All Saints Day
November 1, 2021
Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Christ our Hope,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are profoundly grateful to be able to forward to you the Diocese of Christ our Hope’s Policy Manual for the Protection of Children. This policy is the result of years of dedicated work by a team of people who have, on behalf of the Diocesan Council and staff, fulfilled a charge to research and develop a strong, workable policy designed to guard the safety of the children entrusted to our care.
This manual prescribes a proactive and preventive approach for the protection of children to be undertaken in every parish in the Diocese. Because it safeguards the most vulnerable people entrusted to our care by Jesus, it is genuinely as important as any ministry of the local church or the Diocese.
No single resource can comprehensively cover every contingency for the safety of our children; therefore, this policy may be amended from time to time at the discretion of the Diocesan Council and the Committee for Safe Parishes. We will keep you informed of any changes, but until further notice, this policy establishes requirements and standards for every church in our Diocese in its ministry to and with children.
Because this is an official policy of the Diocese, it is not optional: it is mandatory. The deadline for enacting all dimensions of this Child Protection Policy is August 31, 2022.
The Office of Chancellor as well as the Diocesan Council and Staff are committed to assist you in understanding the issues we face in this area. We are also mobilizing teams of people to develop and implement resources, both in the Diocesan Office and Deaneries, to train ministry workers and support the application of this policy. By the time you receive this policy and begin to consider its application in your local church, those teams and resources will be ready to assist. They will be a fixed feature through which our life together will be shaped for the foreseeable future.
Accompanying this policy, we are developing a clear pathway for properly responding to allegations or responding to any unfortunate instances of misconduct and actual abuse of children and youth. Please be on the alert for that response pathway. In the meantime, we are available to help counsel you through properly responding if a potential crisis should arise.
May God be glorified in all we do, and may he protect and preserve our children in love!
Grace & peace,
The Right Rev’d Dr. Steven A Breedlove
Jessica Patton, Vice-Chair, Diocesan Council
Canon Megan Greto
Chancellor James Cushing, Esq
All Saints Day
November 1, 2021
Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Christ Our Hope,
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul provides a beautifully detailed account of the Body, the Church of Christ. Specifically in verse 26, Paul writes of the Church, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” And this living out of honoring and suffering together is the unity under Christ, the Head of the Church. When we look at Jesus, the way He gathered the most vulnerable, the weak, the shamed, and the abused, He took them in, cared for them and healed them. The way the church is uniquely poised to do this for our Gospel witness, is a high and rich calling, one that is needed now more than ever.
With that in mind, then, how do we as a Diocese create places within our churches and within our leadership structures that promote transparency, power checks and balances, and systems of interactions to prevent not only the physical and/or sexual abuse of children, but also other abuses of power that can be damaging to children and to adults.
Our Diocese has had in place a detailed Child Safety Policy for several years. In fact, the policy that was laid out in 2019 is very similar to the ACNA Policy for Child Safety because similar teams worked together to create it. Now, on the heels of the ACNA Policy Approval, we are rolling out another layer of compliance and oversight to assist our churches reach the goal to be a safe space for children and adults.
In the 2019 iteration of this policy, the Diocese mandated background checks every two years, training, and adherence to the Policy. Now in 2021, as outlined in the attached, revised Policy, we are going to provide training via a Train-the-Trainer model. We will provide samples and checklists for churches to use, and an accountability structure for reporting from each parish through the Deanery.
To create and manage, as well as develop training and resources, the Diocese has created the Canon for Ethics and Protection. This position is geared towards walking alongside the Deaneries and the parishes to ensure there is clear accountability for this and other related policies.
The Canon for Ethics and Protection will proceed with the given timeline and structure:
Canon Megan Greto
For the purposes of this policy the following uses of these terms are in place.
Bishop, or Bishop Ordinary: The Bishop with canonical and ecclsiastical authority in the Diocese.
Bullying: Behavior that intimidates, humiliates, offends, degrades or harms another person, whether verbal, psychological, social, physical or otherwise.
Certified Individual: Clergy, Staff, Volunteer: A member of the Clergy or of a Parish Staff who has taken a Diocesan-approved training course within the past two years on issues related to child and youth protection, especially as those issues relate to abuse, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual harrassment, and related issues, and who has a current background check.
Certified Volunteer: A Layperson in the Parish who has taken a Diocesan-approved training course on issues related to child and youth protection, especially as those issues relate to abuse, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual harrassment, and related issues, and who has a current background check.
