POLICY AND PROCEDURE OF THE MADISON PARK CHURCH OF CHRIST REGARDING ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
The Madison Park Church of Christ exists to support and equip Christ’s followers, to reach the lost, to serve those in need, and to display the love of Christ to others, both individually and as a body of believers.
Everything that the Madison Park Church of Christ does is founded upon the Truth set forth in the Bible, which is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb 4:12). Because these beliefs serve as the bedrock of our ministry (Mat 7:24), everyone involved in our ministry is expected to act in a manner that promotes and supports these beliefs.
The ethical conduct of all persons who minister in the name of Jesus Christ is of vital importance to this Church because through these representatives an understanding of God and the gospels’ good news is conveyed. It is incumbent upon the church, if allegations of sexual misconduct arise, to respond to those involved with compassion and justice. To that end, this policy has been adopted.
It is the policy of the Madison Park church of Christ that all church members, church employees, board members, and volunteers working in, with, and for this Church, are to always maintain the highest level of integrity and professional excellence. Sexual misconduct is a violation of employment and professional excellence and is never permissible or acceptable.
A. Persons covered by this Policy are all persons employed by or seeking employment with the Church, all volunteers of the Church (while acting on its behalf), Ministers, Elders, Deacons, and other representatives of the Church.
B. This policy also covers those who are accused of sexual misconduct under the following two circumstances:
1. Where access to the Accuser/alleged Victim by the Accused is related to the Accused performing some form of service to or appointment by a committee, group, council, or board of the Church.
2. When the behavior of the Accused, though not conducted in a Church-related setting, raises questions for the Church regarding the character and effectiveness of the Accused.
Sexual Misconduct, as used in this Policy, includes:
A. Child Sexual Abuse, as defined in the Appendix. See Below
B. Sexual Harassment, as defined in the Appendix. See Below
C. Rape or sexual contact by force, threat, intimidation, or misuse of power in a trust relationship.
D. Sexual conduct (including, but not limited to, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other kinds of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as obscene or suggestive language or behavior, use of church property, computers, and other equipment for sexual or pornographic purposes, unacceptable visual contact, touching or fondling) that is unwelcome and/or repeated when the person engaged in the conduct knows or has been informed that the conduct is unwelcome or offensive to the recipient.
E. Sexual conduct within a ministerial (e.g., minister with a member of the congregation) or professional relationship (e.g., a counselor with a client), a lay employee with a Church member, board member, or representative with a Church member (or another person who may be a member, an elder, or deacon), including sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition does not apply to relationships between spouses.
F. Sexual misconduct as used in this policy is intended to include any conduct which would come within the definition of “sexual abuse.”
PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
A. Sexual misconduct is a misuse of authority and power that breaches Christian ethical principles by misusing a trust relation to gain an advantage over another for personal pleasure in an abusive, exploitative, and unjust manner. Even if someone such as a parishioner, client, employee, or student initiates or invites sexual content in the relationship, it is always the responsibility of the minister, teacher, elder, deacon, employer, volunteer, counselor, or adviser to prohibit a sexual relationship.
B. Sexual misconduct is a violation of the role of minister, teacher, elder, deacon, board member, employer, volunteer, counselor, supervisor, or adviser of any kind who is called upon to exercise integrity, sensitivity, and caring in a trust relationship. Sexual misconduct is also a violation of the covenant to act in the best interests of persons such as members, co-workers, employees, and students.
C. Sexual misconduct takes advantage of the vulnerability of children and persons who may lack the power to protect themselves from such misconduct. Sexual misconduct is antithetical to the gospel call to work as God’s servant in the struggle to bring wholeness to a broken world. Sexual misconduct violates the mandate to protect the vulnerable from harm.
D. For the above reasons, sexual misconduct is prohibited by this Church and will never be condoned or tolerated.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT RESPONSE PERSON
A. Purpose and Function
A sexual misconduct response person is appointed by this Church as the person to whom reports of allegations of sexual misconduct will be made, and whose function is to receive and quickly and objectively respond to reports of sexual misconduct by persons covered by this policy. The response person’s first priority will be to seek to provide support for the Accuser/Victim as he/she decides how to resolve the situation, as well as to exhibit appropriate and professional concern for the protection of the rights of the alleged Accused.
