From Jaime Romo, Ed.D., Commissioned Minister for Healing and Healthy Environments:
During the last 20 years, we have seen an explosion of revelations and law suits related to clergy sexual abuse, related to crimes that may have occurred decades ago. Institutional responses have generally ranged from ‘one size fits all’ Safe Church policies or clergy boundary trainings to use of on-line resources with little assessment of their impact on congregations or individuals. Unfortunately, when a policy is created by a few people on behalf of a congregation it results in a policy that may not be fully understood or implemented by the congregation. In addition, a policy that does not include and support the other aspects of Church Safe for All/ Healing Environments (i.e., competent Response Teams, effective education programs, and authentic assessment of congregational health) puts a congregation at risk.
- 1 out of 4 girls, 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday (Finkelhor);
- The rate of child abuse is 10 times the rate of cancer (Sadler);
- Ninety-three percent of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” (Abel);
- Hard core offenders maintaining significant involvement with religious institutions “had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims” Eshuys & Smallbone, Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders (2006);
- In a survey of 2,864 church leaders, 20% knew of a sex offender attending/member of their church (Christianity Today 2010);
- Many victims suffer significant spiritual damage;
- Seminarians, ministers, and congregational leaders are not prepared for offenders or victims.
The goal of a “Healthy Environment” is to create a space for discussion and sharing of personal stories related to trauma, abuse, and betrayal and to develop within the church a language and a culture capable of receiving various painful experiences and providing support for those individuals. The formation of a policy to make church safe for all and implementation of practices guided by that policy creates a safe space for the whole congregation, where current and past abuses of power and harm to members can be addressed. The Protecting All God’s Children training leads to:
- The support of an effective Response Team that expands responsibility and resources from pastor’s shoulders;
- A meaningful education program that engenders congregational literacy and solidarity to prevent abuse and promote healing;
- Good assessment that promotes congregational learning and growth.
The Commissioned Ministry for Healing and Healthy Environments is intended to be an integral part of efforts that make the Southern California Nevada Conference a model for our country, with respect to safe churches and healing environments by offering ministers and ministry teams the tools to process and transform their own attitudes, values, beliefs and skills related to their own suffering, however related to abuse. With Conference Board and Vitality Team support, I offer a ‘Protecting All God’s Children’ seminar and leadership development process that can build coherence, connection, and shift in congregational culture related to prevention and healing:
- at congregational/ cohort level, building meaningful ‘Protecting All God’s Children’ church policy and functional response teams;
- at congregational/ cohort level, training trainers to lead congregational trainings with a useful (e.g., Safeguarding God's Children) curriculum;
- as a coach/ consultant for conference ministers and those who take up a leadership role re: Safe Church/ Healing Environments.
Jaime Romo, Ed.D. is a Commissioned Minister in the United Church of Christ for Healing and Healthy Environments. He is an associate of the Center for Progressive Renewal and consultant with the Faith Trust Institute. He earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego in 1998. He is a certified Primordial Sound Meditation Instructor with the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and is a certified consultant with the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems. His most recent books are: "Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters;" "Parents Preventing Abuse;" and "Teachers Preventing Abuse." Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org (760) 842- 6577.
Conference Policy [Adobe Acrobat PDF]
National Making Church Safe For All Page
Additional Resources Can be found at our UCCIB Representative's website