New Republic Picks Up Donn Ketcham Story

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Jay's picture

Further investigation might be a good idea, instead of just saying 'we'll figure it out as we go'.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Further investigation might be a good idea, instead of just saying 'we'll figure it out as we go'.

Where did they say "we'll figure it out as we go"?

Jay's picture

Doesn't "case by case basis" essentially mean the same thing as "we'll figure it out as we go"?  No, they didn't use that exact wording, but I'm not comfortable with "case by case" given ABWE's track record.  After all, Donn Ketcham was his own special case and look at how that was handled.  Everyone who was wronged was ignored (or actively suppressed) until the victims created a website detailing what was going on and went public. 

I know, I know - ABWE has a new administration, new policies, is committed to doing the right things...etc. Call me skeptical. I'd like to think that they'll handle it correctly in the future, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Doesn't "case by case basis" essentially mean the same thing as "we'll figure it out as we go"? 

No. Case by case means each situation is handled on its own merits. What else would you do when someone doesn't admit guilt?

You have to handle it on a case by case basis. Someone may refuse to admit guilt because they are lying. Someone may refuse to admit guilt because they are not guilty. Someone may refuse to admit guilt to one thing but are actually guilty of something else. But you can't treat them all the same because you don't know. When someone admits guilt, it is easy to have a blanket policy, which they do. But otherwise you have to handle it on a case by case basis.

To me, it seems like some here are looking for things to complain about and end up going after the wrong things. Perhaps it would be good to take a step back.

Jay's picture

You have to handle it on a case by case basis.

Someone may refuse to admit guilt because they are lying.

and then you figure out what to do as you go.

Someone may refuse to admit guilt because they are not guilty.

and then you figure out what to do with the person who lied about the accused.

Someone may refuse to admit guilt to one thing but are actually guilty of something else.

and it's incumbent on you to get at the facts of the case, not just decide that it's a 'nothingburger' and move on.  God treats false accusations and gossip the same as any other sins, correct?

But you can't treat them all the same because you don't know. When someone admits guilt, it is easy to have a blanket policy, which they do. But otherwise you have to handle it on a case by case basis.

Correct - and you figure out what to do as you go, which was my entire point.  

We're talking about the same thing, Larry.  I really believe that this is largely a matter of terminology.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

We're talking about the same thing, Larry.  I really believe that this is largely a matter of terminology.

Perhaps, but "make it up as you go" sure sounds a whole lot different than "deal with it on a case by case basis." "Make it up as you go" sounds very pejorative and that seemed your intent was to make it sound bad for ABWE based on your connection to Ketcham. "Make it up as you go" seems to communicate a haphazardness without direction or principles. I don't think that is what is going on here. Why not use their terminology?

 

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

Further investigation might be a good idea, instead of just saying 'we'll figure it out as we go'.

Where did they say "we'll figure it out as we go"?

See above.  I've written quality policies as part of my jobs, Larry, and you simply don't understand how this works.  First of all, the policy still does not clearly state the first thing that needs to be stated; failure to remove an adulterer/child molester from the mission is in itself cause to remove a person from the mission.  We have a proverb in quality; corporate culture eats corporate initiatives for lunch. So if it's not absolutely clear and enforced, the policy in effect does not exist.  This is especially the case because a problem like this is extra work, embarrassing, and quite frankly people just want it to go away as quickly as possible.   That's a big part of why the allegations against Ketcham were put in dirty files and otherwise ignored.

So with reference to ABWE's history, the new manual does not at all address the problem of corporate culture because it does not clearly outline punishments for failing to remove the Donn Ketchams of the world from the mission.  The old policy was presumably harsh on adultery and crimes against kids, and (per PII), they looked past that one too.  So we know a priori that the new policy does not really address the problem; it relies on management to "add" something to it.  Dangerous in the best of situations.

In this case, the policy is not clear.  We have one line that says crimes against children are covered in the child policy manual, and a paragraph or two below, the reader is expected to clue in that "molestation" (in itself not a clear legal category) encompasses the entire area of child sexual crimes.  What's going to happen is that one person is going to CPM, the other looks at that paragraph, and the decision is made, again, according to....corporate culture, which has not been fixed.

Same basic thing with sexual sin involving only adults.  Yes, it's now cause to remove, but....when....by whom....and what, again, is the penalty for failing to do so?  Again, the corporate culture has not been addressed, and that provision is really likely to end up a dead letter.

