Safe Church Policy

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Safe Church Policy

The First Congregational Church of Westminster

STATEMENT OF POLICY

  1. Prohibition of Discrimination,

Exploitation, Intimidation, and           Harassment

The First Congregational Church of               Westminster is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which members, friends, staff and volunteers  worship and work together in an atmosphere free of all forms of discrimination, harassment, exploitation, and intimidation.  Specifically, The First Congregational Church of Westminster is strongly opposed to sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and any form of child abuse(see definition) and that such behavior is prohibited by church policy.  It is the intention and responsibility of the church to take whatever action may be needed to prevent and correct behavior, which is contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to seek discipline for those persons who violate it.

 

  1. Ministerial Conduct

All persons engaged in the ministry of The First Congregational Church of Westminster (including elected or appointed leaders, employees, volunteers, and authorized ministers) are responsible for knowing the possible impact of their words and actions in ministering to the emotional, mental and spiritual needs of persons who come to them for help or over whom they have any kind of authority.  Sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and child abuse exhibited toward any parishioner(s) or

other individual(s) by anyone engaged in the ministry of The First Congregational Church of Westminster is unethical behavior and will not be tolerated within this congregation.

 

Because ministers (see definition) often deal with individuals who are emotionally and psychologically fragile or otherwise personally vulnerable, it is imperative that those engaged in the ministry of this church maintain their own psychological, emotional and spiritual health and that they have adequate preparation and education for helping those individuals they seek to serve in ministry.  It is the policy of The First Congregational Church of Westminster to encourage its leaders, authorized ministers, employees and volunteers to nurture safety within ministerial relationships by being attentive to self-care, education and the importance of referring those in need to supportive and helpful resources.

Youth Protection Policy

The First Congregational Church of Westminster is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment in which young people can learn about and experience God’s love.  It is the policy of this church to provide adequate supervision for all activities involving children and youth.  To the fullest extent practical no minister or authorized minister shall be alone with any  children or youth.

  • Teachers and authorized volunteers who accompany a child to the bathroom shall notify another authorized volunteer as to what they are doing and remain outside the bathroom while the child is inside.
  • When able, a child shall take care of his/her own clothes. When a child needs help with his/her clothing, the teacher or authorized volunteer shall enter the bathroom, but shall keep the door ajar.  This policy shall be posted in a public place where parents, teachers and childcare providers can see it.
  • All reasonable efforts shall be made to ensure that all rooms have at least one door with a window. In the event that a room does not have a door with a window, the door shall remain open when an adult or authorized volunteer is meeting with any youth or children.
  • The purpose of discipline with children and youth is to maintain order in a manner consistent with the teaching of Christian responsibility, respect and cooperation. No child shall be disciplined by the use of spanking, hitting, slapping or any other form of physical punishment.  Verbal reprimands shall not include destructive criticism, insults or shouting.  All volunteers who work with minors shall be required to complete and submit a volunteer

disclosure document and to have a

Criminal Offense Record Investigation (CORI) check.  All paid staff who work with minors shall have a CORI.

DEFINITIONS

Minister:  a person engaged by the church to carry out its ministry.  Minister includes elected or appointed leaders of the church, employees, volunteers as well as authorized ministers.

Authorized minister:  a person who holds ordained ministerial standing or has been commissioned or licensed by an association of the United Church of Christ.

Ministerial relationship:  the relationship between one who carries out the ministry of the church and the one being served by that ministry.

Child Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse: non-accidental harm of a child.
  • Neglect:  maltreatment or negligence that harms a child’s health, welfare or safety.
  • Emotional Abuse:  verbal assault or emotional cruelty.
  • Sexual Abuse:  any form of physical contact or exploitation in which a minor is being used for the sexual stimulation of an adult, adolescent or another child.  Physical contact includes fondling; genital contact; oral, anal, or genital penetration; intercourse and rape.
  • Inappropriate Behavior:

Non-physical contact includes verbal comments, pornographic videos, internet sites and magazines, obscene phone calls and exhibitionism.

Sexual exploitation:  always involves a relationship in which both parties do not have equal power.  Any sexual contact must, if it is to be ethical and life giving, take place between two mutually consenting adults.  Such mutual consent is not possible where there is an imbalance of power, for example between pastor and parishioner; church school teacher or youth leader, or any authorized volunteer and a child; choir director and choir member; spiritual director and the person seeking spiritual direction.

Sexual misconduct:  sexual activity or contact (not limited to sexual intercourse) between an ordained, licensed, commissioned minister (or any person, ordained or lay, who has an assigned role in the church) and employees, members, youth, children, or counselees.

