In 1989, synod formed a committee to study abuse in the CRC. Their report was presented to synod in 1992. The committee was re-appointed to bring a protocol for responding to allegations of abuse to synod in 1994. The protocol included the use of an Abuse Response Team. The protocol, Guidelines for Handling Allegations of Abuse Against a Church Leader, revised and approved by Synod in 2010, can be found here. Also in 1994 the Office of Abuse Prevention was formed and Beth Swagman was hired as director. She retained that position until 2011.
Now, 20 years later, the office is known as Safe Church Ministry to reflect an increased emphasis on the broader focus of abuse awareness and primary prevention as well as response. The three mandates of safe church teams remain unchanged. They are: to offer education to increase awareness about abuse, to support those impacted by abuse, and to offer the Advisory Panel Process for handling allegations of abuse against a church leader. Five guiding goals have also been identified to focus our work. If you’re a visual person (like me) it may also help to see it as a picture, watch a video, browse a PowerPoint presentation, or view a webinar to learn more about Safe Church Ministry. These -- and many other resources -- are available on the Safe Church Ministry website resources page.
Safe Church Ministry is a resource to churches. The most important way that we can be an effective resource is to equip safe church teams in each classis who can be available to assist churches with whatever safe church needs arise. That may be connecting with local resources, developing policy to keep children safe, implementing a safe environment program, or offering an educational program about an abuse related topic (such as domestic violence, internet pornography, or teen dating and healthy relationships).
Unless we understand abuse, we cannot develop effective strategies to prevent it; and we can’t respond well or appropriately when it occurs. Safe Church Ministry is pleased to partner with churches and classes in this important work. Many good resources are available on the safe church website.
What about you? Which Safe Church Ministry resources has your church used in the past? What safe church resources would you like to see in the future? In the coming weeks, we will feature some of the many resources and tools available to support Safe Church Ministry in your congregation.
Take a look at the Safe Church Overview PowerPoint presentation, which shares the key components of Safe Church Ministry. You can use this presentation and adapt it to inform your congregation about Safe Church Ministry.