Balancing Acts: Keeping Children Safe in Congregations
Rev. Haffner developed this online manual for the Unitarian Universalist Association. The manual is based on three tenets that indeed present a balancing act, as faith communities develop policies:
1. We have a responsibility to assure that children and youth will be safe in our congregations from sexual abuse, sexual assault and harassment even or perhaps especially when we do not know if there is an offender in our congregation. Indeed, we have a responsibility to see that our congregations are sexually healthy congregations and free of sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation for all of our members - children, youth and adults - as well as visitor and staff.
2. We are called to treat every person with worth and dignity, and to offer a congregational home to all who are seeking one like ours, while honoring that in the case of an individual with a history of sex offenses, there must be limitations to congregational involvement. That commitment means that only in rare cases will a person be denied access to ministry and fellowship. In the words of one congregation's policy, we must provide "compassion, support, affirmation, and protection against further harm."[vi]
3. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about child sexual abuse and healthy childhood sexuality, to be well informed about sexual offenses and offenders and to develop processes that will help us make good decisions about the actions that we are called to take. We must be willing to listen, to use a democratic process, and to be humble about our own certitudes in creating these policies.
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