Regarding mandatory reporting, the problem is that the manual requires the missionary to know and follow the applicable state laws....OK, good luck with that when the missionary starts in one state, solicits contributions in a dozen or so other states, gets trained in a few more states, and ends up serving in a number of foreign fields.  Even lawyers get confused with this level of complexity.   Again, a policy that can't reasonably be followed really doesn't exist.  Hence, a clear, basic guideline requiring a certain degree of reporting is essential--my church does it with an incident reports, and we are of course only dealing with one state's law.

So I stand by what I said; as things stand right now, ABWE's turnabout is built on the "sand" of "what management thinks".  That's really, really dangerous.  While management support is necessary to any good system, you've got to have a system that is meaningful outside of management.  

Jay's picture

I have also written policy for a couple of other places, including a child abuse prevention policy.  Deferring to an unidentified person or department to manage a situation as difficult and opaque for guidance on a case-by-case basis is a recipe for all sorts of problems and confusion.

For example, the policy I cited says that someone accused of misconduct should be privately confronted.  What if your suspicions are against someone in a different province?  What if you have suspicions but don't feel comfortable because you don't have enough proof to make this anything more than 'something seems wrong'?  What if the accused assures you everything is on the up and up but you aren't buying it?

For that matter, why isn't the ABWE Child Risk Safety Officer (or whatever the title is) notified the very second someone receives an allegation of child abuse on a mission field?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

To draw a picture of how powerful corporate culture is, I worked for a little electronics factory in Waseca for three years that had previously been owned by E.F. Johnson--your dad, or you, may have owned a CB radio built by the company.  Whenever I would interact with anyone over the age of 50, it was clear that they were usually, in their heart of hearts, still working for "Edgar", though he'd sold the company over 30 years back and died in the early 1990s.  The company had been sold several times, and the quality systems had been totally gutted, rebuilt, gutted, and rebuilt again, but if you asked line workers how they wanted to do things, you could do little better than to "channel" Edgar as best as you could.  It worked like a charm--you'd get double effort for double the time with no pressure applied.  

In other words, until you get some very concrete things into quality systems at ABWE and back it up with managerial clout, the group is going to be, effectively, Wendell Kempton's outfit for the forseeable future in the same way that 4th Baptist is in some ways still Doc Clearwaters' church.  So for ABWE to survive, they've really got to confront this, starting with something in policy (not just managerial discretion) saying that if you work to hide allegations of certain types, you will be shown the door.  Policies need to be a lot cleaner in how they work, too.

Ron Bean's picture

When there is an allegation/report/hint of sexual misconduct the authorities and their professional investigators should be contacted immediately!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Joel Shaffer's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

When there is an allegation/report/hint of sexual misconduct the authorities and their professional investigators should be contacted immediately!

Completely agree.  In Michigan whenever there is any alleged abuse, school administrators, licensed therapists, clergy, teachers, licensed child care providers, health care providers, and etc are mandated to report abuse right away no matter what the situation.  Until ABWE becomes a mandated reporter, given their past history of cover-up why should we trust them?

Bert Perry's picture

....with "going to the authorities" for ABWE is that in many places, there are no authorities that will punish these crimes in a humane manner.  In Bangladesh, for example,  there is in effect no age of consent for marriage.    Here's a little bit about the justice system there.   Put a guy wrongly in a Bangladeshi jail, and he WILL be coming after you in U.S. courts if and when he gets out.

So in my view, ABWE's challenge in many foreign fields is to create an independent, but accountable, system for investigating these crimes to U.S. (and Biblical) standards while conforming to local laws.  Not easy.   This is also another reason why the ABWE reporting clauses simply don't measure up; they don't reflect the situation in their areas of work.  

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

....with "going to the authorities" for ABWE is that in many places, there are no authorities that will punish these crimes in a humane manner.  In Bangladesh, for example,  there is in effect no age of consent for marriage.    Here's a little bit about the justice system there.   Put a guy wrongly in a Bangladeshi jail, and he WILL be coming after you in U.S. courts if and when he gets out.

So in my view, ABWE's challenge in many foreign fields is to create an independent, but accountable, system for investigating these crimes to U.S. standards while conforming to local laws.  Not easy. 

The independent group they could develop a partnership with is Child Protective Services of Pennsylvania.  If there are allegations of abuse on one of their fields, then send them over to investigate. 

