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Book of Resolutions: Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in the Church

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child . . . welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Children are full participants in the life of the church and in the realm of God.

Jesus also said, “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake” (Matthew 18:6). Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the little ones, the children. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse” (¶ 162C).

Tragically, churches are not always safe places for children. Child sexual abuse, exploitation, including online, and ritual abuse occur in congregations of all sizes and geographical locations. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial ethnic lines. Most annual conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation within churches. Virtually every congregation has among its members adult survivors of early sexual trauma.

Such incidents are devastating to all who are involved: the child, the family, the local church, and its leaders. Churches are torn apart by the legal, emotional, and monetary consequences of litigation following allegations of abuse.

1. “Ritual abuse” refers to abusive acts committed as part of ceremonies or rites.

2. God calls us to make our congregations safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong. In response to this churchwide challenge, the following steps shall be taken to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse:

A. Local churches should:

1. develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the entire congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and strategies for prevention;

2. adopt comprehensive screening procedures (use of application forms, interviews, reference checks, background clearance, and so forth) for all adults directly or indirectly involved in the care of children and youth;

3. develop and implement safety procedures for church activities such as having two or more nonrelated adults present in classroom or activity; leaving doors open and installing half-doors or windows in doors or halls; providing hall monitors; instituting sign-in and sign-out procedures for children ages ten or younger; and so forth, that meet or exceed Safe Sanctuaries® policies;

4. advise children and young persons of an agency or a person outside as well as within the local church whom they can contact for advice and help if they have suffered abuse;

5. carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;

6. assist the development of awareness and self-protection skills for children and youth through special curriculum and activities; and

7. be familiar with annual conference and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct.

B. Annual conferences should:

1. develop safety and risk-reducing policies and procedures for all conference-sponsored events and activities where children, youth, and/or vulnerable adults are present; and

2. develop guidelines and training processes for use by church leaders who carry responsibility for prevention of child abuse in local churches. Both sets of policies shall be developed by a task force appointed by the cabinet in cooperation with appropriate conference agencies. These policies shall be approved by the annual conference and assigned to a conference agency for implementation. It is suggested that the policies be circulated in conference publications and shared with lay professionals and clergy at district or conference seminars.

C. The General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Global Ministries should:

1. cooperatively develop and/or identify and promote the following resources;

2. sample policies, procedures, forms, and so forth for reducing the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth in local churches, both in relation to their own sponsored programs and to any outreach ministries or other programs for children or youth that use church space;

3. child abuse prevention curriculum for use in local churches;

4. training opportunities and other educational resources on child sexual abuse and exploitation and on ritual abuse; and

5. resources on healing for those who have experienced childhood sexual trauma.


READOPTED 2004, 2008





See Social Principles, ¶ 162C.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright © 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

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