Stonington United Methodist Church Safe Sanctuaries Policy
Because we believe that Jesus Christ offered special care for the vulnerable, including but not limited to children, those with special needs, and the elderly, and we commit ourselves to the practice of safe supervision and care for these precious individuals. This policy will set standards for SUMC for the supervision of these individuals whom God, their caretakers, their families, and their friends have entrusted to us. Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist Churches, as well as other Christian and non-Christian organizations, we adopt this policy for the prevention of all forms of abuse of these cherished individuals.
Our congregation’s purpose for establishing this Safe Sanctuaries Policy is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical and emotional safety and the spiritual growth of all people.
The Ministry Team shall oversee all Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures. Those on the committee shall remain on the committee unless they are deemed as unfit, or they wish to be removed. All decisions regarding personnel on the Ministry Team shall remain with the nominating committee. The Ministry Team retains the right to amend the policy at any time.
Statement of Covenant
Therefore, 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 people. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of volunteers who work in ministry with the vulnerable. All SUMC members who attend Sunday morning worship services shall have available to them a copy of this adopted Safe Sanctuaries Policy for the duration of the policy’s adoption. The pastor and/or lay leader shall ensure that every attendee of worship has access to the policy, and they shall stress the importance of reading and understanding the policy, especially during the first month of the policy’s adoption. Any volunteers that are not members of SUMC or do not regularly attend worship at SUMC must read this Safe Sanctuaries Policy in its entirety, and a member of the Ministry Team must ensure that they understand it and will abide by it. All who supervise or work with the vulnerable must be in good standing with SUMC. The adopted policy shall always be openly displayed in the nursery, the fellowship hall, just outside the sanctuary, and on the church’s website. We will implement prudent operational procedures in all programs and events. During all church sponsored events on or off of church property, excluding nursery care during worship and Sunday School*, there shall be at least two persons of 18 years of age or older present when there are unrelated vulnerable people present. No unrelated adults at any time shall ever be alone with just one child, youth, or adult with special needs at a church sponsored event. Many times, small children or adults with special needs will need help using the bathroom or changing clothes, if this is the case, it is usually impractical to abide by the aforementioned policies and have three people in a bathroom. Thus, if a child or special needs adult needs to use the bathroom or change their clothes and needs the assistance of an adult, the adult should notify the other adult(s) of their intentions and proceed. No event or ministry will take place with only one adult present. If there is a church event taking place in which the event will be canceled due to only having one adult available, the pastor shall make an effort beyond what they normally would to be present, even if that means that they are working off to the side and not actively participating in the event, so long as they are present.
We will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting a suspected incident of abuse, as follows:
The witness(es) of abuse shall immediately report the incident to the party hosting or leading the church-sponsored event. If the witness(es) are not certain who the host or leader is, they can always report the incident to anyone on the Ministry Team. The host or leader of the event shall immediately report any incident to law enforcement. The host or leader shall report the incident to the pastor, if not already reported. With reasonable cause, the pastor shall pass the information to the chairperson of the Church Council, the chairperson of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, and the District Superintendent.
We will have a clearly defined procedure for taking immediate action to respond to victims of abuse, as follows:
If the victim was physically or sexually harmed during the incident, appropriate emergency care shall be sought by the host of the event. The host shall immediately notify the parent, guardian, or next of kin of the victim. If the victim is in church care, the people of SUMC shall take necessary precautions to assure the victim’s safety until their parent, guardian, next of kin of the victim, or emergency personnel arrive. A log of every action taken should be recorded by each witness, separately, along with supporting documentation. Date, time, and signature of the person taking the action should be recorded in writing, preferably on the official Safe Sanctuaries log, or if that is not available, on any paper, so long as the incident is thoroughly described including a timetable of events, dates, and signatures of all witnesses. This documentation shall be given to the pastor and kept in a confidential and secure location. To maintain the integrity of the witness(es) and ensure that no stories are changed, witnesses shall not discuss the incident with each other. The pastor shall offer pastoral care to the victim and the victim’s family. All involved shall strive to maintain confidentiality while the allegation is investigated. Otherwise, victims can suffer further emotional harm, and law enforcement may have difficulty investigating the incident.
We will have a clearly defined procedure for an appropriate response to the accused, as follows:
After an incident of alleged abuse, the people of SUMC shall treat the accused with dignity, but immediately remove him or her from further involvement with those who are vulnerable. The host or leader of the event shall remind the accused of the Safe Sanctuaries Policy, and that the incident must be investigated in accordance with church policy. The pastor shall offer pastoral care to the accused and the accused’s family. All involved shall strive to maintain confidentiality while the allegation is investigated. Otherwise, the accused can suffer further, possibly undue, emotional harm, and law enforcement may have difficulty investigating the incident. Once information and a log of the events is given to the pastor, discussions involving information, rumors, or allegations or the incident shall only be discussed directly with the pastor, excluding extenuating circumstances. Only the pastor shall speak to the media regarding any incidents involving abuse on church property or at a church-sponsored event.**
*During worship services, often small children are taken to the nursery with an adult. During this time, it is permissible for one adult to be present with the children, so long as there is more than one child present unless the adult is a parent, grandparent, or sibling of the child. Windows into the nursery shall not be covered, and those worshiping shall be welcome to come in and out of the nursery as they please. During Sunday School, there shall be more than one adult in the building, and each room should either have an open door or a window allowing easy visibility of the room that the class is being held in.
**If the pastor is directly involved in the incident as the accused or as the victim, the lay leader shall assume the responsibilities of the pastor that are described above.