Ron Bean's picture

To quote a "Good Ol' Boy" pastor, "I call the authorities and the abuser better hope that they (even if they are from Bangladesh) get to him before I do!"

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Greg Long's picture

TylerR wrote:

There is a natural tendency to keep things "in house." I've been in law enforcement and investigations my entire adult life. I saw this pattern repeatedly in the Navy. A unit would try to "investigate" criminal misconduct itself, to keep things "internal" before going to military police, to see "if there is any credibility" to the reports. I saw it as a Pastor, and was criticized by some for refusing to do this very thing. We see it with the ABWE scandal. Let me be politically correct, nuanced and sensitive for a moment:

  • THAT IS A VERY STUPID THING TO DO. REPORT ALLEGATIONS IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY. IMMEDIATELY.

If you don't, you are being stupid. I don't care what your motives are. You are being stupid. It will look like a cover-up. It will be a cover-up. You will contaminate testimony, destroy evidence, poison the well, and generally make yourself and your organization look like idiots. You'll deserve the ridicule you get. You'll deserve to be called stupid. You have no idea what you're doing. You're destroying the victims. You're protecting the potentially guilty. The truth will come out in the wash.

Always report. Don't "check on things yourself." Don't "consult with the deacons." Don't "get counsel and advice" from the local Pastor's fellowship - two weeks down the road. Please, don't be stupid. Pick up the phone and call the authorities. Do it now.

ABWE? They were stupid. Real stupid. Idiots. I've seen this my entire life, repeated over and over again. They deserve to go through the fire for their stupidity. Hopefully, others will learn how not to be so stupid.

Peace out.

I'm not sure I completely agree with this. Imagine this scenario:

We have an Awana ministry on Wednesday nights. Part of Awana is "Handbook Time" where the children are divided up into smaller groups of 5-10 to memorize Bible verses from their Awana handbook and recite them to a leader. There are one or two leaders in each group, and several groups are all meeting in different corners of the same room. In one particular group, a child starts acting up. The leader uses all the proper verbal warnings, but to no avail. The child starts becoming loud and disruptive so that it draws the attention of other leaders and children. The child's leader, who is completely in control of his own emotions and words, looks the boy in the eyes, gently lays one hand on his shoulder, and calmly says to him, "Johnny, I'm asking you one last time to sit still and be quiet or I will be forced to find your parents [or bring the Awana Commander in or whatever the next step would be]." The child immediately yells, "HEY YOU TOUCHED ME WRONG! YOU TOUCHED ME IN A PRIVATE PLACE!"

Now, this is an "allegation of sexual abuse." According to your standard, it should be reported immediately to the police for them to investigate. However, everyone in the room saw that nothing inappropriate took place at all. To report this to the authorities is a completely unnecessary attack on that leader's character.

When I was doing research in preparing a child protection policy at a previous church, I found a statistic that in the state of Iowa, only 25% of the accusations of abuse reported to the DHS are found to be legitimate. Now, it's very possible that in the case of the other 75%, there was actually abuse happening but there just wasn't enough evidence. But even if that were true in some of those cases, the fact is that in the majority of cases, someone is being falsely accused of abuse.

Also--and this is very important--in the State of Iowa, we are called to report "credible" accusations. Not every single accusation, but "credible" accusations. An accusation that is not credible, like in the scenario I described above, does not have to be reported and in fact should not be reported (of course the church would want to document the situation including witnesses in case the boy went home and told his parents and they called the police).

Obviously I painted a very simple and obvious scenario. Not every scenario would be that simple or obvious. However, my point is that our standard CANNOT be that we automatically report every single accusation or else we might be harming the reputations of our own church members. So there has to be SOME level of basic "investigation" to determine if this is a credible accusation. By basic investigation I mean that church leaders (pastors, elders, etc.) would briefly interview the accusing party and the accused party to see if there is any credibility to the accusation. If there is, or if there is any doubt whatsoever, the accusation should be immediately reported.

Yes, of course in the ABWE scenario they were completely at fault for trying to "handle" (read: cover up) this situation in house. But let's be sure to have some balance here.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

In that scenario, I hope you have it in your policy for the Pastor (or other responsible official) to write a memo detailing everything, people you spoke to, and a summary of their testimony. I also hope you had each person you interviewed write out a brief statement, and had them sign and date it. I also hope this memo outlines what actions the church took (if any), and documents for posterity why it took those actions, and is signed by the Pastor(s) and all the Deacons, and is filed away somewhere in duplicate, and saved electronically to safeguard against "accidental" destruction.

