Beloved in Christ,
I am saddened and deeply disturbed by the recent grand jury report regarding child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. It is no surprise that abuse like this has gone on in churches and other places in our society but after reading the lurid details in the grand jury report one can be left to wonder “Is the church truly a safe place?”
I am writing this letter as a father, and a pastor about the practices and culture at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hatboro. As a father who has two children actively involved in the ministry of the congregation, I need to be sure that St. John’s is a safe place for my children. As a pastor, I feel that children are not the future of the church; they are part of its present. As such they deserve a safe place where they are loved, challenged, and nurtured as they grow into adults. To ensure that St. John’s continues to meet that high standard for all the young people who take part in any of our ministries, here are some of the steps we have already taken. All our staff and volunteers have completed the necessary background checks and clearances required by Pennsylvania law and these are updated as the law requires. Stephanie Metheny, our Director of Christian Education and a parent, is responsible for maintaining these records and ensure all clearances are up to date. At our executive committee meeting on August 13, I committed myself to review our child abuse and neglect prevention policy with our insurance carrier to ensure that we are following the best practices. We do not take the requirements of mandated reporters lightly. Our standard is that if we wonder if something should be reported that means you do it right now and let the authorities decide what to do next. In my years as a pastor, camp counselor, and juvenile detention worker, I have reported a concern many times. It is heart breaking every time. You never get used to it, but the only thing worse would be to do nothing. We have reported suspected neglect and abuse, required clearances for volunteers, and enacted a child protection policy that forbids non parent or guardian adults from being alone with children in the church building to help ensure that St. John’s is a safe place to learn and grown in faith. No one is exempt from this policy, not even me the Pastor. I encourage you to reach out to me or Will Fritz the council president with any question or concerns you have about this matter. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-215.657.2031, or you can reach Mr. Fritz at email@example.com.
As the pastor of St. John’s I commit to you, the congregation, that we will not only take seriously the letter of the law governing how we protect children, but also our call as followers of Christ, who promised every child baptized here that they will be loved, welcomed, and prayed for as they are brought into the ministry we share. We will care for one another, regardless of age, by reflecting the love of Christ given to us unto one another in healthy, affirming, and life giving ways. I am sharing all of this with you in the hope that you will believe that God’s house, the church, can be a safe place for you; and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hatboro is a place where all of God’s children are safe in God’s house. Finally, if you carry the wounds of past hurt this is a safe place for you as well. If you are currently being hurt this is a place where you will find refuge and protection. We are here to accompany you on your journey towards healing. We do this because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope, love, and grace.
Pastor Eric Reimer