It is not intended that the response person will offer medical, psychological or legal advice as to either secular or church law, and the sexual misconduct response person is in no way to serve as, or as a substitute for, legal counsel for any person. The sexual misconduct response person will neither initiate disciplinary proceedings nor be available to testify in disciplinary proceedings arising from an accusation of sexual misconduct.
B. Sexual Misconduct Response Person
This Church’s primary sexual misconduct response person is The Minister
If the primary sexual misconduct response person is not reasonably available at the time that an allegation of sexual misconduct arises, or if an allegation is raised against or involves the sexual misconduct response person him or herself, then the following persons, in order, are approved by this Church as persons authorized to receive such allegations and serve as the sexual misconduct response person:
The President of the Board of Trustees
The Vice President of the Board of Trustees
The sexual misconduct response persons shall be fully familiar with this policy and receive training in responding to allegations of sexual misconduct under this policy. Such training will include becoming familiar with the legal, administrative, secular, and church policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct.
NEEDS OF THOSE INVOLVED
A. Victims and Families
The sexual misconduct response person shall endeavor to assure that adequate treatment and care are available to the Victims of alleged sexual misconduct, and their families. If the Victim or family at first refuses help, the sexual misconduct response person should remain available to continue to offer help. Above all, this Church shall not act in a self protective manner by ignoring the Victims and their families.
The extent of the damage to the Victims of sexual misconduct will vary from person to person. The sexual misconduct response person is to assume in all cases that the Victim is experiencing pain, whether or not the allegations and accusations are deemed to be truthful and must endeavor to make appropriate ministerial care available.
The following may be some of the needs of the Accuser/Victims:
1. To be heard and taken seriously.
2. To receive protection and care if the Victim, for whatever reason, is unable to care for him/herself. To be assured that justice within the Church judicial process will be pursued.
3. To be informed about the church judicial process and progress with regard to the accusation.
4. To receive ministerial care.
5. To receive healing and reconciliation.
6. To be informed of the right to consult legal counsel.
The sexual misconduct response person should be aware of the problems the congregation may experience as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct being raised against a minister, elder, deacon, employee, teacher, member, or volunteer. The allegations may polarize the congregation, damage morale, and create serious internal problems. Efforts should be taken to recognize and identify the problems and heal the damage done to the congregation. Where a case of sexual misconduct becomes a matter of public knowledge, the sexual misconduct response person, with the permission of the alleged Victim will inform the appropriate members of the Church session and staff regarding the status of the case.
C. The Accused
The sexual misconduct response person shall be mindful that any Accused is to be presumed innocent until an investigation shows otherwise. Appropriate consideration should be shown to the Accused as well as to the alleged Victims and their families. If the Accused is a minister or elder, the sexual misconduct response person will become the Board of Trustees and they should assume the responsibility of investigating the allegation.
Confidentiality for the Victim demands that the Accused may only be approached by the sexual misconduct response person if the sexual misconduct response person is permitted to do so by the alleged Victim. There may be circumstances, such as when there is suspicion of Child or elder abuse, when both church and secular law requires that the suspected abuse be reported to secular authorities. If the accusation proceeds to the initiation of church disciplinary actions, the provisions in the scriptures shall be followed.
D. The Non-Victim Accuser
A person other than the Victim, such as a parent, guardian, or other advocates for a person who has been the alleged Victim of sexual misconduct, may be an Accuser. In the case of a Child, his or her minority status requires the involvement of an adult to act on behalf of the Child. The sexual misconduct response person shall be aware that a non-Victim Accuser may also have some of the same needs as a Victim.
Response to Reports of Sexual Misconduct:
Any person with a complaint or report of sexual misconduct or a question involving this policy may contact the sexual misconduct response person at the address of this Church.