Or, you could just report it anyway. This is a severe liability issue. Let the police make the call that it isn't credible. They'll probably agree, and you're covered.

I've seen this over and over again. No matter how you spin it, it will not look good to keep it in house.

The police are obligated to look into all allegations. If they determine there isn't enough probable cause to refer it to Investigations, they won't - and you'll be clear. No harm done.

I understand your position, but I don't agree with your policy. Russian roulette comes to mind. Don't be the senior person with a secret, Greg. The buck has to stop somewhere. I'd prefer it stop with the authorities. It isn't your job to determine credibility.

There are leaders who prefer to fall on either side of this divide. I respect your position, and understand it. I just think it's ripe for abuse by ill-intentioned men (e.g. ABWE), and it leaves the church with an unacceptable degree of risk and civil liability. I'd also be interested to know what your church's general liability insurance policy says on these matters. It likely specifies what actions will disqualify you from liability coverage (e.g. deliberate failure to report) if a suit is brought against the church.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Greg Long's picture

Of course we would document it.

We have a responsibility to protect children from harm, and we also have a responsibility to protect childcare workers from the damage done to their reputation from a false, completely outrageous accusation. I wouldn't want to serve in or be in a church that would call the police to report something that multiple witnesses will say is absolutely false. Again, we are to report "credible" accusations.

If it were a he said-he said situation with no witnesses, yes we would report it. That's why it's so important to train workers not to put themselves in those kinds of situations.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Bert Perry's picture

Men's reputations are ruined not when things are provided to police, but when they hit the press.  This happens when:

  • Someone sues or otherwise talks to the press
  • Grand juries are convened and indictments are handed down

If those in and around your church know you have incident reports just about everything down to paper cuts, and that these documents will be made public when subpoenaed in discovery or after an indictment, then a lot of people are going to be a lot less eager for a legal confrontation unless they are very sure of the allegations and the likelihood of prevailing.  

Greg Long's picture

That's true, Bert, but we also need to remember that kids today know exactly what words to say to get adults in trouble.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

In the military police, we theoretically were required to call EOD anytime somebody found a suspicious package. That was our "official" procedure. We couldn't touch it. We certainly couldn't open it. That was the policy on paper.

In reality, as a responding patrol officer, is sometimes opened the thing and ignored policy, if the circumstances led me to believe there was nothing sinister. Of course, I was taking the risk I'd be blown to bits. And, I was going against policy. But, that was a risk I was willing to take in those circumstances, because I didn't think there really was a risk.

So, now we come to reporting requirements for alleged child sexual abuse. The correct paper policy, in my opinion, is to report. A church can decide, based on the context, to not report. That's up to the church. But, you're taking a risk. How big of a risk? Tough to say. But, the choice is yours, and you'll have to live with the potential consequences . . . That's all I'm sayin'.

But, know this - ABWE had a "paper" policy, too. It just chose to ignore it . . .

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jay's picture

That's true, Bert, but we also need to remember that kids today know exactly what words to say to get adults in trouble.

It's all about risk management, as TylerR just noted.  

I get that filing reports with the police are icky, painful and ugly.  But I'd always rather report first and have it be nothing than be caught "holding the bag" if it was real.

As for dealing with false accusations - having been through that myself, although not in an abuse context - the only things I could hang my hat on to get through it was that 1. I knew I was innocent and 2. That God would clear and vindicate me. Fortunately, He did.  But even if He doesn't, and I can't escape the accusation no matter how hard I tried, I could tell people that I was more than willing to sit down and answer any questions, turn over any and all appropriate documentation as appropriate, and do whatever I needed to in order to alleviate their concerns.  If they decided to believe a lie about me anyway...well, there isn't a whole lot I could do about it.

Joseph was falsely accused and went to an Egyptian prison for years (Genesis 39-41).  That was just as much a part of God's plan as selling him into slavery or raising him to be the most powerful person in Egypt outside of Pharaoh.  It's not the glamorous part we like to talk about though.  

Jesus was falsely accused all the time by the Pharisees and Sadducees; eventually, they put to death unjustly, but He didn't answer them a word, other than to confirm that He was their Messiah, for which they sentenced Him to death, also unjustly (Matthew 26:57-65, 1 Peter 2:20-25). 

