Child abuse is not merely an act of immorality, but also an act of violence and an abuse of power. It’s not only a sin, but also a crime, which calls for immediate reporting to the civil authorities. The Bible gives civil government the power of the sword to visit justice upon criminals (Rom 13:1-7), but denies it to the church (Matt 26:51-53). Therefore, child abuse can never be settled within the church alone, but must always involve the civil authorities.
It is with this understanding that Morningview has had the following Child Abuse Prevention Policy in place for the past five years. We publish it here again for two reasons. First, we want everyone in the church to know our policy, to understand what child abuse is, and how to respond to it. Second, we hope that any would-be predators might read this and choose not to victimize our children.
“As God who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.” 1 Peter 1:15
We believe that sexual misconduct is an offense against God. Scripture asserts that religious leadership involves a covenant relationship that assumes trustworthy exercise of power on behalf of those in our care. Sexual misconduct becomes an abuse of that power and trust, and is therefore, unjust. Power in ministerial relationships is inevitably unbalanced because of the inherent authority associated with the office of ministry, both historically and culturally.
PURPOSE OF THIS POLICY
Child abuse can take many forms. It can be physical, emotional or sexual in nature. It occurs far more often than any of us expect. When abuse occurs, the consequences are devastating to all involved, including the church. We know we must take steps to educate our congregation about abuse and to prevent abuse. The Child Abuse Prevention Policy is our effort to make our church a safer sanctuary for our children, and to protect our church as a whole.
The purpose of this policy is to help Morningview Baptist Church provide a caring and secure environment for people in all phases of church life, and to protect the Morningview congregation and staff from sexual misconduct, with particular emphasis on sexual misconduct involving minors. Our goal is to protect children from sexual abuse, child molestation or any type of inappropriate sexual behavior by employees or volunteers in this church and to protect employees and volunteers from false accusations. Additionally, the purpose is to help our church reduce its legal risk and liability exposure. This policy is part of Morningview’s operational procedures.
Morningview seeks to express God’s love of all people and provide for their personal wholeness. This caring body of believers seeks to prevent sexual misconduct and child abuse of any form, and to minister to families where abuse may occur. The Bible is foundational to our understanding upon which all policies, procedures, and ministries must stand.
Although Morningview regards sexual misconduct and child abuse as abhorrent actions contrary to the will of God, it recognizes that hugs and pats can also be appropriate and welcome demonstrations of love and affection, and that they can be appropriate in a church setting. There are many gospel accounts of Jesus’ appropriate touching and being touched; for instance, in Mark 1:41, we read that “a leper came to Jesus…moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.”
Members of the early church demonstrated their affection with the elders in Ephesus. After the meeting, the elders “embraced him and kissed him.” In 1 Corinthians 16:20, 11 Corinthians 13:12 and in 1 Thessalonians 5:26, Paul admonishes church members to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” In this regard, it is perhaps wise to follow the counsel given in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.”
DEFINITION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
The National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse defines child sexual abuse as “any sexual activity with a child, whether in the home by a caretaker, in a day-care situation, in any organized ministry, whether at the main facility (church) or away, or in any other setting, including on the street by a person unknown to the child. The abuser may be an adult, an adolescent, or another child.
Child sexual abuse can be violent or non-violent. It is criminal behavior that involves children in sexual behavior. Child sexual abuse can involve fondling; penetration of the oral, genital, and anal areas; intercourse; and forcible rape. Other forms of abuse can include verbal comments, any exposure to pornographic materials, inappropriate internet activity, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, or allowing children to witness sexual activity.”
DEFINITION OF A MINOR
For reporting purposes, a minor is considered anyone 17 years old and under.
Supervision: Age-group ministers, division directors, hall monitors, greeters and/or program directors will be present, or nearby, and available on each floor and in the hallways where minors are present. Reasonable effort will be made to have two (2) adult workers present, or nearby, with preschoolers, children and students during church activities. Reasonable effort shall be made to assure that one adult is not left alone with one minor.
