Faithlink Discussion: Safe Sanctuary for All
by Jacob Juncker
So much of what is said in this week’s Faithlink just seems like a no brainer to me. As the church we should do our best to ensure that we provide a safe environment for all persons to grow closer to God and neighbor.
Safe Sanctuaries is a great program, first adopted by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1996; but, not even the best programs can ensure total safety. There is a vulnerability about the church. We welcome all persons and that can, at times, challenge our ideas of safety. We welcome the least and lost as well as the most and found.
We are called to love all persons. Jesus didn’t discriminate based upon past failings. Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I don’t think it wise for us to put an alcoholic in charge of the communion wine nor appoint a child molester to teach the first grade Sunday School class. Addicts never “recover,” they always cope. They are never healed. They are constantly tempted and it is often a daily struggle to stay “on the straight and narrow.” Therefore, we shouldn’t tempt people by placing them in situations where they might easily backslide (take another drink, harm an innocent child, etc.). But, we shouldn’t exclude them from ministry in, with and for the church. The church should be a safe, though not always comfortable, place for all persons to grow evermore in love with God and neighbor.
What would your congregation do if a registered sex offender asked to become a member? A growing number of congregations are confronting this question.
from Faithlink: Connecting Life and Faith, vol. 16, no. 38 (Nashville: Cokesbury, 2011), January 16, 2011.
I pray you would consider this question: how would you react if a registered sex offender or convict asked to become a member of your church? How would you respond? How would your church friends respond? Would your church be (is your church) a safe place for all persons? even for the offender or convict?
Safe Sanctuaries, General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church: information on the Safe Sanctuary policies supported by the United Methodist Church. All United Methodist Churches should strive to abide by these principles.
UM Sexual Ethics, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. This website addresses the issues of sexual misconduct, abuse, and harassment by those entrusted with ministerial roles in the UMC including clergy, laity, volunteers and employees of the church.
Safe Sanctuary Policy Examples
The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (Leawood, KS)
St. Luke’s UMC (Memphis, TN)
St. Paul’s UMC (Ithaca, NY)