Paul was falsely imprisoned by the Romans, but eventually vindicated (Acts 16:37).

Trust in that, brothers. God is working in and through all of this - even if we are falsely accused of all sorts of evil.  And frankly, we should expect it because Jesus told us it would happen in Matthew 5:11-12.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ron Bean's picture

#1 A junior high girl tells her teacher that he father (a single Dad) hit her. The teacher reported the incident to authorities who immediately came to the school to interview the girl. They called in the father shortly thereafter. The investigation revealed that the girl had snuck out of her house to meet with her older boyfriend and Dad had caught her and spanked her. The investigating officer told the girl she needed to be thankful she had a father who loved her.

#2 A young girl who was sexually abused as a child was adopted out of foster care by a couple who were graduates of a Christian college and were involved in a good local church. The girl knew "the system" and would call CPS whenever she thought Dad and Mom were too strict. and accuse them of abuse. Each case was investigated and dismissed. When she reached her early teens she went to her pastor, who was familiar with  the background, and accused her father of sexually molesting her. The pastor concluded that the girl was rebellious and recommended that the girl go to a Roloff type home. The parents moved to another church and their new pastor received a call from the home informing him that the girl had, in fact, been sexually abused by her step-father. The pastor immediately went to the step-father's place of business and escorted him to the police station where he turned himself in. He was sent to prison and is a registered sex offender.

 

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

What Tyler is describing is the "hidden factory", what really gets done vs. what the specs tell you to do, and to some point it's unavoidable.  That noted, I've always encouraged people to follow the policies fairly closely so that the problems become so obvious, even lieutenants and higher can figure it out.  Using Tyler's example, he had a certain set of criteria for what constituted a suspicious package--and then if you make EOD's life miserable with all those packages, they're going to set the MPs up with, say, an X ray machine or something so they can do that work themselves.

In the case Greg mentions, you keep filing reports and then as we have 1000 incidences of "kid makes public accusation with 12 witnesses saying it didn't happen" with 0 real problems, you start returning discretion with the proviso "if you simply note that an accusation was made with a few witnesses affirming it didn't happen, don't bother with the police." 

Which is a long way of saying "as a rule, err on the side of documentation and reporting."  

Larry's picture

Bert, So you are going to make false statements and "stand by them"? That's wrong, Bert. You are doing exactly what you accuse ABWE of doing, of ignoring the truth and sweeping it under the rug because it makes you look bad. Granted, being wrong and possibly lying about a policy here in a discussion forum is not as egregious in terms of consequences, but it is just as wrong. You made false accusations. You can't just sweep your that under the rug and pretend they don't exist. At this point, Bert, I don't know how we can trust you. You say you write policies. Fine. But it appears to me that you don't read them. I don't know how else to explain this. You appear not to know what the policy actually says. 

For you to say the policy is not clear is bizarre. I can't imagine what is not clear. It seems that the problem is (1) you misread or overlooked somethings or perhaps just ignored them and (2) you think the policy should be written differently. Both of those are indisputable. I am not sure what is not clear about it. 3.6 is perfectly clear and given the breadth of things it addresses is certainly a reasonable statement. It allows them to do exactly what you think they should do. Your complaints are simply misplaced. 

Here's an example: Person A sees person B giving a hug to 10 year old person C who is known to have a close family type relationship that has never aroused any sort of suspicion. It is a quick hug and then they go their separate ways. Person A has never seen that before and has no reason to suspect anything so they don't say anything. Ten years later, person B is found to have molested Person C. Should Person A be fired? Should they be suspended? Reprimanded? What is the appropriate response? In your view, you seem to think they should be fired for not reporting something they saw even though there is no cause for suspicion, no "reasonable" basis (to use the legal term) for reporting. When you have a policy such as you suggest, you can end up being unjust because you have no discretion. But you have no options because Person A didn't report. Wisdom is usually the better part of valor. I will grant that you mean well. But that is not enough. Mandatory sentencing was a response to abuse, but it still resulted in injustice. 

Or perhaps Person A reports and it is investigated and there is no evidence found. Both Person B and Person C adamantly and credibly deny any sort of wrongdoing. You have just caused Person A to slander a brother or sister in Christ, and for the rest of their lives, Person B will be under suspicion, all because of a misguided and unwise policy. Either scenario is easily avoided simply by the use of common sense and wisdom. Laws are written a particular way for a reason. And they use the word "reasonable" or something similar for a reason.

