By Nancy Kauffmann
Of all the communities in which we participate, the church should be the place where we feel most safe and supported. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the harm that children can experience through physical, sexual or emotional abuse in the church by fellow church members. Because of this, many churches are developing child and youth protection policies.
But how do we sustain such policies when a person who has been convicted of abuse wants to become a member, or a member who has been convicted of abuse wants to return to the church? Can we protect our children and include a sex offender in our church life? A number of pastors, congregational leaders and parents who are facing this challenge have asked for resources to help congregations discern what to do.
In response, Doves Nest has developed a guide entitled “Protection and Inclusion: Guide for Congregations on Safely Including Persons Who Have Committed Sexual Offenses.” The document begins by saying, “Churches that seek to minister in the name of Christ are called to be inclusive of those who may be stigmatized or rejected by society while providing for the protection of children and other vulnerable groups, and caring for those who may be survivors of crimes or traumatic experiences. This document offers guidance for churches seeking to include persons who have committed sexual offenses while maintaining the congregation as a safe and healing community.”
About Dove’s Nest: A group of social workers, teachers, church workers and pastors concerned about the safety and protection of children from sexual, physical and emotional abuse held two ad hoc meetings at Mennonite Church Convention in Columbus 2009. Eventually Dove’s Nest was formed with the mission to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches and communities. The group seeks to educate, provide resources to congregations and to empower and equip faith communities. Visit Dove’s Nest website at http://www.dovesnest.net/ for additional resources for worship, curriculum, developing policies and more.