By Brad Brady
When you stop and think about it, every local church is the steward of an awesome sacred trust.
On one-hand, God entrusts every congregation with the high calling of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a hurting world. Consider this tremendous truth: We are part of long-line of salvation history where God chooses to use people just like us to tell the salvation story and invite others into the life that is really Life. What a sacred trust!
On the other hand, people enter within the realm of the church’s influence with some degree of trust that the message and the outward signs of Christian love we share are genuine in every respect. Granted the degree of suspicion we encounter seems greater than at any other time in history, but there is at least temporary trust that gives us a chance to show authentic Christian love.
It is amazing, really, that God and the general public grant us these privileges! And I do not know of anyone who wants to misuse or abuse this trust.
In fact, each time we participate in the baptismal covenant for infants we restate our intentions and commitment to live up to the sacred trust placed in us by God and neighbor. We promise to surround the baptized with Christian love and “to so order our lives after the example of Christ that this child surrounded by steadfast love may be confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”
The Safe Sanctuaries ministry in each of our congregations is one important expression of how we order our lives so nothing will interfere with the transmission of the faith and the spiritual growth of any person under the care of our ministry.
For the past six years, congregations in South Georgia have been very intentional about creating Safe Sanctuaries. In 2008, those attending our Annual Conference session overwhelmingly adopted a policy requiring each local church to implement their own policy intended to protect all ministry participants, protect all ministry workers, and protect all the resources of the local church for disciple-making.
The Office of Connectional Ministries has provided training materials, district workshops, and individual coaching to help congregations of all sizes creatively develop protocols and practices that create and maintain safe environments where disciple-making ministry can unfold without the unspeakable pain that comes with an incident of broken trust.
Additionally, the Connectional Ministries staff and other conference staff have rallied to the aid of local churches when an allegation of abuse has arisen. Each situation has reinforced the importance of doing everything possible to prevent harm to those placed in our spiritual care. No matter the allegation or whether the allegation was substantiated by the facts—casualties abound, and in most cases could have been avoided by practicing the minimum, universally accepted standards.
The Annual Conference’s Safe Sanctuaries team salutes every layperson and clergy person who fully embraces the sacred trust given us by God and our neighbors. We commend each congregation who proactively seeks to maintain safe environments that allow God’s mission of disciple formation to unfold without the setbacks that come when the sacred trust is broken.
With safe environments in place, each congregation is positioned to develop more fully a congregational culture where faith is transmitted in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Our discipleship efforts flow simultaneously with each congregation continuously sharing God’s love through word and deed, inviting the curious to “come and see,” cultivating the embers of emerging faith, challenging seekers to take the next steps, inviting believers to confess faith in Christ, nurturing baby Christians to deeper faith and greater experience of God’s boundless love, and creating countless opportunities for Christ-followers to share God’s love with a hurting world. Therein, living out the sacred trust placed in us by God and neighbor.
Safe Sanctuaries training video available Feb. 1
The Office of Connectional Ministries continues its support of local churches by releasing a new Safe Sanctuaries training video designed to be used as a key part of the volunteer orientation held in each congregation.
“This is a project we have been discussing for several years,” said Dr. Brad Brady, Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. “We are delighted that everything has come together so that we can now make this resource available.”
This orientation video will present three brief segments designed to inform volunteers about the basics of Safe Sanctuaries.
“We are very grateful that Allison Lindsey was willing to present this material in a way that is tailor-made for front-line ministry volunteers,” Brady continued. “Allison has been on the Conference Safe Sanctuaries team and a trainer from the beginning. Her experience as a children’s ministry director at Douglas First United Methodist Church adds perspective and credibility to the way she teaches and consults around this important area of ministry.”
Initially, the orientation video will be available on the Safe Sanctuaries page on the conference website (www.sgaumc.org). Church leaders interested in accessing the video may show the orientation video directly from the website or by saving video clips to their computer.
By March 1, the Office of Connectional Ministries plans to have additional instructional segments available online and for the whole package to be available for purchase as a DVD. The additional segments are intended to resource local church Safe Sanctuaries committees with some of the best practices around some of the challenges congregations have faced around faithful implementation.
Watch the conference website and other Conference communication for details on how to order the DVD for use in local church settings.