Bad news never announces that it is coming. Bam...just like that....it's there. I've been occupying the office of Safe Church Ministry for 15 years.
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I mentioned in my first synod blog the anxiety I felt driving to synod and then how it seemed to dissipate with meeting and greeting old friends and colleagues. I felt like the sparrow protected by God's almighty hand. So I'll refer to these synod blogs as the "view from the sparrow's nest".
Synod for me is like a lot of training events. In one respect, synod is a friendly environment to discuss a subject matter that is dear to my heart and therefore easy to talk about. On the other hand, delegates, like conference attendees, often ask pointed questions and challenge the speaker's knowledge or the opinions of others. It is this second respect which draws out the anxiety in me and probably in a few other speakers.
The fourth in a series of questions frequently raised in training sessions: I am a man who cares deeply about sexual abuse, but what can one man do to make a difference? Isn't (sexual abuse) primarily a problem women need to learn how to keep themselves safe? Gerry Heyboer writes the following response. The answer to the first question is "A lot!" The answer to the second question is "No!"
Although it does vary, in most states and provinces, the age of consent is 16. Below age 16, a minor is regarded as unable to give consent; 16 or older and the minor is regarded as able to give consent. That does not mean, however, that everyone who is of age to give consent to sexual acts has given consent ...
What happens when, upon release, a convicted sex offender joins (or re-joins) a congregation? To date, my experience has taught me that there is no single “right” answer and that the process of finding the “best” answer will definitely test the mettle of a congregation and its leadership team...
Imagine your reaction if you heard the news that fire had damaged your church and many people were injured. Now just change the circumstances. What if you found out that several children in your congregation had been sexually abused by a convicted pedophile at church functions and that your church did not have a proper Safe Church Policy?
There is a widespread misconception that the sole task of Safe Church Ministry is to help victims and deal properly with abusers after incidents have been reported. This is only partly true. Safe Church Ministry also works to prevent abuse from happening and to protect pastors, youth leaders and volunteers.
To make churches safer places, leaders must begin by recognizing that some families in the congregation may be experiencing violence. You can't tell from the outside which families are affected.
Unfortunately, it is in the context of close interpersonal relationships that persons with intellectual disabilities are often abused. Because of these potential risks, Friendship Ministries has developed model guidelines for churches to follow in preventing abuse.
In the pictures, people look happy, hiding the fact that many are forced, manipulated or threatened to produce them. Children are exposed to graphic images as they do their homework. Marriages, relationships, and individuals are harmed by its use. Yet we don’t talk about it. Internet pornography doesn’t belong in Christian community
What do you think churches should do to provide a safer environment for individuals with disabilities?
It is important to balance safety and risk with the rights and autonomy of individuals living with disabilities. This can be challenging and confusing, especially for caregivers, but it is important that the right balance be struck.