Child Abuse: Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Child Protective Services (CPS): A social services program provided by state and local governments serving children and their families who are in need of assistance. CPS receives and investigates reports of suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation. The name of this organization may vary by state. Please see Appendix A.
Clergy: Ordained ministers that serve a local Parish, including Priests and Deacons.
Complainant: the alleged victim, or person making an accusation.
Confidential or Privileged Information: Information of a personal nature that has been shared with a member of the Clergy, Ministry Staff or volunteer leaders with the intention that such information not be shared with others, without prior permission.
Deacon: A member of the clergy of the diocese, distinct from a Priest or a Bishop.
Deanery: For this Diocese, the Deanery is a defined group of regional churches within this Diocese. Deaneries within the Diocese are lead by Bishop appointed Clergy as Deans.
Diocese: The Diocese of Christ Our Hope (DCH) of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
Infant: Typically applied to young children between one month and one year of age; however, definitions may vary and may include children up to two years of age. When a child learns to walk, the term "toddler" may be used instead.
Lay, Lay member, or Layperson: An individual who is not a member of the Clergy.
Mandated Reporter: A person who is required by state law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable populations to the appropriate state agency. State laws vary greatly. See Appendix A for your specific state laws.
Ministry Leader: Any Clergy-approved Layperson (adult or youth) volunteering with leadership of any ministry within the church. Though this individual is not the person with final authority, he or she must abide by the policies outlined in this document. Examples include: Sunday school teachers, camp counselors and program teams that include children under 18.
Staff: Any Clergy or Clergy-approved adult Layperson, employed providing leadership of any ministry within the church. Though this individual may not be the person with final authority, he or she still must abide by this policy. Examples include: Youth Minister, Children’s Pastor, Family Life Director, etc.
Need-to-Know: The principle that sensitive information needs to be restricted to those persons who are administratively or legally responsible for reporting allegations of abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harrassment, sexual exploitation, and related issues.
Off-site: Any location other than the sponsoring Parish, Parish office, institutional facility, or campus.
Overnight: Any event that starts on one calendar day and ends on a different calendar day.
Parish: A local church congregation. Equivalent to church, or church plant or mission.
Priest: An ordained member of the Clergy in the Diocese that is distinct from both a Deacon and a Bishop.
Programs: Official activities and ministries sponsored by the Diocese and parishes (examples include: Youth Event, provincial youth events, pilgrimages, mission experiences, camp programs, acolyte festivals, etc.).
Rector: The senior Clergy of a local parish charged with the regular management, oversight, and care of the Parish. This role may also include the following titles: Priest-in-charge, Vicar, Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor, or similar leadership title/role.
Sexual Misconduct: Federal Definition inserted here.
Staff: Look at other Staff. Employed persons who work for the Parish under the leadership of the Rector and Vestry.
Vestry: The governing and oversight body with fiduciary responsibility for the local Parish. This body may also be called the Board, Council, Leadership Team, or a similar name. The Vestry cannot be related to a member of Staff or Clergy of the Parish.
Volunteer: A Layperson who is not a paid member of the Parish Staff.
Warden: A Lay leader of the Vestry. In many Anglican parishes there is a Senior Warden and a Junior Warden that assist the Rector in overseeing the parish. Depending on the local Parish, a Warden may have a different title such as Chairman, Vice Chairman, President, or similar title/role.
The Bishop in consultation with the Canon for Ethics and Protection along with the Deans will create the Ethics and Protection Committee. This group is responsible for the creation and promulgation of the Diocesan Policy for the Protection of Children, under the authority and oversight of the Diocesan Council and the Bishop in accordance with the canons of the diocese.
From time to time, but not less than annually in August, the committee will review and, if necessary, revise the policy in light of practical experiences, medical and other scholarly research, legal developments, and other relevant considerations.
The Diocese also recommends that each church establish a Risk Management Group (See Caring Section). Deans from across the Diocese identify their Ethics and Protection Trainer and this individual is a resource for the parishes in that Deanery. This Deanery Ethics Trainer will be trained by the Canon for Ethics and Protection annually at the Deanery Retreat. The Deanery Ethics Trainer will also be on the Committee for Ethics and Protection.
The Committee for Ethics and Protection will meet quarterly per the schedule and document review outline under "Deanery Compliance" in the Compliance section.
