Showing posts with label General Convention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label General Convention. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2020

DioVA Provides Further Evidence It Is Indifferent to Abuse





During the 2015 General Convention (GC) of The Episcopal Church, two measures were passed that addressed abuse in the church. Measure 2015-A073 authorized the updating of Model Policies for the Protection of Children, while Measure 2015-A074 called for the update of the Safe Church Training Materials.

The work was done by a GC-appointed task force spearheaded by the eminently capable The Rev. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban, and the Rev. Canon Carol Cole Flanagan, as well as several other persons with a passion for ensuring that Episcopal churches are safe places for all persons.

The resulting materials were approved by the most recent General Convention and require that all dioceses adopt standards at least as protective as those approved by General Convention; higher standards may be implemented. Further, the measure makes clear that the standards apply to all church programs and activities.

Yet many dioceses have ignored these requirements. For example, here in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the policies used do not reflect the current standards. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (EDOW) does follow the standards, since Canon Flanagan is canonically resident in that diocese.

The status of the new policies in other dioceses are less clear, for many don’t publish their policies on their websites. That’s a mistake, for failing to publish that information makes it difficult at best to ensure compliance. (Speaking of, General Convention ignored efforts to include a question about compliance in the annual report.)

And of course, there is nothing to prevent individual parishes from adopting these policies. Yet those with which which I am familiar have consistently failed to done do.

So my questions are these: What message does General Convention’s failure to include a question about compliance on the annual parochial report send to the church? To victims of #metoo and #churchtoo? How can the church claim to be serious about these issues when it fails to take even the most minimal steps towards ensuring compliance?

For those dioceses and parishes that have ignored the requirements imposed by the new standards: What message does this send to parents in the church? To vulnerable adults? To all who are concerned about bullying and misconduct in the church? How can you claim to be an inclusive church when you ignore safe church efforts?

As a practical matter, entities within the church that fail to adopt these measures could be found liable to failing to adopt these common standards.

Clearly, the Episcopal Church still pays far too little attention to issues of sexual and other misconduct in the church. And Bishop Goff’s claim to be working for an inclusive church are a bunch of poo.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ethics Alert! Ethically Challenged Sven vanBaars Seeks to Represent DioVA at General Convention

Clergy sexual assault survivors beware! The Rev. Sven vanBaars, who is one of the diocesan Title IV intake officers and has stated in writing that he will only address illegal conduct by clergy if they face criminal charges, is seeking election as a diocesan delegate to the next general convention. This spells bad news as #churchtoo and #metoo victims seek to make church a safe space for survivors.

For those new to the discussion, Sven issued a dismissal, approved by Bishop Susan Goff and upheld by the Rev. Melissa Hollerith, stating the he could not conclude that Bob Malm committed perjury, as the latter had not been criminally charged for doing so.

This is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that perjury is a notoriously difficult crime to charge and, much like clergy sexual abuse, local officials typically are reluctant to pursue cases against clergy. Yet Title IV expressly forbids clergy from engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;” no criminal charges required.

Moreover, Sven himself violated the express provisions of Title IV by copying Bob Malm on his notice. By doing so, he violated the confidentiality provisions enacted at the last General Convention, which expressly forbid identifying the complainant to the respondent. Yet he attempted to silence me by asserting that I am obligated to treat the matter as confidential. This is not the case, for with the exception of one recently enacted provision, Title IV does not apply to laity. And it certainly does not apply to persons who have left the church.

To make matters worse, Sven serves on the diocesan committee on constitution and canons. Given his inability to parse even basic Title IV issues successfully, his violation of Title IV, and his broken pastoral ethics, this is an alarming proposition.

And, if that isn’t enough, it is not the role of the intake officer to determine whether perjury occurred. Per the canons, their role is to assume the matter complained of to be true, then:

  • Assess whether the violation complained of, if true, would constitute a violation of the canons.
  • Assess whether the violation complained of, if true, would be of “weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church
Nothing more. Nothing less. Clearly, Sven either doesn’t understand his role, or he deliberately sidestepped it.

So, if you’ve ever experienced abuse of any sort in a church setting, just know that Sven vanBaars applies a “no criminal charges, no Title IV violation” policy. In other words, even clergy sexual abuse is okay, as long as the police don’t get involved.

Truly alarming stuff.

Copy of Sven’s written Title IV dismissal available at https://www.gracealexwatch.org/2019/09/breaking-sven-vanbaar-former-candidate.html