Dear Friends in Christ,
As the church of Jesus Christ, we are stewards of young people’s lives, which includes taking steps to ensure the safety of children and youth. Every time I hear a story of abuse to a young person, I am angered and deeply saddened because I recognize the young person will never be the same again. Sexual abuse in the church creates lasting emotional and spiritual damage and erodes trust in God, the church and adults. We are called to be stewards of all that God has entrusted to us, especially young people.
In GNJ, we will take all necessary steps to address and support victims of child abuse.
In GNJ, when we learn of an accusation of sexual misconduct, we activate the GNJ crisis intervention team to assess the immediate situation and take all appropriate steps including but not limited to the following:
- Alert appropriate civil authorities
- Identify pastoral care and support for affected individuals
- Offer financial support for counseling or therapy to affected individuals
- Identify how to respond to individuals who have been sexually abused in the past and how to provide pastoral support for any individuals whose own experience is triggered by the reporting of sexual misconduct
- Identify appropriate communication with the congregation so that the congregation is informed, and if anyone has additional information or a similar experience, individuals know with whom to confidentially communicate
- Set up protocols for answering press inquiries as they arise
- Offer assistance to civil authorities who are investigating the matter
- Contact our insurance carrier about the matter
- Process or file a church complaint as required
- Offer a trained support person to assist and advocate for the affected individual or family.
Our response is guided by three principles: 1) just and compassionate support, 2) clear, direct, accurate and respectful communication, and 3) engagement to ensure the needs of individuals and the church are safeguarded.
Recently the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy, which limits their exposure to lawsuits and may increase the church’s exposure. Our leadership, in consultation with our conference chancellors (lawyers) and with other annual conferences around the United States, is taking appropriate steps. The United Methodist Church has more scouting programs in our church buildings than any other denomination – more than 165 in GNJ.
In any situation that arises in GNJ, we assure you that we will follow the 10 steps that our crisis team leads. If you are aware or concerned about any sexual child abuse in your congregation, you are asked to contact Nicola Mulligan, Assistant to the Bishop, immediately (NMulligan@gnjumc.org).
I call all our congregations to review safe sanctuary policies to ensure they are appropriate and being followed. I call upon all congregations that do not have a Safe Sanctuary policy to begin to work on one immediately. For more information consult our web page, www.gnjumc.org/next-generation-ministries/safe-sanctuaries/.
I call every congregation to review their contracts, covenants and agreements with all outside groups and ensure they have and follow a Safe Sanctuary policy and that they carry insurance for their ministry or service to people in the community.
I also call you to pray for all victims of child sexual abuse. The harm done to them will never be undone. If you yourself are a survivor of child sexual abuse and would like further support as you continue to move forward, please contact your pastor.
Thank you for being in ministry with young people and your renewed commitment to protect the safety of young people.
Keep the faith!
Bishop John Schol
United Methodists of Greater New Jersey