Reports of sexual misconduct will never be taken lightly or disregarded. Because information or rumors relating to such reports may affect the integrity and reputation of the Accuser, the Accused, the Victim and the Church, reports of sexual misconduct should remain highly confidential both before and after they have been submitted to the appropriate authorities.
1. Notifying those with a Need to Know
If an allegation is received by the sexual misconduct response person, that person will only give out information on a need-to-know basis.
2. Subsequent Response
Once the sexual misconduct response person is made aware of a sexual misconduct complaint, a review will begin promptly. The sexual misconduct response person will contact the alleged Victim/Accuser and offer support on behalf of the Church. Because the role of the sexual misconduct response person is to support, educate, and listen compassionately, such a person will treat all information as confidential except for information that must be reported under church and secular law.
The sexual misconduct response person’s task is to provide a safe place for the alleged Victim/Accuser to describe what has happened and to explore options available to him/her within the Church for dealing with what has happened. The decision for future action rests with the alleged Victim/Accuser. The goal of the sexual misconduct response person familiar with the Church’s Policy and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct will be to provide accurate information so that the alleged Victim/Accuser can make an educated decision.
The alleged Victim/Accuser may or may not choose to pursue further help from the sexual misconduct response person. Based upon information received from the alleged Victim/Accuser the sexual misconduct response person may recommend that the alleged Victim/Accuser seeks consultation with a professional (e.g., medical, legal). If such a recommendation is made, appropriate referrals could be provided if available.
If the Accuser is not the Victim, the sexual misconduct response person will encourage the Accuser to tell the alleged Victim about the services available through the Church. The Accuser will also inform the alleged Victim of the Accuser’s intent to bring accusations to the attention of the sexual misconduct response person, and the Accuser will inform the sexual misconduct response person as to whether the Victim objects to the making of such accusations. In some cases, the alleged Victim/Accuser may ask the sexual misconduct response person to contact the Accused. Before doing so, the sexual misconduct response person should have received a signed and dated authorization for the release of information. The alleged Accuser/Victim shall decide whether or not to file disciplinary charges. Should the Accuser decide to file charges, and if the alleged Accused is a minister, elder, deacon, or teacher the sexual misconduct response person’s continued involvement at this point will be determined by the needs of the Accuser for continued support.
3. Written Records
If the Victim/Accuser chooses to proceed and requests the sexual misconduct response person’s continuing involvement, an adult Victim or non-Victim Accuser may be encouraged to write a detailed description of the alleged sexual misconduct. Because of possible future proceedings, the Victim may want to sign and date the description and attach any supporting documentation. The Victim/Accuser will maintain ownership and possession of this document. The Victim may wish to be in counseling during this process, to receive additional emotional support. Any records kept by the sexual misconduct response person will be confidential. Such records should be kept in a locked space and should be shredded when contact with those involved has ended, but only after consultation with legal counsel. These records may include names, dates of contact, recommendations, and personal notes.
4. Reporting Child Sexual Abuse or Rape
The sexual misconduct response person must be familiar with church and state law regarding the reporting of Child Sexual Abuse. If the sexual misconduct
response person suspects that Child Sexual Abuse has occurred, the sexual misconduct response person will help the Victim/Accuser understand and comply with state laws regarding incidents of actual or suspected Child abuse and the reporting of such incidents. The sexual misconduct response person will advise the Victim/Accuser to seek legal advice concerning bringing criminal charges consistent with Secular Law.
Whether or not the Accuser agrees, the sexual misconduct response person is subject to and will comply with all Secular Laws with regard to actual or suspected Child or elder sexual abuse, including mandated reporting related to Child Sexual Abuse.
5. Voluntary Leave for Clergy
For the protection of those involved, the sexual misconduct response person may suggest a voluntary leave for a minister, elder, deacon, employee, volunteer, teacher, and others who may be the subject of an accusation.
