Safe Sanctuary Policy

INTRODUCTION:

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted the following resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child abuse in the church. It includes the following statement:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a child . . . welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5) Children are our present and our future, our hope, our teachers, our inspiration. They are full participants in the life of the church and in the realm of God.

Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to children and youth. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Tragically, churches have not always been safe places for children. Child sexual abuse, exploitation and ritual abuse (“ritual abuse” refers to abusive acts committed as part of ceremonies or rites; ritual abusers are often related to cults, or pretend to be) occur in churches, both large and small, urban rural. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural and racial lines. It is real, and it appears to be increasing. Most annual conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation within churches. Virtually every congregation has among its members adult survivors of early sexual trauma.
Such incidents are devastating to all who are involved; the child, the family, the local church and its leaders. Increasingly churches are torn apart by the legal, emotional, and monetary consequences of litigation following allegations of abuse.

God call us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong. (From the 2000 Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, pp. 180-181.)

Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist Congregations, Gresham First United Methodist Church adopts this policy for the safety of children and youth in our church.

PURPOSE:

Our congregation’s purpose for establishing this policy is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical and emotional safety and spiritual growth of our children and youth.

STATEMENT OF COVENANT

Therefore, as a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist Congregation, we pledge to conduct our ministry in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth. To this end, we will strive to:

  • Educate ourselves in issues relating to abuse and neglect.
  • Follow safety measures in the identification, recruitment, screening and training of workers with children and youth.
  • Implement safe operational procedures in all programs and events.
  • Refer people in our church to appropriate community services as needed.
  • Follow a clearly defined procedure for reporting a suspected incident of abuse that conforms to the requirements of state law.
  • Encourage people in our church to support agencies that promote the safety of children and youth.
  • Be transparent in our response to media inquiries if an incident should occur.
  • Support our staff in the implementation of this policy.

CONCLUSION

In all of our ministries with children and youth, this congregation is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each child will be “surrounded by steadfast love, . . established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.” (Baptismal Covenant II from The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 44.)

Adopted by the Church Council of Gresham First United Methodist Church, October 8, 2013

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