The Rector, rather than the Diocese, has overall responsibility for the administration of this policy within the congregation he leads and for providing all compliance and reporting requested by the Diocese. In the absence of a Rector, or in the case of church plants and missions, the Vicar, priest-in-charge, senior warden or other individual appointed by the Bishop will be responsible. Duties may be delegated, except in those areas specifically delineating action by the Rector.
We are committed to providing pastoral care to all affected by and involved with instances of child abuse. Pastoral care grows out of Christ-centered relationships and proceeds with an awareness of the spiritual and emotional needs of both the individual and the community. It may include providing guidance, support, consolation, and even confrontation to minister to each individual as we believe God desires.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. (BCP, #66)
The diocese will not tolerate any form of child abuse involving our clergy, staff, lay leaders, volunteers or other persons. Everyone who serves the church through educational, pastoral, recreational or other activities is expected to maintain the highest biblical standards in relationships with those to whom they minister, avoiding any form of misconduct against children. That commitment extends to sexual behavior.
No one in the employ or volunteer service of the Diocese or its parishes who has a civil or criminal record of child abuse, or who has admitted committing prior sexual abuse of a child, will be permitted to serve with children or youth.
The Diocese member churches span across several states. Appendix A defines the specific definition of Child Abuse for each state and its corresponding laws for reporting. Child Abuse reporting laws that are specific to each state can be found here.
The Diocese of Christ Our Hope (DCH) or The Diocese, requires that, at each congregation, parish, church, mission, and church plant is expected to have in place the following policy procedures. These basic standards apply even if there are no children currently in attendance at church events. The diocese and your congregation are committed to creating a positive and healthy environment for children and youth through the 5-step approach:
One effective means of reducing the incidence of child abuse is to screen carefully all clergy and lay workers, paid and volunteer, working with minors. The Diocese requires the following screening and background checks for all canonically resident and licensed clergy, vestry, and staff and volunteers who work with children and youth:
The screening of clergy is the responsibility of the Diocese. Careful screening of clergy is conducted initially during the ordination and search processes. In addition, any clergy transferring from another diocese within the ACNA, will provide records of any background check within 2 years and undergo this screening process. This clergy screening process includes:
The screening of employees/staff, interns, and volunteers is the responsibility of the individual church. Each state has required age limit laws for paid employment. Please check these age limits if the Parish is hiring a minor. The Diocese recommends that youth below 6th grade should not be hired or volunteer. Youth at least 6th Grade may volunteer with two certified adults. They may be utilized for ratio purposes if they are 4 years older than the oldest child present.
Careful screening of adult staff, interns and volunteers to become certified includes:
Training is also an important deterrent to child abuse. Training our parish members also creates communities that become more aware of behaviors that can lead to abuse. Grooming is the process during which a child sexual offender draws a child in by gaining his or her trust in order to sexually abuse the child and maintain secrecy. The offender may also groom the parents by persuading them of his or her trustworthiness with children. The abuser can also groom the organization, such as a parish, in similar ways. Providing training and creating spaces to openly dialogue with clergy, vestry, staff and volunteers about these threats can prevent abuse.
Those who work with children or youth must be trained to recognize the warning signs of potential abuse, as well as learn the procedures for reporting suspected abuse. They also must become familiar with safe practices specific to their church designed to reduce the potential for abuse occurring.
The diocese requires the following training: all members of the clergy, the vestry, and staff must certify that they have read, understood and accepted the DCOH Policies on the Protection of Children and sign an acknowledgement form.
Every two years, all clergy, vestry, staff and any volunteers who have contact with youth and children must:
Deans are responsible to submit to the Canon for Ethics and Protection evidence of completed training annually. Each church Rector or Priest in Charge is responsible to track and document the training/retraining of its vestry, staff and volunteers. The Rector or Priest in Charge may delegate a staff or ministry lead to administer this for their parish. This name shall be provided to the Canon for Ethics and Protection. All clergy, staff, vestry, and volunteers that work with children and youth must complete the in-person and digital training to interact with minors. Clergy, staff, vestry and volunteers working with minors will be trained every 2-years on Policy and Awareness.
These procedures are intended to help children and adults feel safe in ministry and help detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse.
Clergy, staff members, volunteers and participants interacting with minors, while traveling with or in the presence of children or their parent(s), during church-sponsored activities, or while working with or supervising children at any venue should not: use tobacco products, possess or use any illegal drugs, be under the influence of alcohol, or share / view pornographic materials.