Sexual harassment:  repeated or coercive sexual advances toward another person contrary to his/her wishes.  It includes behavior directed at another person’s sexuality or sexual orientation with the intent of intimidating, humiliating or embarrassing the other person, or subjecting the person to public discrimination.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of instruction, employment, or participation in any church activity; or
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making personnel or church-related decisions affecting an individual; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or participation in church activities or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment also includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that has sexual overtones, particularly:

  • Written contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene letters,

e-mails, notes or invitations;

  • Verbal contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, epithets, jokes about gender-specific traits or one’s sexual orientation; or sexual propositions;
  • Physical contact, such as intentional and inappropriate touching, pinching, brushing against another’s body, impeding or blocking movement, assault, or coercing sexual intercourse; and
  • Visual contact, such as leering or staring at another’s body, gesturing, or displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons, web sites, posters or magazines.

PROCEDURE FOR HANDLING COMPLAINTS

A Safe Church Response Team consisting of three members, representing both genders, shall be elected for a three year term in preparation for the hearing of complaints under this policy.  Members of the Safe Church Response Team shall be members of The First Congregational Church of Westminster.  The Safe Church Response Team shall familiarize itself with the terms contained in this policy dealing with complaint(s) of alleged sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment or child abuse filed against any employee(s), or volunteer(s), in The First Congregational Church of Westminster.

Possible courses of actions to be taken by the complainant(s) regarding incidents of alleged sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment include:

  • The complainant(s) may attempt to resolve the matter directly with the individual(s) accused of sexual exploitation, sexual

misconduct, or sexual

harassment.

  • The complainant(s) may report the incident(s) to the pastor of the church, in an effort to resolve the matter.
  • If an informal resolution by the complainant(s) does not seem wise, appropriate or possible, or does not succeed, the complainant(s) may request the Safe Church Response Team institute formal proceedings regarding allegations against those who are not an authorized minister(s) with standing in the UCC.
  1. If the allegation(s) pertains to an authorized

minister(s) in the United Church of

Christ:

  1. The Safe Church Response Team shall

inform the United Church of

Christ Central Area Associate

Conference Minister and the Central

Association Church and Ministry

Committee, of the allegation.  The

First Congregational Church of

Westminster shall cooperate fully in

any procedures of the United Church

of Christ;

  1. If allegations of child abuse

are included in the complaint(s), the Safe Church Response Team shall notify the Department of Social Services or the appropriate law enforcement agency.  The First Congregational Church of Westminster shall cooperate fully in any investigation.

  1. If allegations of a felony charged are

brought to the attention of the Safe

Church Response Team, every effort

shall be made to encourage the

complainant(s) to report such charges

to the appropriate law enforcement

agency.

  1. A written summary of the

proceedings shall be maintained

by the Safe Church Response

Team in a secure and confidential

manner.

 

  1. If the allegation(s) pertains to persons

other than authorized minister(s) in the

United Church of Christ and:

  1. If allegations of child abuse are included in the complaint(s), the Safe Church Response Team shall notify the Department of Social Services or the appropriate law enforcement agency. The First Congregational Church of Westminster shall cooperate fully in any investigation.
  2. If allegations of a felony charge are brought to the attention of the Safe Church Response Team, every effort shall be made to encourage the complainant(s) to report such charges to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
  3. If the allegations are other than for child abuse, the following procedures shall be followed:
  4. The Safe Church Response Team

shall gather statements

from the person(s)

so charged and from others who

might have information

regarding the alleged sexual

exploitation(s), sexual

misconduct, or sexual

harassment.

  1. The Safe Church Response Team

shall make an assessment of the

allegations.  In determining

whether the alleged misconduct

constitutes sexual exploitation,

sexual misconduct, or sexual

harassment consideration shall be

given to the circumstances,

including the context in which

the alleged incident(s) occurred.

If there is a finding that no sexual

exploitation, sexual misconduct,

or sexual harassment  has

occurred, the complainant(s)

shall be notified of the same and

the case shall be closed.

If there is a finding that sexual

exploitation, sexual misconduct,

or sexual harassment has

occurred the appropriate body

(i.e., Music Committee, Christian

Education, etc.) shall be notified

and called upon to take action

accordingly.  Such action shall

include one of the following:

  • Formal reprimand with defined expectations for changed behavior;
  • Recommending or requiring a program of growth that shall include education and/or counseling;
  • Probation, with the terms of the probation clearly defined;
  • Dismissal from employment or volunteer leadership position.

 

III.  Any person bringing a sexual

exploitation, sexual misconduct,

sexual harassment, or child abuse

complaint or assisting in investigating

such a complaint shall not be adversely

affected in the terms and conditions of

their employment, church membership

or affiliation; or otherwise discriminated  against or discharged.

 

  1. Appeal process:

If  the complainant(s) or accused

person(s) is not satisfied with the

disposition of the matter by the Safe

Church Response Team and/or the

supervisory body, he or she has the

right to appeal to the Moderator of

The First Congregational Church of

Westminster who shall refer the matter

to the Church Council for resolution.

September 9, 2004