6. Compliance with Secular Authorities
The Church shall cooperate with Secular Authorities in their investigations of Child Sexual Abuse or other criminal misconduct. Church proceedings shall not interfere with a criminal investigation by civil authorities. The Church proceedings may have to be suspended until secular investigations are completed.
The Church will take appropriate steps to inform its members, employees, staff and volunteers of the standards of conduct and the procedures for an effective response to be carried out if a report of sexual misconduct is received. ministers associated with the church must be aware of how state law regarding ministerial confidentiality intersects with state law on child sexual abuse and reporting obligations.
B. Liability and Insurance
The church may potentially be liable for damages for the harm caused by sexual misconduct of a minister, employee, staff member, volunteer, or other persons acting on its behalf.
Volunteers acting on behalf of the Church are subject to this policy. An appropriate screening procedure shall be established by the Church before permitting the volunteer to work in loco parentis with children, including but not limited to requiring criminal background checks before such persons are assigned to work with children.
The sexual misconduct response person will become generally familiar with resources, counselors, advisors, medical and legal persons, and other resources available in the greater area of the Church to serve and support victims of alleged sexual misconduct, to be able to provide references to such resources if and as needed.
A. Record Keeping
The church shall maintain a personnel file containing documents related to this policy for every employee, volunteer, and elders.
B. Pre-screening Applicants
Pre-employment screening shall include specific questions related to discovering previous formal charges of sexual misconduct.
An applicant shall be informed of any reports of sexual misconduct and shall be allowed to submit additional references or to give other evidence to correct or respond to harmful information obtained from a reference before a final decision is made on the applicant.
Regarding Associations with Children
Staff, elders, volunteers, youth leaders, teachers, and others regularly associated with children and youth of the church shall have submitted to relevant state background checks and clearances before being associated with children and youth. The reports of such clearances shall be maintained by the church for as long as the adult works with the children and youth and for six (6) years thereafter.
The accused is the person against whom a claim of sexual misconduct is made.
An accuser is a person claiming knowledge of sexual misconduct by a person covered by this policy. The Accuser may or may not be the Victim of alleged sexual misconduct. A person such as a family member, friend, or colleague of the Victim may be the Accuser whose information initiates an inquiry.
A child is a person under eighteen years of age.
Child Sexual Abuse includes but is not limited to, any contact or interaction between a Child and an adult when the Child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the adult or of a third person. The behavior may or may not involve touching. Sexual behavior between a Child and an adult is always considered forced whether or not consent to by the Child.
An employee is a comprehensive term used to cover individuals who are hired or called to work for this Church for salary or wages.
A high-Risk Occupation is that which calls for a person to work in close contact with those who are vulnerable and less capable of protecting themselves, such as children, elderly persons, those who are wholly or partially incapacitated, or clients who are having emotional or personal problems.
An investigation is the term generally used by police, secular prosecutors, and Child protective services when responding to allegations of an offense.
The response is the action taken by the Church when a report of sexual misconduct is received. It may include (1) inquiry into facts and circumstances, (2) possible disciplinary action (administrative or judicial or both), (3) ministerial care and professional intervention for Victims, their families, and others involved in congregational and employment settings, (4) ministerial care and professional intervention for congregational and employment settings, and (5) ministerial care for the Accused.
Secular Authorities are the governmental bodies, whether city, county, state, or federal, who are given the responsibility to investigate, criminally prosecute, and/or bring civil charges against individuals accused of sexual crimes or offenses.
Secular Law is the body of municipal, state, and federal laws and is often referred to collectively as civil and criminal.
Prohibited behavior addressed by this policy may result in criminal charges and/or civil lawsuits filed under Secular Law.
Sexual Harassment in this Policy Means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or a condition of an individual’s employment or volunteer service, 2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the individual or 3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
The victim is the term used to identify the person alleged to have been injured by sexual misconduct.
The volunteer is the term used for those who provide services for the Church and receive no benefits or remuneration. Volunteers include persons elected or appointed to serve on boards, committees, and other groups. For purposes of this policy, volunteers are treated the same as employees. The liabilities of the governing body or entity are the same for volunteers as for employees.