the Hope of Survivors

In The Spotlight!

In The Spotlight!(From the July 2013 edition of HopeSpeak)

Denomination: Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA)

Does the organization have a clergy sexual abuse policy in place? If yes, where can this policy be found (provide URL, mailing address if a copy must be requested, etc.)?
Yes, we have recommended and approved guidelines which can be found on the CRCNA Safe Church website, www.crcna.org/safechurch , along with other resources related to abuse awareness, prevention and response. The Specific Guidelines for Handling Allegations of Abuse Against a Church Leader can be found here: http://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/HandlingAbuseAllegationsAgainstChurch%20Leader.pdf

How/where can victims or members of the congregation find out about the policy and proper procedures for reporting abuse? Is there a specific person or office to contact?
Safe Church Ministry is the place to go to find out more information and to request guidance in any abuse related situation. Bonnie Nicholas, Director, can be reached at bnicholas@crcna.org or by calling 616-224-0735. Safe Church Ministry is responsible for education, awareness, and prevention as well as response to abuse. One office cannot possibly be responsible for all the education and awareness, all the support for those who have been hurt, or handle all the situations related to abuse that arise in our entire denomination. Ideally, each geographical area (classis) in the denomination has a Safe Church Team made up of individuals representing the churches in that classis. Safe Church Teams are trained by the denomination to be a resource to the churches regarding abuse issues. We have not reached this ideal of every area having a trained Safe Church Team; but we continue to work toward that goal. We believe that the concept of more localized Safe Church Teams is critical to this work.

Specially trained Safe Church Team members also provide the Advisory Panel Process—used in situations of church leader abuse or misconduct. Someone who has been victimized by a CRCNA pastor or church leader can request an Advisory Panel by contacting a church council member, a Safe Church team member, or the Safe Church Ministry office directly. This process provides a more neutral “listening panel” of people who are not involved directly in the situation. The panel hears both sides, and then submits a report of its findings about the veracity and gravity of the allegation to the council of the accused. It is then up to the church council to take appropriate action. The guidelines also provide a course of appeal.

Does your organization’s policy include the abuse of vulnerable adults, as well as children?
In our denominational structure, the role of Safe Church Ministry is advisory in nature. It is up to each church council to enact policies that fit each church situation. We provide resources, information, and advice to help churches enact effective abuse prevention policies. One of the sidebars on our website homepage is “Creating a Safe Church Policy”. Clicking on that link will provide lots of resources to help churches in the process of developing effective policies. Churches can also access their Safe Church Team or the office of Safe Church Ministry for help.

In addition, we are promoting a safe environment program called “Circle of Grace”. We are subsidizing the costs of that program to make it easier for churches in our denomination use it. We believe it is one of the best faith-based tools available for building communities of respect and preventing abuse. More information about “Circle of Grace” can be found on our website by clicking on the sidebar “Education is the Best Prevention.

Of course, in the case of any suspected abuse or neglect involving a minor or vulnerable adult, our recommendation would be to report to the proper authorities immediately.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank “The Hope of Survivors”. We have a link to your website on our website. I have also referred many people to your site—it is an excellent resource. Thank you again for all you do. May the Lord add his blessing to your good work.

Christian Reformed ChurchSubmitted By and Position:
Bonnie Nicholas, Director
Safe Church Ministry
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49560
bnicholas@crcna.org
616-224-0735 (office)
616-485-4595 (cell)

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18