In a previous article I wrote about ABC District’s 2014 abuse policy. The article was a contrast between ABC District’s stated policy and their actions as revealed by the CCAA process which shows that the CEF / DIL administration decided to get into the high-risk, high-stakes real estate property development.
As it turns out, back in 1992 LCC 1.0 had also developed a policy document on how to handle cases of church worker misconduct. LCC East District has a policy document that combines an abuse and misconduct by church workers here. (I’ve kept a backup copy of Synod’s document here.)
For the most part the policy reads like a reasonable way to address situations where church workers behave themselves in the manner inconsistent with the Christian faith. The greatest sadness I have with Synod is that the policy in this document – as far as I’ve been able to determine – has never actually been used. On the other hand, when I’ve mentioned this policy to some pastors I know, the reaction was mostly along the lines of dumbfounded amazement – “We have a policy?”
Now think about it – in the twenty plus years since this document was adopted an organization of roughly 80,000 members somehow managed to avoid having even one church worker misbehave in such a manner that would require applying this policy.
Given the sinful nature of all mankind, this seems long a rather long-shot. One argument I’ve heard was that people confronted with allegations of misconduct generally resigned from synod thereby eliminating the need for Synod to actually implement this document. With the information we have now – maybe they were either looking in the wrong place, or averting their eyes from something that would be self-evident to a knowledgeable person..
Based on the way ABC District’s behaved from the mid-90s through 2015 when it went bankrupt, and then after it entered CCAA protection – it’s pretty clear this policy was not being applied to ABC District personnel. And if not there, then where else was it not being applied to? Furthermore, given that this policy is supposedly still the “law of the land” for LCC, one has to ask why hasn’t it been applied to any of the people that vaporized membership’s trust and money?
What’s the point of having a policy if it’s never used? Was it just created to look good, tick a box to keep an insurer happy, or something else?
And why hasn’t LCC’s leadership faithfully performed the unpleasant tasks that came with the position they were elected to?
These are the kind of questions Lutheran Church-Canada members should be asking and demanding answers to.
The policy document follows.
POLICY REGARDING MISCONDUCT BY PROFESSIONAL CHURCH WORKERS
(For the purpose of this policy the terms abuse, harassment and misconduct are interchangeable)
People who have been called or placed into positions of public ministry in the church have been given by God and His church a special position of privilege and trust. When this trust is violated by a church worker taking advantage of his or her position by causing abuse to people he or she is serving, all concerned parties need to be dealt with in a loving and orderly way.
The primary concern in dealing with actual misconduct should focus on the welfare of the victim who is at a disadvantage even to file a complaint. Other concerns are: the protection of other victims; a ministry to secondary victims such as the victim’s and the church worker’s family and the congregation; and finally, the need of the church worker for repentance, treatment, support, and when possible, rehabilitation.
Steps to take if one is being harassed:
Harassment is unpleasant and intimidating. Fear of retaliation, embarrassment, or feelings of guilt may inhibit one from raising a complaint. However, it is essential to complain if one is being harassed. The behavioral problem lies with the harasser, not with the one being harassed.
- Inform the harasser that his/her behavior is unwelcome. An individual (although he/she should know better) may not realize that an action or a comment is offensive. A simple chat may resolve the problem. If the person refuses to cooperate, remind him/her that such behavior is against church policy.
- Keep a record of the harassment. When did it start (e.g. dates, times, location)? What happened? Were there any witnesses? Were there any threats of reprisal? What was the response? Failure to keep a diary of the events will not invalidate the complaint. A record will, however, reinforce it by making the investigation procedure easier.
If the harassment continues, the victim or victims are encouraged to submit their complaint in writing either to the elders of the congregation, or the circuit counselor, or a vice-president, or to the district president. The complainant may request the assistance of a confidante in formulating and processing the complaint.
Guiding principles after the complaint is made:
- If any of the aforementioned church officers are satisfied that an investigation is warranted, the church officer shall advise the district president. The district president shall then appoint a Review Committee made up of lay people and church workers to officially investigate the complaint. After its investigation, the Review Committee shall report its findings to the district president who shall then take appropriate action.
- The complainant is to be treated with care, respect and dignity. An allegation will not by itself jeopardize church membership or job security if the complainant is employed by the church.
- The allegation should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated without any presumption of its truth or falsity.
- All parties are to be presumed innocent until sufficient evidence to the contrary appears.
- As much as possible the confidentiality of the complaint is to be maintained and the complainant’s identity is not to be shared outside of the Review Committee without the written permission of the complainant or an order by the court. As much as possible, the identity of the accused worker will also be held in confidence. Written records will be carefully safeguarded.
- Both the complainant and the accused worker should have access to pastoral care during the investigation process.
- The complainant and the accused worker will each have the right to be accompanied by an advocate to support them in the investigation process.
The activity of the Review Committee:
- Meet with the complainant to determine the nature and extent of the allegations.
- Inform the complainant about the review process.
- Encourage the complainant to put the allegations in a detailed written statement and to be represented by an advocate for support in this process.
- Review the allegations in the written statement and determine if any other parties may be involved or adversely affected.
- If the complainant chooses not to proceed at this point, determine whether to continue with the investigation anyway. Civil authorities will also be notified if required by law or otherwise deemed appropriate in the circumstances. A written and/or audio report of the meetings with the complainant will be made available to civil authorities with permission of the complainant or where required by law.
- Inform the accused worker in writing of the complaint and give the accused worker a copy of the complainant’s written statement or sufficient details of the complaint so as to allow the accused worker to contest the facts alleged in the written complaint.
The accused worker will then be:
- a. Informed of his/her right to bring an advocate into the process.
- b. Directed to refrain from initiating any contact with the complainant or other specified parties during the course of the investigation.
- c. Obligated to present a response to the complaint in person to the Review Committee as soon as possible.
- Meet with any other parties who may be involved in the subject matter, including those suggested by the complainant and the accused worker. All statements, summaries and other documents pertinent to the review will be received into the record of the investigation.
- Submit a complete written report including all statements, summaries and documents pertinent to the review to the district president.
Resolution of the complaint:
When the report of the Review Committee has been received, the district president may:
a. Direct a further investigation of the complaint.
– or –
b. Close the investigation if the district president is of the view that the probability of misconduct has not been established, and respond with care and concern to the complainant and the accused worker. If the vindicated worker chooses, a public statement may be issued to exonerate him/her.
– or –
c. If the district president is of the view that misconduct has been established, proceed with a course of disciplinary action in accordance with the synodical constitution, Article XIII; Bylaws I. B, 1.21; V. C. 5.49, and VIII, or other appropriate disciplinary action.
If the complaint against the church worker has been upheld, the church worker will be subject to such disciplinary action as the district president seems appropriate. This may include requiring the resignation of the accused worker from his/her position, or removal from the roster by the district president.
In resolving the complaint, pastoral and professional care should be provided to the victim, the family of the victim, the accused worker, the family of the accused worker, the congregation and peers in the ministry.
Adopted by Lutheran Church–Canada Board of Directors
March 6-7 1992
Added to COP Manual 09/2000