The following letter was written by Rev. Dave Snapper.
To Our Treasured Safe Church Team, and to all of classis, a word of support:
Thank You - Thanks to the Fakkemas and the entire safe church team. Thank you for prompting us toward greater responsibility in classis. You work quietly to help save us from the sin of the world that so readily destroys lives. Thank you!
One Man's Conversion - I wasn't persuaded ten years ago when Anchor of Hope Church began creating a safe church policy. I thought a policy would interfere with ministry freedom. It seemed like an OK idea for some people in dangerous places like Seattle and Chicago and Grand Rapids, but not for me. The idea of a policy felt like someone was telling me that I was unsafe. I was completely mistaken.
Under the leadership of two or three elders, deacons and members, we created a simple and practical policy. I was neutral because it caused me no grief or loss. No big deal. Council adopted it; I would follow it.
Vulnerable is Such an Unhappy Word - The fact is people are unsafe. I don’t know exactly which person is unsafe. And you don't know exactly which person is unsafe. That makes you and me vulnerable. Vulnerable is the word to remember.
Failing -- and I mean "failing" -- to create and follow a policy makes your children more vulnerable. It makes everyone in your church a little less safe.
When Barbara Streisand sang, "He Touched Me," she made a $1,000,000 and a name for herself as a star. Nothing was the same for her after that line. But if a person in your church sang "He Touched Me" in court, it could cost you $10,000,000, and you too would have a new name. Nothing will be the same for you, either! Vulnerable is the word to remember.
I'm not fool enough to want to stand in front of a court judge and say, "That's correct, your honor, we never bothered with a safe church policy. We didn't think it was important. I trust my instincts. I guess I was wrong."
One Example - I supervise community service kids - kids who have court appointed work as part of their sentencing. Last year I worked with several kids; two of them suffered from severe personality disorders that I never recognized. Either of the two could have devastated the church, our thirty years of ministry, a career. All they had to do was invent a story. Vulnerable is the word to remember.
At the end of summer the probation officer gave me a hint of what could have happened. I gave a prayer of thanks to God that I follow our safe church policy every day. In the past ten years no one has seen me alone with a minor in the context of the church. And I am grateful for that policy.
You Never Know - You never know who is walking into the front door of your church building. You can "think" they are safe, but it is only months later that their real character may be revealed. Then it’s too late; your ministry is shot. The reputation of Christ's church takes another hit. A month later you are under-employed and irreversible damage has been done to many people. And your spouse--well, figure it out. Vulnerable is the word to remember.
It's A Simple Cure - Do you drive the pastor's $80,000 Lexus through town without insurance? That would be a foolish risk. Would you let your kids drive the Lexus without coaching? Of course you wouldn’t. Why take a risk with children?
The difference is: the Pastor's car, whether a Lexus or a BMW, is easily replaced for $80,000. But no one in the world can undo your picture on the cover of the Seattle newspaper. You cannot un-print the word “abuse” once it is published. In addition, when abuse occurs, what’s been taken from the one victimized can also never be replaced.
A safe church policy that you establish and follow for yourself and for the entire congregation is the insurance policy that will protect you when you need it the most -- Every day!
Please: Be Responsible - Why am I writing; trying to tell you something? I am writing because I hear that slightly more than half of CRC congregations have safe church policies.
I am asking the other half to reconsider. I understand why you might not want a safe church policy in your congregation. Do it anyway. Please, create a safe church policy. Please, create and follow a solid safe church policy.