You say molestation is not a clear legal category. But it is plenty clear and has been for a very long time. This particular policy is more clear and more extensive about what is prohibited than the law is. You remind me of those who want controversy over words while ignoring the substance. But let's assume you are right, that it's unclear. What's your solution? What definition of molestation would you add to this policy to make it more clear? 

We have one line that says crimes against children are covered in the child policy manual, and a paragraph or two below, the reader is expected to clue in that "molestation" (in itself not a clear legal category) encompasses the entire area of child sexual crimes.  What's going to happen is that one person is going to CPM, the other looks at that paragraph, and the decision is made, again, according to....corporate culture, which has not been fixed.

Here's a good example. You acknowledge that they have a policy about crimes against children. If someone doesn't read the policy, it won't matter what it says. If someone does read the policy, they will know exactly what to do. There is nothing either in the line or the following paragraph that is confusing. Someone who does what you suggest (i.e., ignores the policy) should not be allowed anywhere near management because they can't read a basic paragraph with comprehension. No policy is going to fix that. If seeing "molestation" in a list of causes for removal doesn't clue you into the fact that "molestation" is a cause for removal, then you should return to high school. It's a simple conditional: If A then B; if X then Y. It's clear and easy to follow which is exactly what you say it should be.

Regarding mandatory reporting, the problem is that the manual requires the missionary to know and follow the applicable state laws....OK, good luck with that when the missionary starts in one state, solicits contributions in a dozen or so other states, gets trained in a few more states, and ends up serving in a number of foreign fields. 

First, this assumes that a missionary would be a mandatory reporter in all these places. It is unlikely that a visiting speaker is a mandatory reporter in any of these places except possibly their actual place of service, and they may not even be there. Second, this is the way it is for everyone, not just missionaries. You, as Bert Perry, are required to know and follow the applicable state law where you live. Are you a mandatory reporter? Do you even know? Do you know the standards of reporting and the process of it? You are in the same boat as they are. Third, ABWE provides training on the legal requirements during its staff training sessions so they cover it. Fourth, they provide a Child Safety Officer and a Child Safety Response Team to help. So what other solution is there? A person simply has to know their legal duties by some means. It's not anyone else's responsibility. What would you have them do?

You say that "a clear basic guideline requiring a certain degree of reporting is essential." That is in the policy as you should know if you have actually read it. Section 3.4 requires internal reporting of prohibited conduct and 3.5 requires external reporting. Section 8 also addresses reporting. The policy requires the reporting of all prohibited conduct, not just illegal conduct. Section 5 spends several pages outlining the prohibited conduct that must be reported and to whom it is to be reported. So contrary to your claim, the policy is clear (1) that reporting both internally and externally is mandatory, (2) what should be reported, and (3) to whom it should be reported. So they already did what you said. And the policy outlines a variety of consequence up to and including firing for failure to do so. Again, how do you not know this?

I am beginning to think you didn't even read the policy because it's hard to imagine that someone who read the policy can be this unfamiliar with it.

You complain that this is based on what management thinks. Again, what other option is there? It's always based on what management thinks. Even if you report it to law enforcement it is based on what management thinks. It's called prosecutorial discretion. A document has no authority. Only people do in a case like this. No manual is going to address corporate culture. 

In the end Bert, I don't think you have read this whole document, particularly not closely and not with a view to understanding it. You have simply been wrong about too many things that are explicit. What policies you have written, I hope you have done it better than you have done here. 

There is plenty that ABWE should have done. But I think the stuff you are harping here has been shown to be wrongheaded. In some cases you are simply wrong about what the document says and in other cases you are taking the worst possible reading of it when there is a perfectly legitimate and more sensible reading to take. 

Larry's picture

Deferring to an unidentified person or department to manage a situation as difficult and opaque for guidance on a case-by-case basis is a recipe for all sorts of problems and confusion.

The person and department is not unidentified. 

For example, the policy I cited says that someone accused of misconduct should be privately confronted.  What if your suspicions are against someone in a different province?  What if you have suspicions but don't feel comfortable because you don't have enough proof to make this anything more than 'something seems wrong'?  What if the accused assures you everything is on the up and up but you aren't buying it?

