The Houston Chronicle recently released a three-part series on sexual misconduct by Southern Baptist pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers and volunteers, based on an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. 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 many 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) but day care workers, child care workers, mental health professionals and other people with the responsibility 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 or neglect, whether one falls in the legal category of a mandated reporter or not.
Missouri has a 24/7 toll-free Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-3738 to make a report, or 573-751-3448 outside of Missouri. The identity of callers to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is kept confidential. Callers do not need to be certain that abuse is taking place, only that the abuse is suspected. The hotline has trained professionals to help make the determination.
Child sexual abuse is a very serious problem in society as a whole, not just Southern Baptist churches. One in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Missouri Baptist Children’s Home is available to help train church to prevent, recognize, and react responsibility to child sexual abuse through the “Stewards of Children”™ training. This training is available in nearly every part of Missouri and is provided at no cost except a minimum charge for participant workbooks.
For more information or training details, contact Kristi McCormick at 314-739-6811 or toll-free at 800-264-6224.