Guidelines for Handling Abuse Allegations Against a Church Leader: The Advisory Panel Process

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This resource is a consolidation of guidelines that CRC Synods have adopted over time, as a supplement to the Church Order, to equip churches to deal with an abuse allegation in a manner that is consistent with CRC beliefs and values. This version incorporates revisions adopted by Synod 2010 in response to recommendations from the Abuse Victim's Task Force Report.

The Advisory Panel Process, outlined here, may be requested by an adult who would like to come forward with an allegation of abuse against a CRC church leader. The request for a panel to be convened may come through the church council, a safe church team member, or directly from the Safe Church Ministry office. Special training is provided by Safe Church for those seeking to serve as panel members and/or advocates in an Advisory Panel Process. Please feel free to contact Safe Church Ministry for details and for additional information. 

Find the Guidelines for Handling Abuse Allegations Against a Church Leader below. 

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Note: 

Synod 2019 Adopted Changes to the Guidelines for Handling Abuse Allegations Against a Church Leader

(additions in italics)

                These are suggested guidelines. The circumstances of abuse may dictate that church officials deviate from them. In addition, state and provincial laws vary somewhat in terms of the manner in which abuse is defined and how it should be reported. The presumption should be in favor of following the guidelines in the case of each allegation of abuse; however, the church is best served by retaining legal counsel with expertise in the area to define the legal standards relevant to a particular jurisdiction. Furthermore, the director of Safe Church Ministry can be consulted regarding the application of the guidelines.

Concerning the role of suggested guidelines (to be added after the second sentence):

                These are suggested guidelines. The circumstances of abuse may dictate that church officials deviate from them. Such circumstances cannot all be anticipated in advance, but would include deviations that provide protection for the alleged victims or alleged perpetrators of abuse.

                Ground: Section A, 5 of the Guidelines for Handling Abuse Allegations Against a Church Leader explains that in some situations the recommended procedures may create further revictimization of the alleged victims and that if “forced to face one who has dealt inappropriately with him/her, the abused may feel like a victim once again. Therefore, abused people have been unwilling to come forward with their stories even though their silence means that they cannot experience significant healing in their own lives and that an abusive spiritual leader continues to serve in a position of authority.”

Concerning the matter of jurisdictions (to be added to the following sentence):

                The presumption should be in favor of following the guidelines in the case of each allegation of abuse; however, the church is best served by retaining legal counsel with expertise in the area to define the legal standards relevant to a particular jurisdiction that could assist the body that would justify deviation from the suggested guidelines.

Concerning additional clarification of the definitions of sexual misconduct and physical misconduct:

                It should be noted that the guidelines include definitions of both sexual misconduct and physical misconduct (Guidelines for Handling Abuse Allegations Against a Church Leader, B, 1, b, 1 and 2).