View Windows/Open Doors: Reasonable effort will be made to place preschoolers, children and students in rooms with view windows or open doors for all teaching/learning activities.
Acceptable Physical Contact: No touching or other contact or interaction with a minor which is in any way intended to be sexually stimulating is ever acceptable. Care should be taken that physical expressions of affection are not excessive or inappropriate, or imposed upon a minor.
Over-Night Activities: All employees and volunteers will be required to comply with all of the Child Abuse Prevention policies during Morningview sponsored over-night activities.
Within Town Activities: All employees and volunteers will be required to comply with all of the Child Abuse Prevention policies during Morningview sponsored within town activities.
Out-of-Town Activities: All participants should have written parental consent. All employees and volunteers shall be required to comply with all of Morningview’s policies including, but not limited to, those outlined in the Child Abuse Prevention Policy during Morningview sponsored out-of-town activities.
Transportation: Minors should be transported in groups. An unaccompanied adult should not drive a single minor (other than his or her own child) in a church-sponsored activity. Minors shall not drive other minors without the express consent of both the driver’s and rider(s)’ parents.
Six Month Rule: Volunteer applications for designated or occasional positions, as described above, will be accepted only from persons who have been actively involved at Morningview Baptist Church for at least six months. Exceptions to the volunteer application policy may be made at the discretion of the Director of Children’s Ministries. In these cases, the excepted volunteer will be paired with another trained church member or staff person.
Preschool Security Policies and Age-Specific Guidelines: Morningview has a detailed, working preschool security policy that should be conscientiously followed by all employees and volunteers.
Observed child abuse of any kind should be stopped immediately. Next, it should be reported to the Police or Sheriff’s Department. If someone reports child abuse of any kind be it physical or sexual abuse you should report it directly to the Police or Sheriff’s Department. Reporting abuse can precipitate severe consequences to the alleged perpetrator, so it should never be done casually or thoughtlessly, and certainly not for malicious purposes. At the same time, failing to report abuse can have severe consequences to a child at risk. Therefore, if you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse, you should talk with the appropriate law enforcement agency to see what steps should be taken to protect the child and help the family. The report should first be made to the appropriate Law Enforcement Agency and then to a Pastor at Morningview Baptist Church. Process to Report Allegations
1. Reports of suspected child sexual abuse should be made to the proper law enforcement authorities without delay. You are required by law to immediately report to the chief of police or sheriff in the city or county where the alleged abuse occurred, or to the Department of Human Resources so that protective services, if needed, will be provided for the child or children involved. A written report will be filed with the Department of Human Resources. The Department of Human Resources has that form.
2. Next it should be reported to someone in the Pastors Body for it to be handled rightly within the church.
3. A full record of all complaints, proceedings and the resolution of the allegations will be kept and maintained in a secure file.
RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS
All allegations will be taken seriously, and church leadership will take appropriate action in accordance with the laws of the State of Alabama, insurance policy requirements and advice of legal counsel.
The official spokesperson for the church in any of these matters will be one of the men within the Pastor/Elder body. No other staff members or church members shall speak to the media in an official capacity.
The incident will be documented in a secure file as a matter of record.
The church will not deny, minimize or blame any individual involved in allegations. Morningview staff will minister to all involved, however, necessary measures will be enforced to provide protection for the alleged victim/victims until an investigation is completed by the appropriate agencies.
The alleged perpetrator will be immediately removed from all duties involving children/youth until there is a complete and thorough investigation/resolution of the complaint by the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Morningview Baptist Church has an obligation to maintain a pastoral relationship with all affected parties and not to take sides. On the other hand, we cannot ignore, dismiss or cover up allegations of misconduct. While the church is called to offer forgiveness to all persons, it is not called to overlook acts of misconduct by any person. Justice calls for corrective action.