The Presbyterian Church USA established an Independent Abuse Review Panel to investigate clergy abuse reports.
It began with hearing reports from people who were abused as missionary kids at a church boarding school. Even though the perpetrator was dead, Presbyterian leaders saw the need to afford the abuse survivors some “justice” within the faith community by hearing their truth, responsibly investigating, and helping toward healing.
The Presbyterian Church then extended the process to make it available for anyone reporting abuse by any Presbyterian minister.
Why did Presbyterians do this? In the Panel’s own words:
“It is clear that a perpetrator of sexual abuse is likely to repeat the behavior....We call upon people to stop denying what happened, and bid them to open their hearts and minds to the truth that survivors are speaking.”
“Pursuing and telling the truth is an act of faith....We honor the Spirit who brings healing to hearts that hurt and justice to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Final Report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry, Presbyterian Church USA, 2002.
Is such a process so radical? An independent review for reports of clergy sex abuse. Outreach and help for abuse survivors. Honoring those who report abuse as “witnesses to truth.”
Why can’t Southern Baptists do the same? “Congregational autonomy” is the oft-recited excuse. But surely most parents are more concerned about their kids’ safety than they are about some strict Pharisee-like adherence to an ecclesiological legalism.
When abuse survivors speak up, predators are revealed and kids can be protected. But few will speak up when doing so means further degradation and when there is no hope for any independent review. Kids are safer in a church structure that works at hearing the truth of abuse survivors rather than working to silence them.
You can read more about how the Presbyterian review process was established and about their methodology in the complete report at http://www.pcusa.org/ici/ici-report.pdf .
Request the free DVD, “Witnesses to Truth, Witnesses to Healing,” and hear the voices of some clergy abuse survivors: firstname.lastname@example.org