Safe Church Ministry had an opportunity to speak to the advisory committee regarding its work. This opportunity is granted to all Specialized Ministries directors and I look forward to this annual meeting.
The advisory committee is a microcosm of the church - a group of diverse people with a wide range of experience and knowledge about abuse issues. The meeting with the advisory committee is part education for those who know less about abuse issue and a time of affirmation for me as I experience the reality that many church leaders understand the dynamics and know how messy and complicated abuse issues are.
This year, the advisory committee was given the responsibility to review the Victim's Task Force Report. As a member of that task force and as director of Safe Church Ministry, I had a lot of time and energy wrapped into that report and its recommendations. The committee thoroughly reviewed the report and its recommendations with me and the other members of the task force. We felt affirmed and encouraged as we provided details and stories that were behind the report and recommendations.
So what happened at Synod? The delegates adopted all the recommendations!
- Churches are encouraged to provide pastoral care to victims, offenders, and their families. That may seem obvious to some of you, but it is important that synod goes on record adopting these recommendations as they speak for the denomination when they meet.
- Churches were also encouraged to write, implement, and review a child safety policy. No one raised an objection, but the record is clear that synod declares child safety policies as one mechanism to reduce the risk of abuse in churches.
- Churches are encouraged to offer more education to leaders and members. The office of Safe Church Ministry was asked to do its part, too. SCM is to provide those educational materials and to write a handbook with details for church leaders who must respond to allegations of abuse against another church leader.
- Synod also adopted a recommendation for churches to consider how restorative justice might lead to greater restoration and healing after an incident of abuse is disclosed. This is a longer journey for us to walk because we need to put some pilot projects in place first to determine the way.
- Synod delegates also approved the revisions to the advisory panel process - the process developed for adults to bring allegations of misconduct against a church leader. While this process will have import to only a few individuals, families, and churches each year, it is still a process that must be carefully and thoughtfully engaged in.
I'll ask you, the reader, to consider how these adopted recommendations might fit into your own church setting. Perhaps with this knowledge, you can speak with confidence to church leaders that you would like to see a child safety policy written or an educational event put on for the congregation.
Seeds were planted at Synod, but the harvest is something that usually comes down to the efforts of many local people with a commitment and a passion for a ministry that prevents abuse and seeks to restore the broken. May God bless all that you do in this field.