Safe Church Policies Applied to CRC Employees

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The Board of Trustees decided at its September 2011 meeting that allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse on the part of an employee of the Christian Reformed Church or any of its agencies will be referred to that person’s church council to be dealt with under the denomination’s guidelines for handling allegations of abuse.

Those guidelines include convening an advisory panel to conduct hearings and make recommendations regarding the probability and seriousness of the allegations.

The decision also states that the advisory panel will include as an observer a representative of the denomination and that the executive director will receive a written report on the panel process and recommendations made.

For cases in which an employee of the denomination is not a member of the CRC, a hybrid policy is being developed to ensure an objective panel hearing.

The code of conduct signed by denominational employees will be revised to reflect those decisions.

The board also decided that applicants whose background check includes criminal convictions for violent crimes, sexual crimes, or crimes against a child will not be considered for employment unless an exception is granted by the executive director in consultation with legal counsel.

In other actions, the Board to Trustees

  • ratified the appointment of Bonnie Nicholas as director of the Safe Church ministry;
  • decided that the Canadian delegates to the board will meet separately for an hour at the February 2012 meeting to discuss ministries within Canada;
  • heard an update on the work of the Task Force Reviewing Structure and Culture of the denomination’s administration
  • heard that ministry share receipts for the fiscal year just ended came in nearly 5 percent over budget.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (7)


I'm not sure why this took 15 years to get this in place. I told Borgdorff about these problems 8-9 years ago - he didn't do anything about it.

What's interesting is that I have been working with my council about doing an overture to Synod 2012 to address this issue. Finally, here it is.

However, our own people should not investigate our own people. How can a SAfe Church TEam bring confidentiality, objectivity, and address issues of conflict of interest - when they have direct connection to working under the SAfe Church Office? Our lines become all tangled up with each other.

Outsourcing by using investigative/fact-finding professionals wih both the employees of the CRCNA and our local churches is a must.

So what could happen is…

A victim comes forward alleging abuse about one of our directors. The victim or someone on her behalf has to call the denominational building to ask what church the director belongs to (lacks privacy) which mostly likely is the executive director. The executive director is going to say we don’t give out private information of our employees (follows policy). So the call-in has to explain to the executive director why she wants to know (lacks privacy). She gets the info. she needs (maybe – depending on if executive director violates policy). She meets with the Safe Church Team of that classis if they have one. The Safe Church Team consults with the Safe Church Director about the allegations (causing dual role/conflict of interest on behalf of the Safe Church Director). The accused director’s privacy is now violated and is at risk of being even more violated because for sure one person in the building knows about alleged accusations (slander, gossip, and defamation are a risk – potential legal issue). The Safe Church Director knows confidential information about a CRCNA employee which could be considered a breach of employee privacy rights (potential legal issue). The executive director also knows something is up with the employee.

Am I understanding this right?

I'm not sure that I understand all the details in the comment, or why certain things are assumed (for example that the executive director would be involved in finding what church a director belonged to).

What I do know is that a team of people came together and worked hard to create the procedures which were approved by the Board of Trustees and will be applied to denominational employees. Legal issues including employee confidentiality and conflict of interest were carefully considered.

The CRCNA is a denomination, a business, an employer, yet we also represent the church. Involving the local church in the difficult and painful case of abuse or sexual misconduct has many advantages, including providing accountability and ongoing pastoral care.

We believe that this represents a step forward, an improvement to what was there. Though it is our hope and prayer that they are never needed, I'm very glad that our denomination has taken this issue seriously and has done the work necessary to consider and to create these procedures.

I think that means I am understanding this.

"allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse on the part of an employee of the Christian Reformed Church or any of its agencies will be referred to that person’s church council to be dealt with under the denomination’s guidelines for handling allegations of abuse."

This has got to be by far the stupidist thisng I have ever read in my life. Do you not know that having the perpetrators church handle such allegations is like having his own family who loves and respects this person handle it.

CRC needs to start taking responsibility for said employees and stop handing the responsibility to yet another bureaucratic entity!!! Doing this would only give more pwoer to an abuser and resolve absolutely nothing. Well maybe the only thing it will do is to continue to stop women who are being abused by these to continue to stay silent.....Great Job...NOT!!!

For the person who wrote the comment on breeching the perps confidentiality....Really? First of all if someone has made an allegation that someone has abused them chances are that the the victim knows the church they a attend and a huge possibility that they attended church together.

Shame on you for defending a perp and not the idea that a human being has been abused and dehumanized and facing further ridicule like people such as yourself! Let's keep in my mind that this is the "church" not a private organization.

People who abuse should not be employed by the denomination never mind defended by them. Having been an advocate for many years the first person who shows up at a hearing in the perps defense is the perps pastor. There is a problem with this because the pastor does not live ithin the four walls of the victim.

It takes courage for a victim to speak out against such a influential leader. Her words mean nothing without physical proof therefore putting her in a place where she is isolated by her church and brothers and sisters....Tell me oh smart one, what is she to do???

I commented twice on this article, and what a perfect example of the CRC shooting down a person who was abused by one of its employees. Continue to defend your abusive employees......Nothing but what I and most expect from such and organization. A lack of sensitivity for the victim and support and defense for perps.....hmmmmm does The Catholic Church ring a bell!!!