Brenden Hills, writing for the Sunday Telegraph, cited NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research statistics, showed 1600 people were charged with committing a range of 27 offences in the state's "places of worship'' in 2008. Yet, the figures showed only 282 people were charged in premises classified as 'adult entertainment' over the same offences.
Bureau director Don Wedderburn said people are likely to rob, assault or steal from "places of worship" as anywhere else.
M V Tronson says that those statistics reveal crimes that were obvious enough to be reported. There are innumerable minor things that happen too.
Every now and then, for example, in most churches, something goes missing. An announcement is made: "Would the person/s who had a loan of the seven new tea-towels please return them". They were more than likely taken home by someone and washed; someone who then went on holidays for several weeks.
But there is another type of crime in the churches, often hidden from view, and political in nature that wreaks emotional trauma.
Congregations are as full of intrigue and jockeying for positions as is any community organisation, and Missions by their very nature have decision making bodies where policy decisions can be fought over as disagreeably as any secular committee.
The sacred prayers are said, Christian greetings with gracious smiles are the norm, but under the garment of spiritual pleasantries, daggers are drawn at thirty paces and it can get ugly.
Traditionally the contentious issues relate to:
A - modernism in theology
B - the whole music thing
C - leadership
D - personnel and lack of accountability
E - control
M V Tronson recalls a men's breakfast where the local Mayor of the Shire stated that it didn't matter whether it was Government, a Statutory Authority, Shire Councils, a Business, a Corporate entity or the Church, in any large organisation 'middle management' sets the agenda.
The Mayor went on to explain that middle management can either allow a decision from higher-up to work, or else they can decide to use their authority to put so many hindrances in the way that it will never function properly or smoothly or satisfactorily; and eventually the project dies a natural death.
"In local congregations, the equivalent to middle management, the real decision makers, are those who 'take ownership of the church' whether they have any official role or not," muses Mark Tronson. "They do their church politics in ways that Canberra could take lessons from."
For those straightforward and open congregation members who are earnestly trying to grow church life in the best possible way, the emotional damage and heartache can be devastating, as they come up against the experience of people 'stalling' and 'prevaricating' and 'nay-saying', presumably for their own personal gains or to maintain their own perceived status.
People go home from meetings frustrated out of their minds, as regardless of what improvements or changes they try and implement to benefit congregation members, their ideas gets bundled out of the way.
These are not crimes of a physical assault, rather they are crafty undercurrents of an emotional nature. These statistics won't show up on Don Wedderburn's computer screen, but they will show up on Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher's 'John Mark Ministries' cataclysmic description of those 'destroyed inside' the church and missions by such 'church political activities'.