and in accordance with the biblical principles as to repentance and forgiveness), we also encourage the participant, when he or she is ready, to try and forgive the person who has caused them harm and repent to the extent that the participant bears any ill will or malice towards that person. Repentance and forgiveness, however, does not mean that the sin committed against the participant is somehow excused or condoned.

2. We never blame the participant for any sins that he or she confesses to. We never blame the participant for any sexual or other abuse he or she may have suffered. Rather we focus on what the gospel says as regards sins committed by or against us (including the need to accept personal responsibility for, and repent, our sins and forgive the transgressions of others) and the process of healing. We engage in various forms of dialogue as a way for the participant to work through his or her experiences. We also encourage the participant to pray and we also pray with him or her. We accept though that this is seldom an easy or comfortable process and it is, by its nature, emotional, confronting and spiritually challenging. As a consequence, different participants have different reactions to that process.

3. Some of the participants who attend the DTS Programme come with special issues (such as Mr Hayne) or pre-existing physical/mental health conditions. We have not sought to discriminate against them. Instead, consistent with our Christian values and beliefs, we accept these participants because they come to us with a genuine desire to learn how to grow in their relationship with God and spread the word of God. We do our best to help the participant manage his or her issues and pre-existing conditions while they are in our care through discourse and prayer. Where professional help is requested or required along the way, we arrange for the participant to meet with mental or other health professionals. We have received, and are grateful for, the messages of appreciation from the participants or their families for the special care that we have provided for participants with particular needs.

We accept that things can always be done better.

Having regard to complaints that have now been brought to our attention, we accept that we may have missed past opportunities to have done things differently, had senior representatives at the time been informed of these matters.

However, nothing that we have said above is intended to detract from or minimise the pain, suffering or hurt experienced by some of those who have provided their feedback to us.

We do not have the expertise or ability to investigate matters (including historical matters that are said to have taken place over 15 to 20 years ago) that should properly be investigated by the appropriate authorities. That is not to say that those matters will not be taken into account and addressed by us when we consider how we can improve in our commitment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our participants and staff.

Accordingly, it is our firm resolve now to make sure that we address any shortcomings that are identified through a review of the feedback received as well as through the engagement of KPMG to examine our governance (including our policies and processes) to ensure that, going forward, we look after our staff and participants better while we undertake our mission to spread God’s word around the world.

Management Committee

Youth with a Mission (Perth) Inc

1 July 2021


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