All interactions, verbal and non-verbal, between clergy, staff members, or volunteers and children should be positive and uplifting. Staff members and volunteers should strive to keep verbal interactions encouraging, constructive, and mindful of their mission of aiding parent/guardian(s) in the spiritual growth and development of children.
To this end, clergy, staff members, and volunteers should avoid talking to children or parent(s) in a way that is, or could be construed by any reasonable observer as, harsh, threatening, intimidating, shaming, derogatory, demeaning, or humiliating. In addition, clergy, staff members, and volunteers are expected to refrain from swearing in the presence of children. Concerns about children should be directed to parent(s), legal guardian(s), the appropriate ministry leader(s), or clergy.
Clergy, staff members, and volunteers should avoid engaging in any sexually-oriented communications with children, (except as noted in abuse reporting contexts), and should refrain from discussing any inappropriate or explicit information about their own personal relationships, dating, or sexual activities with any child or youth.
Clergy, staff members, and volunteers may employ (subject to limitations imposed by the rector or rector’s designee) age-appropriate materials when leading discussions dealing with human sexuality/sexual abuse prevention/sexual purity. Any prospective material should normally be made available for review for the parent/guardian(s) of participants. Prior to introducing these materials, notice should be provided to parent/guardian(s) in order to allow an opt-out if there are concerns or objections.
If possible, medication should be administered by the child’s parent(s). Medication may be given to a child by a staff member or volunteer as authorized by the parent/guardian. The medication must be in the original packaging, including over-‐the-‐counter medication. First Aid kits will be available onsite where activities take place. When medically necessary, medication or first aid may be given to a child by a staff member or volunteer consistent with the Supervisory Plan. Parent(s) should be notified whenever medication or first aid has been administered.
Home group is defined for purposes of this policy as a small group meeting in a home for Bible study, worship, fellowship, etc. A church which holds its primary worship service in a home is, for purposes of this policy, considered to be a church and not a home group. The Diocese and its churches do not have, and therefore do not exercise, control over home groups. The care and protection of children in such settings is always the responsibility of the parent(s)/guardian(s) of each child. The Diocese provides resources that may help empower and equip parent/guardian(s) and the home groups of its churches as they exercise their care and responsibility.
In home groups where children are present, even on an occasional basis, leaders are encouraged to read this policy, take the dual diocesan-approved policy and awareness training, and follow as closely as possible the provisions outlined in this policy, including the development of a Supervisory Plan (see Section E), and the following:
Certain youth ministry activities may require that overnight sleeping arrangements be made for youth, staff and volunteers. As part of the Supervisory Plan established and communicated to parent/guardian(s)/guardian for all youth and children’s ministry (including lock-ins, mission trips, retreats and other ministry that involves overnight stays), the following procedures must be considered and monitored.
Photos of children will not be used contrary to the wishes of the parent(s). Churches should refrain from posting any personally identifying information about children pictured online or in print publications without prior permission from the parent(s). This is easily handled by including a consent statement on programming registrations that are signed by the parent(s)/guardian(s).
Those who serve, whether as clergy or lay workers, paid or volunteer, maintain a powerful relationship of authority and trust with the people to whom they minister. Betrayal of that trust through violation of physical and/or sexual boundaries causes great emotional and spiritual harm. Such misconduct is a denial of our calling as Christians and may be a violation of the law. We must take every step to prevent it, and to respond with swift justice should misconduct occur.
Physical contact should be for the benefit of the child, and never be based upon the emotional needs of clergy, staff or volunteers. It is the diocesan policy that staff members and volunteers are prohibited from using physical discipline in any manner for behavioral management of children. No form of physical discipline is acceptable.
Children are to be disciplined using time-outs and other non-physical methods of behavior management. In some circumstances physical restraint may be used to prevent self-injury by the child and/or harm to others or to property. Uncontrollable or unusual behavior should be reported immediately to parent/guardian(s), Children’s Ministry Director, Youth Pastor, and/or clergy.
Appropriate physical interaction between staff members or volunteers and children is important for children’s development and is generally suitable in the church setting. The following standards of interaction with children shall be carefully followed at all times.
Appropriate interactions may include:
Inappropriate physical interactions are those behaviors that present an imbalance in the power dynamic for a child with an adult or older child. Grooming is a technique used to break down those barriers. Abusers will use grooming techniques to gain trust. Recognizing the pattern of continual testing of boundaries in such a way that inappropriate behavior seeps into the relationship without consent or even acknowledgement. Grooming usually includes gaining access through trust, targeting a particular type of person as a victim, slowing eroding boundaries, and methods to keep the victim quiet. The following are potential ways of interacting inappropriately.
