The Houston Chronicle recently printed part 1 of a 3 part series on sexual misconduct by Southern Baptist pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and volunteers. It is a sobering and extremely concerning report that the very spiritual leaders one should be able to trust instead are perpetrators of abuse. It is also alarming that apparently some church leaders did not intervene to protect those who were abused.
The legal definition of abuse is any physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means by those responsible for the child's care, custody, and control (except that discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner, shall not be construed to be abuse). Neglect is the failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child, the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition or medical, surgical, or any other care necessary for the child's well-being.
Anyone involved in church ministry is required by law to report abuse or suspected abuse. In the Missouri statute, ministers are defined as "any person practicing as a minister of the Gospel," (which would include youth and children's workers and Sunday school teachers), and day care workers, child care workers, mental health professionals, and other people with the responsbility for the care of children are also mandated reporters of suspected abuse or neglect. The bottom line is that it is everyone's Christian duty to immediately report any knowledge or suspicion of abuse/neglect, whether one falls in the legal category of a mandated reporter or not.
Missouri has a child abuse and neglect hotline you can call 24/7 at 1-800-392-3738 to make a report. The identify of callers to the child abuse and neglect hotline is kept confidential. You do not need to be certain that abuse is taking place; you only need to suspect the abuse. By calling the hotline, you allow trained professionals to make the determination.
Child sexual abuse is a very serious problem in society as a whole, not just Southern Baptist churches. One in ten children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
Missouri Baptist Children's Home is available to help train your church to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child abuse through the "Stewards of Children" TM training. This training is available in nearly every part of Missouri and is provided at no cost, except for a minimal charge for participant workbooks. Please contact my executive assistant, Kristi McCormick, at 314-739-6811 or 1-800-264-6224 if you would like to take advantage of this training. You can also email her at Kristi.Mccormick@MBCH.org.
Let's do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of children, youth, and families.
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