Autumn is certainly here and the colors are changing quickly now! What a beautiful creation we are blessed to enjoy here in the Diocese of Michigan! I did hear that points north of us awakened to snow the other morning and, while I think snow is lovely to look at, I am not ready at all for winter. I’m all for enjoying these lovely fall days as long as we can.
Two weeks ago I shared Resolution D047: Compassionate Care of Victims of Sexual Abuse by Clergy, a very sensitive topic, indeed. Last summer at General Convention, we adopted another resolution that addresses a similar issue that I’d like to highlight this week:
A115: Adopt and Implement Charter for Safety
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention join the 2012 Anglican Consultative Council in adopting the following “Charter for Safety of People Within the Churches of the Anglican Communion” noting that it summarizes The Episcopal Church’s policy regarding maintaining the safety of all who come to or work for our churches:
1. Pastoral support where there is abuse — We will provide pastoral support for the abused, their families, and affected parishes and church organizations by listening with patience and compassion to their experiences and concerns; offering spiritual assistance and other forms of pastoral care.
2. Effective responses to abuse — We will have and implement policies and procedures to respond properly to allegations of abuse against clergy and other church personnel that include: making known within churches the procedure for making complaints; arranging pastoral care for any person making a complaint of abuse; the impartial determination of allegations of abuse against clergy and other church personnel, and assessment of their suitability for future ministry; providing support for affected parishes and church organizations.
3. Practice of pastoral ministry — We will adopt and promote, through education and training, standards for the practice of pastoral ministry by clergy and other church personnel.
4. Suitability for ministry — We will have and implement policies and procedures to assess the suitability of persons for ordination as clergy or appointment to positions of responsibility in the church, including checking their background.
5. Culture of safety — We will promote a culture of safety in parishes and church organizations by education and training to help clergy, other church personnel, and participants prevent the occurrence of abuse.”
As I have done recently with other resolutions, I found the original explanation for this one
(Please, remember that the explanation is not part of the resolution):
Given our commitment as constituent member of the Anglican Communion, it is important that we join our sisters and brothers to protect all people and provide for their safety. Additionally, we need to begin to develop appropriate materials for our whole Church, in collaboration with Episcopalians from all our cultures.
Since this resolution references the “Charter for Safety of People in Churches Within the Anglican Communion,” I thought it might be helpful to share the link for this document, also.
As a diocese, one way we are attempting to address this resolution is through our Safe Church program from the Whitaker Institute. The EDOMI website describes the program:
The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan is committed to safeguard all of God’s children. This policy intends to demonstrate that commitment to creating safe environments, especially for children, youth, and vulnerable adults, from sexual, physical and/or personal abuse or exploitation.
Our theological foundation affirms that no one is to be deprived of the basic needs of food, drinking water, shelter, sleep, access to restrooms, safety, and clothing at any event. Further, no one shall be denied rights, status, or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of any program or activity because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, differing abilities, or socio-economic class.
The policy establishes training programs (supported by standards, guidelines, procedures and protocols) to create a safe environment for those to whom we minister, and for our own personal protection.
The policy that serves as the background for Safe Church enables the Diocese of Michigan to:
Promote best practices and pro-actively work in a way that can prevent harm, abuse, coercion to or exploitation of any vulnerable person
Ensure that any allegations of abuse or suspicion are dealt with appropriately and in compliance with the Canons of the Diocese of Michigan and the laws of the State of Michigan
Take appropriate measures to prevent or stop an abuse from occurring, including the requirement to attend training sessions, make application for various positions, and undergo various personal and background checks.
This policy also contains the theological foundation for our program as well as many helpful explanations and resources. Please take the time to check out this document for a deeper understanding of our position as a church.
The best way for our diocese to live into Resolution A115 is for each of us to acknowledge our responsibility “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” as we promise in our Baptismal Covenant. The Safe Church program is for all of us: clergy, church employees and volunteers, and lay persons. We all play a role in making sure our churches and church activities are safe for all people. Whitaker has developed three levels for training depending on individual roles in the congregation. You can find the explanation for these three optionms and the current course schedule on the Whitaker section of the EDOMI website.
As I shared two weeks ago, the Intake Officer for Title IV issues is the Very Rev. Scott Hunter and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling at 313 831-5000 should you need to report any concerns.
Let us pray:
With humility of heart, we come to you, O God,
whose love and faithfulness endures forever.
We pray for people who have been abused
whether physically, mentally, emotionally or sexually
that you, the Lord of all tenderness and compassion,
will restore them and give them peace.
We pray that we become more and more a community
that actively protects the most vulnerable people of society,
especially our children, the infirm, and the aged.
We pray that the Spirit of Wisdom will enlighten all people
to put an end to acts of violence and abuse.
And we pray for all those in the healing professions
who minister to those who suffer violence and abuse,
that you, Gracious Lord, will give them an abundance
of wisdom, compassion and love. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council