First, the policy section you cite applies to behavior between adults. It does not apply to child abuse issues. But having said there, here are the answers:

  1. Make a phone call or a visit or send an email.
  2. Give it some time, thought, and prayer and pay attention because you might be wrong and you are about to create huge problems if you are.
  3. Then continue to give it time, thought, prayer, and attention. And realize you might be wrong. 

BTW, this is the explicit application of Matthew 18.

The policy says if in doubt, report. But be ready to own the fallout of it. 

For that matter, why isn't the ABWE Child Risk Safety Officer (or whatever the title is) notified the very second someone receives an allegation of child abuse on a mission field?

Well, because it takes a few seconds to find a phone and dial a number. The policy specifies that the report should take place immediately or quickly. In fact, it says that 9 times. 

Here's my question for you, Jay: Are you critiquing a policy you haven't read? Because if you have read it, why would you ask this question? You would already know the answer to it. 

Greg Long's picture

So Tyler, you're saying that in the scenario I provided you would report it to the authorities? Wow. Again, I would never want to be in a church like that.

You keep using illustrations from the military. I helped write a child protection policy in a church based on resources from Church Law & Tax (widely acknowledged to be an expert source in this area) and input from our insurance company, then implemented that policy in that same church with over 150 children's volunteers, then oversee that policy for a number of years.

That doesn't make me an expert or always correct, but I just find the idea that churches should automatically report any accusation, no matter how obviously false and ridiculous, to be just as dangerous as the opposite error. Again, the law in Iowa clearly states all "reasonable" accusations should be reported, so the law is on my side here.

EDIT: After reading Larry's post and looking up the Iowa code, I remembered the correct word is "reasonable" not "credible" (as I used in a previous post), although they are similar. The point remains the same.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

I've gone out of my way to be nice about your perspective. I understand your position. I just don't agree. It's ok.

I'd encourage everybody in a position to care to do two things:

  1. examine what your church's general liability insurance policy say on this. Don't bother your attorney. Don't bother with an expert. Just find the insurance policy, buried in the depths of some cabinet, and read the relevant section. I am almost certain there are exemptions under which your church forfeits liability coverage - like, for example, failure to report. If these exemptions for your negligence are there, make sure your church's SOP takes that into effect.
  2. research what your state's mandatory reporting law says. You don't need an attorney, I promise. You're all intelligent people. You can read the law, and even research some caselaw, if you wish. I deal with attorneys every day. There are three sitting ten feet from me right now; you probably don't need them for this. Consult one if you wish, but you can likely figure out the mandatory reporting requirements on your own. Whatever decision you make, ensure it complies with your state's mandatory reporting requirements.

A church can certainly choose to not report. By all means. Just be prepared to deal with the civil consequences. I've passionately argued against internal investigations, because you don't know what you're doing, you don't know the law, you don't know how to interview people, and ill-intentioned and/or stupid men can use these "internal investigations" as a smokescreen for cover-up. Not to mention, you open yourself up for civil liability if you're wrong. Not worth it, in my opinion.

Greg, I assure you that "reasonable" is a wiggle-word, deliberately chosen to be ambiguous. That's not something you want to hang your hat on.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Greg Long's picture

Tyler, as I clearly stated, our policy was based on our insurance policy and our state law.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

No worries then. You should be fine. You did a good job and wrote a responsible policy. Most people don't do that. The key, for everybody, is to actually follow the policy. ABWE decided not to.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Larry, re-read that section of the child protection policy.  Would it kill them to provide contact information for child safety?   If you have to spend a few minutes looking these things up, the section simply does not exist, really.  A form would help as well.  

Moreover, the adult section really has the same problems as we've been accused of for decades; it does not really specify a reporting structure, but requires one on one confrontation.  Good luck getting that going when people are afraid of the bigwig.  And again, it's not clear to whom the problem ought to be reported.

And yes, they say they'll comply with mandatory reporting laws....but with no punishment for not complying....with no one to tell.....honestly, Larry, read between the lines.  The new policy may be better than the old, but please try to read it like an ordinary missionary in Bangladesh will read it, one who has the local manager very concerned that a star performer is being accused, and if he goes, so does a lot of the funding that the son of the head of the GARBC will bring in.

Really, when you argue that people are misstating the policy, you're arguing against the policy.  It's like AP style--you lead with what's important.  ABWE does not, nor is it clear which paths ought to be taken.  You cannot expect people to parse it out like good lawyers here.  

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