Seventh-day Adventist Church's Commitment to Children and Vulnerable People
"There is no priority higher than protecting children, and other vulnerable people, within our care. This is something close to the heart of God, and cannot be done through wishful thinking or vague aspirations."
SDA Church Manual, South Pacific Division Supplement p239
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2013-2017 (Royal Commission)
The Royal Commission identified that all faith-based organisations were and still are extremely vulnerable to offenders infiltrating our environments to abuse children. Faith-based organisations collectively accounted for 59% of all the child sexual abuse incidents reported during the Royal Commission's proceedings. The work of the Royal Commission identified cover ups, poor screening of workers/employees, inadequate complaint handling processes and a lack of accountability in reporting allegations of abuse to the necessary agencies (ie. police and child protection authorities etc). Our vulnerability is largely due to our Christian values of welcoming, inviting and accepting anyone who comes to our churches, layered and enmeshed with forgiveness of offending behaviour, which doesn't effectively manage risk. Unfortunately, we don't know everyone who visits our churches. Our children's safety is even more compromised when we allow unknown people to be in-charge of our child-related activities.
Society and regulatory authorities expect more from faith-based organisations and we do need to adhere to legislation. The longevity of faith-based organisations requires us to be `on board’ with child protection compliance, otherwise we run the risk of families not trusting us to provide services to their children. What this looks like, is employees and volunteers within our organisations having a valid and verified working with children check, signed the Code of Conduct, completed Adsafe training and been `screened’ against Adsafe’s database of known persons of concern, coupled with making our physical environments safer for children. We also have a duty of care to manage known risks within our church organisation.
This isn't a case of us against them, compliance and theology can work together! Don't we all want a safe environment for children (and their families) to attend and experience God's love? If we truly want our SDA Church to be a thriving disciple making movement, we need to intentionally embark on a cultural change journey to provide safe environments for everyone to attend.