Inappropriate interactions may include:
Inappropriate touching and inappropriate displays of affection are forbidden. Any seemingly inappropriate behavior or suspected misconduct by clergy, staff or volunteers must be reported immediately to 1) Ministry Leader and 2) Rector. If the concern involves the Rector, the Senior Warden should be notified. They will follow up with the individual per the Response and Reporting steps.
Children’s staff members and volunteers are responsible for protecting children under their supervision from inappropriate or unwanted touch by others (this includes unwanted touch from other children/youth).
Staff members and/or volunteers in the Children's Ministry are responsible for releasing children in their care at the close of services or activities only to parent/guardian(s), legal guardians, or other persons designated by parent/guardian(s) or legal guardians. It is presumed that a person who drops off a child or student has authority to pick up the child.
In the event that staff members or volunteers are uncertain of the propriety of releasing a child, they should immediately contact their immediate supervisor before releasing the child.
Nursery Aged and Special Needs Children
Parent/guardian(s) should take their child to the restroom or change any diapers immediately before a child is checked into a classroom. Because preschool, nursery, and special needs children may require complete assistance with their bathroom activities, all staff members and volunteers will observe the following policies:
Elementary Aged Children
We recognize that contemporary cultural trends and attitudes about gender and sexual ethics are complex and rapidly changing. You may find students wrestling with issues around gender fluidity, gender dysphoria, same-sex attraction or other situations which may challenge the existing policies. These situations may require specific knowledge or understanding so the church can care for individual students, in a loving and caring community setting. In consultation with the Bishop, the rector is responsible for local adaptation around specific ministry situations and with regards to suitable protection practices that embody the Diocese's guiding values.
Digital communications and Social Media shapes the lives of many. This tool has the potential to empower ministry. These powerfully connective tools are subject to the same dynamic of unequal power and potential for abuse that present a risk in all ministry relationships. Behavior in the digital sphere is never private and posted content may be used out of context putting individuals and churches at risk. Churches face the challenge of identifying and proactively addressing areas of potential risk in social media in the midst of rapidly evolving technology. The following recommended practices and guidelines are designed to be a flexible template for developing policies and covenants governing the safe use of social media and digital communication in ministry settings.
As Christians, we are encouraged to seek discipleship opportunities across a generational spectrum. This frequently manifests in long term 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3 relationships where participants meet regularly. Long-term discipleship/mentoring is defined as more than 5 meetings. The purpose of this relationship is mentoring, discipleship, and is often connected to a ministry program or curriculum (including but not limited to Pray for Me Campaign, Confirmation Preparation, Catechesis, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion preparation).
If mentoring and discipleship with child(ren) or youth is agreed upon with the parent/guardian(s)/guardians, adhere to the following safeguards:
Staff members and volunteers may from time to time be in a position to provide transportation for children and youth. The following guidelines should be observed when workers are involved in the transportation of children or youth whenever possible:
Monitoring helps detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse and helps adults avoid wrongful allegations of abuse where none has occurred. Off-‐site activities increase the risk of abuse due to changes in venue and familiarity with the space/environment. Vestry, clergy, staff, and volunteers must be diligent in monitoring and supervising children’s and youth activities in all settings at all times.
Monitoring procedures should include, but are not limited to:
The purpose of the Supervisory Plan for any given activity, space, or ministry is to give direction to staff and volunteers to ensure appropriate measures are in place to meet the diocesan standard for supervision. It is recommended that a copy of the Supervisory Plan be provided to and signed by those responsible for supervision and that the plan be posted in a visible location.
Sponsored On-Site Supervisory Plans should include:
Note: Emergency plans and procedures, including schematics with fire escape routes, shelter-in-place designations and plans for reuniting children with parent/guardian(s) would also be helpful.
Sponsored Off-site Supervisory Plans should include the following:
Due to the nature of the facilities and shared ministry, the situation might arise where the church facilities are used by non-sponsored groups for activities and events (such as Young Life, or the Boy Scouts, or parties, etc.). These events may choose to offer childcare on their own, utilizing the facilities available. All churches should consult their insurance policy regarding these types of activities and to be compliant with the restrictions and recommendations in that insurance policy. It is also recommended that all churches use a Facilities Agreement that clearly articulates the outside organization’s responsibility and liability for their program and volunteers/employees for every instance of an outside group using the church’s facilities.
