09 Resources for Church/Ministry Leaders

  • LEGAL ~ How do we find our state’s laws on clergy mandatory reporting of abuse?
  • PASTORAL ~ What are compassionate and constructive responses to sexual abuse victims and their loved ones?
  • PASTORAL ~ What are wise and redemptive ways to work with repentant sex offenders?
  • ORGANIZATIONAL ~ How do we create, evaluate, and sustain a discipleship space that is safe?
  • CULTURAL ~ How do we shift our systems emphasis from immediate intervention to long-term prevention?
  • DENOMINATIONAL ~ What can our ministry network do to commit to better responses on child abuse issues?
  • EDUCATIONAL ~ Where can we get congregational training resources?

NOTES: This section will be built up over time. I will attempt to create a select bibliography with a minimal number of links to “threshold” books, online resources, and organizations that answer the key question and lead to other important sources.

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LEGAL

How do we find our state’s laws
on clergy mandatory reporting of abuse?

The LEGAL section is first for a reason: Sexual abuse is a CRIME, not merely a SIN. It is not something to deal with secretly, “in-house” in the church. Known or suspected molestation of minors needs to be reported to police authorities immediately. This is a crucial component for intervening in sexual predator cycles of hunting for and identifying potential victims, then selecting, grooming, and abusing them. It is also a crucial component in corporate Christian witness, in showing a concrete concern for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. If we fail to report abuse and let trained civil authorities do their job in investigating the situation, we lose credibility for ministry in society.

All 50 states have long had laws about child sexual abuse as a crime. However, there is not yet consistency for mandatory reporting of known/suspected sexual abuse for members of the clergy, lawyers, and other such professional occupations. So, if you are in a state which requires mandatory reporting by clergy, typically you have only 48 hours in which to file a report. It is not an option, it is a legal requirement if someone discloses sexual abuse to you as a member of the clergy, and your report needs to be timely. You also need to know how lawyers are viewed in terms of mandatory reporting in your state, as a church’s legal representative may likewise be subject to the same requirements, despite the usual lawyer/client privilege.

For excerpts of current state-by-state laws on mandatory reporting by clergy of known/suspected child abuse (which includes sexual abuse of minors), go to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. A search here really is as easy a 1-2-3.

  1. Select your state.
  2. Choose your topic(s). (The “Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect” is in the Child Abuse and Neglect section.)
  3. Initiate the search: Go!

NOTE: A search on this site will give you excerpts from your current applicable state statutes on the selected. You may find that the excerpt refers to another statute, but does not include it there. It will at least give you the state legal code title and statute numbers, which you can look up separately. If you use that state legal code name and statute number for an internet search, that result will likely note when various legislative changes were made to the statutes. That may assist in tracking historical changes, if you need that information for specific research you are doing.

Or, if you are searching for the full text of just clergy mandatory reporting laws for your state, you can get a complete quotation of the relevant statutes from a directory published by the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, which is related to the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA).

It also appears that each November, the NDAA updates this directory of state-by-state Clergy Mandatory Reporting laws. There are older and newer editions available through the search function on the NDAA site. Here is the most recent edition from November 2012. Also, the NDAA site Publications page has links to other downloadable PDFs and to recommended books on Child Abuse and other topics.

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PASTORAL

What are compassionate and constructive responses
to sexual abuse victims and their loved ones?

No More Silence: An interview with Boz Tchividjian of G.R.A.C.E., by Rachel Held Evans (March 18, 2013). An excellent interview with Boz Tchividijan that includes sections on working within churches to prevent child abuse, respond to victims, responsibility to report and not attempt to deal with abuse “in house,” and church discipline in situations of sexual abuse.

Wade Burleson: How To Care for Victims, by Dee Parsons, The Wartburg Watch (May 1, 2012). This overviews the situation where Pastor Wade Burleson wrote an open letter to a victim of sexual abuse by Voices of the Martyrs staff member Tom White. This also catalyzed a change in the commenting policy at The Wartburg Watch. For the related blog posts by Pastor Burleson, see the article and comments at: Tom White, Abuse, VOM, and the Power of the Internet, and his amazing Open Letter he wrote, available on the internet archive Wayback Machine at: The Sin and Suicide of ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ Ex. Director Tom White: An Open Letter to the Young Girl He Abused.

More forthcoming …

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PASTORAL

What are wise and redemptive ways
to work with repentant sex offenders?

Janet Mefferd Interviews Wade Burleson on Sexual Abuse, by Deb Martin (February 28, 2013). Contains a section where Pastor Burleson speaks about some of the practical procedures and boundaries they have for welcoming sexual offenders for worship and discipleship.

More forthcoming …

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ORGANIZATIONAL

How do we create, evaluate, and sustain
a discipleship space that is safe?

The Resources page at G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) offers an excellent array of different media sources on elements related to the overall concern of preventing sexual abuse and developing a safe, healthy space for worship and discipleship. Check out their links on articles, videos, audio, books, blogs, and presentations.

More forthcoming …

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CULTURAL

How do we shift our systems emphasis
from immediate intervention to long-term prevention?

Forthcoming …

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DENOMINATIONAL

What can our ministry network do
to commit to better responses on child abuse issues?

Forthcoming …

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EDUCATIONAL

Where can we get congregational training resources?

Forthcoming …

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