Policy for Sexual Ethics

Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics 

Preface

According to the Word of the Lord, responsibility for leadership in the church of Jesus Christ carries with it the commitment to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity" (I Timothy 4:2b). The Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics, being concerned with the increasingly serious problem of sexual misconduct in our society, sets forth in this policy a mechanism whereby incidents of sexual misconduct committed by a synod employee, contracted vendor, and those holding a synod office, position or serving on a synod agency, board, committee, or other body (hereafter known as a synod worker) may be recognized as sexual misconduct; appropriate intervention may be assured, pastoral care may be available to the victim, the accuser, and the accused (as well as their families), and information may be offered to further educate ourselves in this important area of our life together in a community of faith.

The Church must be a safe place for all. Because leadership in the Church is a sacred trust, we are committed to dealing with the reality of sexual misconduct by those entrusted with religious leadership in a way that is consonant with our faith and life. The breach of trust and the misuse of power that underlie the occurrence of sexual misconduct are an evil which must be named and acted upon in ways that will proclaim grace by affording healing to all who may be involved. Sexual misconduct represents a profound level of self-alienation and therefore spiritual alienation. Healing of this wound in the body of Christ can occur when accompanied by our commitment to join informed compassion with a process that seeks justice and restoration.

Definitions

The civil law makes distinctions among various types of sexual misconduct. These distinctions should not concern a person who is troubled about the sexual conduct of a synod worker. The synod is concerned about all forms of sexual misconduct, regardless of whether or how the behavior is characterized by the law. Any type of sexual misconduct involving a synod worker should be reported to the synod, as should any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.

Education

In order for any policy to be effective, people must be informed about it. Therefore, the following plan of education is indicated to inform those affected by this policy of its contents. Education is important not only in identifying offending behavior, but also in preventing its occurrence.

An educational presentation should be made to synod staff and to each commission, committee, design team, task force and function of or operations of the synod. A copy of the synod policy will be given to each person at the beginning of his or her employment or service on a commission, committee or task force. The policy should also be reviewed annually within each of these bodies, with an affirmation of that action and the date being registered with the Executive Committee.

A variety of methods may be used in the presentation, including: discussion, worksheets, video presentation, and handouts. A short workshop design will be made available to staff, chairpersons of commissions, committees, design teams, task forces, and other leaders functioning for the synod.

The following aspects should be dealt with in the program of education:

  • The importance of this issue and the serious intent of the policy
  • Presentation of the negative effects of inappropriate sexual behavior and of the consequences of not taking appropriate action in response to a report of an offense
  • Definitions of terms related to sexual ethics and improprieties
  • Explanation of at risk behaviors and situations
  • Steps for reporting an offense
  • Steps to follow when receiving a report of an offense
  • The legal and theological necessity for responsible action.
  • Course of Action

    A. Reporting

  • Any known or suspected incident of sexual misconduct involving a synod worker should be reported to the Synod Contact Person or to the Synod Executive. Such a report may be made by a victim of misconduct or by anyone else who knows or suspects that misconduct has occurred.
  • If the initial report is made to the Executive, the Contact Person shall be notified by the Executive.
  • B. Synod Contact Person

      The Personnel Committee of the Synod shall appoint a Synod Contact Person who shall be available to receive all reports of sexual misconduct. The Contact Person shall be female.

  • Upon being notified of alleged sexual misconduct, the Contact Person may immediately report the allegation to the Personnel Committee, or she may instead make contact with the accuser, the alleged victim, the accused, and/or other persons to seek further information or documentation before report to the Personnel Committee.
  • She shall notify ecclesiastical and/or civil authorities when appropriate.

    C. Function of the Personnel Committee of Synod

  • It shall receive the report from the Contact Person.
  • If it deems the report sufficiently serious, it shall investigate the alleged sexual misconduct promptly, discreetly and fairly. If necessary or if requested, it will attempt to assist the victim, accused, and/or accuser to find pastoral or other support.
  • It shall ask the victim if the victim has an advocate or support person, and, if the victim does not, invite the victim to involve an advocate of the victim’s choosing in the process. The victim shall be informed of a person who will assist the victim in finding an advocate if the victim wishes.
  • It shall also ask the accused if the accused has an advocate or support person. and, if the accused does not, invite the accused to involve an advocate of the accused’s choosing in the process. The accused shall be informed of a person who will assist the accused in finding an advocate if the accused wishes.
  • It shall refer to and be guided by the Book of Church Order of the Reformed Church in America and the written personnel policies of the Synod.
  • If the discipline of staff is needed, it may involve admonition, rebuke, suspension, or removal from position.