By Pam Durso and Stephen Reeves
The stories continue to show up in our news feeds. The sheer number of stories about sexually abusive ministers seems overwhelming, and every day we are more aware of how pervasive this horrific problem is in our world, in our nation, and in our circles.
How churches respond to reports of abuse is critical, and how churches prepare and educate their staff members and congregants is critical as well. In October 2018, Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s joint Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force released two significant resources developed for use by churches, seminaries and partnering organizations.
Safe Churches and Ministers is an educational video that introduces this tough topic and provides much-needed definitions, statistics and stories that are designed to help churches, students and leaders take seriously their responsibility in preventing abuse. The video is in 4 parts, a total of 24 minutes in length. It is accompanied by a leader guide and discussion guide, and is available in both English and Spanish.
Clergy Sexual Abuse Prevention Recommendations for Churches is a collection of prevention guidelines and documents intended to prompt congregations to create their own policies, procedures, processes and covenants. This resource will assist churches in holding clergy and lay leaders accountable and will prepare churches to respond appropriately if abuse is reported. Both videos and written resources are available at www.cbf.net/safechurches.
These resources are free and are easily downloadable, and the website includes links to organizations and programs designed to prevent abuse of children. These resources are being used and have been endorsed by “Minister Champions,”—Baptist pastors and leaders who have watched the video and reviewed the written resources with their staff, personnel committee, or other small group of leaders.
“Safe Churches and Ministers provides clear and accessible information to educate students, personnel committees, ministers, and congregations on the hidden scourge of clergy sexual abuse. When silence or diversion are the only responses to the perpetration of this harm, broken lives that bear the scars of hurt and shame will be the enduring legacy. Baptist Women in Ministry and CBF have offered well-honed wisdom that can help curtail #metoo and #churchtoo. I commend these timely resources and trust they will bear good fruit.”—Molly T. Marshall, president, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kansas
“The publication of Safe Churches and Ministers gave us the push we needed to break the silence about the taboo topic of clergy sexual misconduct. The structure of videos and discussion guide created a healthy space for our congregation to better understand the survivor experience and reflect critically about the risk of abuse in our context. As a result, our personnel committee is now using the Safe Churches ‘policy and prevention guide’ as a practical model to create new procedures to protect all who desire to worship and serve at Broadway.”—Drew Herring, pastor of adult education and outreach, Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas
“After implementing a Child Safety and Security policy at Augusta Heights Baptist Church, we felt like it was only natural that we discuss all forms of safety and security in regards to our ministers, staff, and congregation. The Safe Church and Ministers material was readily available to us through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Jay Kieve, who is on the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force, came to present the material to our deacons. The material was well received and sparked a number of discussions for our deacons. Going forward, we hope to adopt either all or parts of the policy in regards to Clergy Sexual Misconduct, allowing our church to have these conversations regularly on the best methods and procedures to make our church a safe and welcoming place for all.”—Christine Kellett, associate pastor with children and families, Augusta Heights Baptist Church, Greenville, South Carolina