February 13, 2020

‘My church is sitting silent no longer’

Abuse prevention project launched in the Lake Union

The Lake Union and its associated Conferences have launched a ground-breaking initiative to deter, detect, and hold accountable sexual and physical abuse that impacts the church.  They are partnering with Abide Counseling, an Adventist network of counseling experts, to implement Project Safe Church.

The Project involves training pastors and church leaders to create a visible reporting mechanism, as well as the ability to connect victims with trained Concerned Care Practitioners.  These helpers will support victims and assist them in telling their stories to appropriate civil and/or church leaders. 

The program also involves training panels of impartial, investigative decision makers who can resolve various allegations, as well as make recommendations for resolution of disputes.  These arrangements bring a new level of sensitivity, impartiality, and fairness to the way abuse victims and allegations are treated.  It also maintains a system of process and fairness for those accused of misconduct. 

In commenting on the new program, abuse recovery expert Sarah McDugal said, “I’m so proud of my church . . . of the Lake Union and its Conferences . . . in bringing abuse education, awareness and policy implementation to the ground level . . .  They are bringing momentous, pioneering steps to make churches a safer place.  I’m so proud that this part of my church is sitting silent no longer.”

The process is applicable to claims of abuse and misconduct made against church employees as well as official volunteers, which would include local church officers, including elders, deacons and other board members. These efforts will help implement existing NAD policies on these matters at the local level.

Project Safe Church is being coordinated with Abide Counseling, which is overseen by Jennifer Jill-Schwirzer, Adventist mental health and abuse counselor, as well as Christian recording artist.  Her team includes Nicole Parker, an expert in biblical counseling who teaches in the religion department at Southern Adventist University; Sarah McDugal, who runs a network supporting and counseling women and wives who are victims of clergy abuse; and Paul Coneff, an Adventist pastor who is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. 

The reporting website is already up and available at https://www.projectsafechurch.org/.  Training for those interested in finding out more about this program or supporting it as a Concerned Care Practitioner or Ethics Panel member, will be made available in various forums over the coming year, including camp meeting, pastors’ meetings, weekend conferences, and even on-line. Confidential reports of sexual abuse can be made at: http://projectsafechurch.org/report/

Check with the Project Safe website or your local conference office for more information about this program and getting involved.