Admittedly, no matter how detailed the Diocese provides policies and procedures are written, no matter how compliant the parishes and diocesan organizations are, no matter how outstanding the screening, training, interactions, monitoring, reporting and responses are, it is not uncommon for completely unintended things to happen to parishes intentionally following protocols. It is, therefore, important to select the right insurance policy including the correct limits, terms, conditions, and deductibles that are customized to your specific needs.
Parishes in the Diocese need to purchase insurance that covers their specific needs. It is recommended that each church have an Ethics and Protection Committee or similar Risk Management team to oversee insurance selection and the adherence to this policy and other child safety best practices for their parish. It is recommended that each Parish should have sexual misconduct coverage in their insurance policy as well.
A comprehensive user-friendly Risk Management Guide is available on the ACNA website at anglicanchurch.net/risk management.
To better hold accountability for the training and implementation of this Child Safety Policy, each Dean in the Diocese will name an Ethics and Protection Coordinator or Trainer. This person will be on the Ethics and Protection Committee for the Diocese under the Canon for Ethics and Protection. This individual will also be the trainer to follow up with training and background requirements for volunteers and staff, as well as, training churches and leaders on safeguarding children and youth.
The Ethics and Protection Coordinator from the Deaneries will:
This Policy and other Ethics and Protection Policies, updates and changes will be presented at Synod each year. The process to update this and other Ethics and Protection policies will follow this expected timeline:
Each Rector (or Priest-in-Charge) is responsible for the administration, tracking, and training on this and other related Ethics and Protection guidelines and policies. To that end, there are several steps laid out in this document that provide touch points for the Parish to seek assistance from their Deanery Ethics Coordinator and the Canon for Ethics and Protection.
Churches will be notified by their Deanery Ethics Coordinator on June 15th each year that the comments, documentation, and forms are due by July 15th. The Deanery Ethics Coordinator will collect these materials and follow up accordingly. Churches that have not turned in their documentation will receive a warning by July 30. The Rector will have two weeks to comply with the reporting documents. Then, if the Canon for Ethics and Protection does not hear from the Rector, a formal request will be sent to the Bishop and that Parish will not be eligible for Diocesan funding until they become compliant with the policy. The Rector will receive Godly Admonition from the Bishop to comply within 2 weeks.
Incidents of child abuse, and the secrecy that often surrounds them, can cause devastating harm to the church as well as to the victims. Therefore, where current or past child abuse has been perpetrated by clergy, staff, or volunteers of the church, the church shall provide consultation to encourage the discussion of such incidents and to provide a means to facilitate healing within the church. Section I.3 includes one suggested model of how this may be done: a congregational trauma debriefing model.
It is essential that each church responds to a report or instance of abuse or misconduct in a manner that promotes healing for the victim, the offender and the loved ones of both parties, as well as healing within the congregation generally.
Traumatic events have well-documented effects, both immediate and delayed. When a congregation experiences a trauma, the impact is likely to be expressed through symptoms such as:
All of these symptoms could be carried into subsequent years unless the trauma is processed, integrated into the life of the congregation and healed. A useful model for addressing and integrating a trauma is the "debriefing" model drawn from disciplines that do crisis counseling, such as emergency medicine, law enforcement, military science, crisis chaplaincy, and disaster agencies.
A trauma debriefing allows participants to integrate the reality of the event with their own responses to that event. The Church Information, Trauma, and Healing Debriefing Model set forth in the Trauma and Debriefing section is an effective means to communicate, process, and accept facts, allow feelings to surface, and then, through God’s healing grace, head into the future unhindered by the past.
The following guidelines outline steps that can be taken to promote healing in the congregation:
Since the local church will likely include people who have experienced abuse or misconduct themselves, appropriate personnel trained in crisis ministry should be present and available on a small group or one-to-one basis immediately after the formal presentation. Also, local mental health resources (including sliding scale fee agencies) should be publicized so that members of the congregation know how to find these services. (Note that many communities have publicly-funded survivor services.)
The debriefing should follow this process set forth in the Trauma and Debriefing section. The message should be “The Church is a place for truth. We follow Jesus, who described himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
The following procedures are recommended for the information and trauma debriefing meeting, but the church and the Bishop should consult in advance with their respective legal counsel (and, if counsel recommends, insurance provider(s)) before conducting such a meeting or undertaking any such actions.
