The General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1996 adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child abuse in the church. The adopted resolution, continued in 2000, 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. Jesus also said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones…it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around you neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the little ones, the children. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church state that “children must be protected from economic, physical, 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) occur in churches, both large and small, urban and rural. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial lines. It is real, and appears to be increasing. Most annual conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation in their 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 calls 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 Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church – 2000, pp 180-181).
Our congregation’s purpose for establishing this Child and Youth Protection Policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and to protect our staff and volunteers from potential allegations of abuse.
Statement of Covenant
Therefore, be it resolved as a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist congregation, we pledge to conduct the ministry of the gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth, as well as the safety and spiritual growth of those persons who work with them.
We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers.
We will implement prudent operational procedures in all programs and events.
We will educate our workers with children and youth regarding the use of all appropriate policies and methods, including first aid and methods of discipline.
We will have clearly defined procedures for reporting a suspected incident of abuse that conform to state law which requires us to report any suspected incident of child abuse/neglect immediately to the local police authorities.
We will be prepared to respond to media inquiries if an incident occurs.
We will inform parents of our policies, and provide training for our teachers regarding our policies.
In all of our ministries with children, 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, United Methodist Hymnal).
Find a copy of the Safe Sanctuaries Covenant here.