The newly revised Policy Manual for Abuse and Misconduct Prevention and Response offers readers guidelines that are more concise, readable and representative of the realities of a 21st-century church. If your church keeps paper copies of the Policy Manual, we invite you to 1) Recycle them, and 2) Be careful not to hold on to a printed copy of any update for more than six months to a year.
The Policy Manual is a living document and will be updated periodically. We’ll do our best to keep the churches, clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese aware of any changes we make, but please visit the Sexual Misconduct Prevention website for the most up-to-date information available.
Here are the major changes you’ll see in this update:
1. Online misconduct prevention training is now available to some; the guide reflects that. More on online training can be found here.
2. The guide is reorganized so that the sections flow logically from one to the next.
3. The layout has been improved to make the guide more readable.
4. The “Why We Do Training” introduction has been expanded (page 10). The way the intro was worded in the last manual suggested, “Training is a crucial deterrent in preventing you from committing misconduct.” It’s been expanded to put the focus on awareness in order to prevent misconduct:
Training is a crucial deterrent to child sexual abuse and adult sexual misconduct. Training
- Educates clergy and laypeople on what types of behaviors can foster an environment where misconduct can take place;
- Equips ministers to recognize warning signs of misconduct;
- Sets out best practices for misconduct prevention; and
- Provides a framework for response in the tragic event that misconduct does happen.
5. A more detailed explanation of equivalent training is available (page 10).
The training requirement can be waived if someone can produce a certificate of completion for an equivalent training in another Episcopal diocese and certifies they have read this manual using this form. But please note: We cannot accept training from other denominations or secular organizations, typically because their understanding of how power structures affect misconduct differs from ours.
6. The Screening of Potential Employees and Volunteers has been broken down into three sections (pages 16-18): Screening of Employees, Screening of Volunteers and Screening of Non-Church Groups Using Church Facilities, with specific requirements offered for each.
7. There is no longer a prohibition on background checks on Sunday-morning-only workers.
The following, which was written in the previous policy manual, is not true: “The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow criminal background checks of paid nursery workers who work on Sunday mornings only.” However, parishes may find it prohibitively expensive and labor intensive to conduct background checks on every Sunday-morning-only worker, such as nursery workers and Sunday school teachers. We still recommend that background checks be performed, and leave the scope of the background checks for Sunday-morning-only workers to the discretion of the rector, vicar or priest-in-charge.
8. The guide no longer includes psychoanalysis on why clergy, or anyone, engage in misconduct. The guide has instead been simplified to stress that poor self-care can lead to misconduct. The psychoanalysis provided in the original manual was not helpful information for most folks and was not applicable across the board. Moreover, it had the potential to even prejudice the reader against some clergy.
9. There’s no longer a mention of a pastoral care team as the method of response to misconduct. This may be one tool the bishop employs, but previous wording implied that pastoral care teams were the sole method of the response, which is not the case.
10. “Congregational Healing and Response,” the field guide detailing best practices in the days and years following misconduct or abuse, is now a separate document available online.
Those that need information regarding response to misconduct can still access that information on the resources page. The policy manual does include instructions on the initial reporting of allegations of misconduct.