Steps Prior to Meeting
Agenda for the Meeting
1. Open the Meeting. The Bishop or his representative should welcome the attendees, as should one of the lay leaders. The lay leader then should introduce himself/herself, explain the debriefing process, and outline the guidelines for the debriefing. It is important to keep the debriefing to the specified procedures. Leaders should be prepared for a lengthy meeting.
2. Present the Facts. Subject to the advice of counsel, the general facts and approximate chronology of the trauma should be presented verbally, supplemented by written notations such as a summary handout, or by writing notes on newsprint during the factual presentation. The goal is to ensure that all those present have a common record of the traumatic event. Note that this is not a time for feelings to be expressed, and the group may need some direction to withhold those feelings until the next phase of the debriefing.
3. Solicit Reactions. Once an appropriate record has been presented, the lay leader should invite church members to express their reactions to the facts. (Some church members may need to be directed to express their own feelings and not those of others.) No feelings, however trivial, intense, or unusual, should be discounted, and no effort should be made to fix, soothe, or smooth them over. The responses simply are to be collected and heard.
4. Examine Repercussions. Once reactions have been expressed fully, the leader should ask those present to turn their attention to the repercussions of the event, and consider the congregation's future. This step bridges the trauma with the ongoing life of those involved in the trauma. It may be a time to explore some of the issues the congregation will face in the near future. As with the presentation of facts, the issues raised may be noted both verbally and in writing.
5. Seek Context and Perspective. Members of the congregation also should be invited to place the event within a context or perspective. There may be expressions of confusion, helplessness, or curiosity about how other groups have resolved an issue of this type. In this phase, people may have an awareness of paradox and pose some hard questions such as the following:
Leaders have discretion whether to respond, or to simply allow others to speak.
Actions After the Meeting
1. Plan for the Future. The final step is planning. This could include
2. Provide Trained Counselors. For the immediate needs of those present, it is important that trained crisis professionals be available in the church building so that individuals or groups may process their feelings further. These professionals are present simply to listen and support people in integrating the trauma.
3. Debrief the Debriefing. After the debriefing, members of the Congregational Trauma Debriefing Team should meet to discuss their own experiences with the debriefing meeting, in order to do the following:
Additional Responses & Follow-Up
If new information comes to light after the first debriefing, further meetings may be held. Additionally, regular follow-up sessions with the congregation should be held during the first year after disclosure of the incident(s).
Additional appropriate church responses may include:
Congregational Follow-up: The First Year
Even with the best of care, a congregation that has experienced sexual misconduct will likely need an ongoing program of support and assistance, especially in the first year. This year will be devoted to a healing process, in which the congregation slowly will integrate the reality of its experience into its future. If such integration does not take place, the congregation may suffer from prolonged loss of energy, despair about the future, loss and/or isolation of some members, distrust of lay and/or ordained leadership or of the Bishop, and difficulty making decisions or taking risks.
Suggested congregational follow-up activities may include:
Using the Trauma to Help Others
Some churches, having worked through a history of child abuse, take up a special vocation in a related area. Such steps signify that the congregation has moved into the redemptive activity of letting its own pain be a gift for others. Among possible actions:
The church must make every reasonable effort to protect children. Special care must be taken when a church interacts with a person who is registered as a sexual offender, or self-discloses a history of sexual misconduct towards children, or self-discloses a struggle with sexual attraction toward children.
When such a person is known to be a participant in the church or its activities, the clergy shall inhibit that person from any contact with children and shall require (except as otherwise directed by the church’s legal counsel) the offender to sign a contract/covenant that details expectations, defines boundaries and off-limits locations (e.g. children’s areas, acolyte vesting areas), and establishes appropriate supervision (such as, for example, a bathroom escort) for the offender while on church premises and/or at church activities. The church shall have in place a plan to deal with any violation of the contract/covenant.
If the perpetrator is observed acting in an inappropriate manner with children or their families, the rector or wardens shall inform the family/families of a potential danger to their child/children (unless otherwise directed by the church’s legal counsel). Where appropriate, the rector or senior warden shall consult the offender’s probation or parole officer to assure that supervision and reporting requirements have been met.
O merciful Creator, your loving hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence, and give us grace to honor you with all that you have entrusted to us; that we, remembering the account we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
©Book of Common Prayer, 2019, Prayer 22