Statement Committing to Safe Fellowship
To the Friends and Workers of our community,
We are broken-hearted and devastated after hearing about so many painful and traumatic experiences in our fellowship from the sexual assault1 and child sexual abuse 2 that have come to light since March 2023. Still, we are thankful God has opened our eyes to what has happened so that we can do what is within our power to stop the abuse and to help victim-survivors begin to heal. We are only beginning to learn what has been hidden for decades by the ministry we once trusted. Courageous men and women, victim-survivors, are finally making their voices heard.
We have decided that we will only participate in a fellowship that has guidelines and governance that protects our fellowship from harm; holds predators, perpetrators, and other complicit parties of such abuse accountable; and supports victim-survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse. We welcome you to unite with us in safe fellowship.
At this time, we will continue to have fellowship with all of you in accordance with safety guidelines, our conscience, and the word of God. We will continue to follow the heart of Jesus and promote the safety of all, especially the children and those who are most vulnerable within our fellowship. We cannot allow history to repeat itself and we must choose the righteous path that God has revealed to us. We choose love.
We are not abandoning our faith or our fellowship. Rather, the leaders who choose not to accept the responsibility to enact policies that protect the vulnerable have abandoned us. Our faith in the Lord remains strong, and we will continue to have nourishing fellowship in ways that do not compromise the values and the safety of our community.
As such, we are unified in our commitment to implementing a safety policy in our meetings. Given the decades of disturbing and widespread sexual violence that has been uncovered, any fellowship we participate in will have the following:
- A protocol for immediate action on all reports of SA and CSA that includes cooperating with legal authorities and third-party abuse investigators regarding the alleged abuse. This also includes notifying all individuals in the fellowship who might come into contact with the alleged perpetrator.
- A transparent structure of accountability for members of the ministry who conceal or ignore allegations or reports of sexual assault or child sexual abuse.
- Regular training and education for all members of our fellowship on issues of consent, sexual violence, and the importance of safeguarding minors and other vulnerable members of our fellowship.
- Meaningful support for victim-survivors.
- A commitment to continually review and improve these policies and practices, ensuring that our fellowship remains a safe and nurturing environment for all who wish to participate without fear of encountering a perpetrator.
We know that many of you who are in the ministry of our fellowship share our conviction, and we invite you to continue to be a part of this fellowship as we make it safer for all. It no longer can be assumed we will offer our homes or our financial support to members of the ministry unless they are willing to uphold the basic tenets outlined above. We pray that members of the ministry and its leadership will do what is right for the good of this fellowship.
To help you understand why we must take this stand, we want to share some of the devastating information that has been revealed to us:
- Sexual assault (SA) and Child sexual abuse (CSA) are widespread across our fellowship.
- In the 10 months between March and November of this year, more than 675 perpetrators of sexual assault or child sexual abuse amongst our fellowship have been reported to the police, legal authorities, and private investigators. Of these 675 alleged perpetrators, the percentage who are workers is roughly 40% (270), and nearly all include instances of CSA.
- It is almost certain that every member of our fellowship knows more than one friend who has or is currently experiencing sexual violence perpetrated by another member of our fellowship.
- Less than half of the SA cases and fewer than one in 10 CSA cases are ever reported.3 Additionally, nearly every perpetrator has multiple victims.4 In other words, the 675 named perpetrators likely represent thousands upon thousands of members of our community who have suffered sexual abuse. We know many victim-survivors will never tell their story, but we want them to know we care about them and that they can be assured we are working for safety within the fellowship.
- All reports of SA and CSA should be taken seriously, and attempts to dismiss these claims are a source of direct harm to our fellowship.
- The reason these sexual abuse crimes are rarely reported or prosecuted is not because they didn’t happen. Only 2% of reports of sexual violence are ever falsified.4 What prevents victim-survivors from coming forward in nearly all cases are the cultures of blame, minimization, and denial they face if they choose to seek support from family, friends, members of our faith, and ministry.5 This culture also allows predators to continue to abuse their victims without fear of meaningful consequences.
- Victim-survivors need our help and support.
- Victim-survivors of SA and CSA may experience devastating, wide-ranging, and long-term effects, including depression and anxiety, self-destructive behaviors including suicide, feelings of worthlessness, and a higher likelihood of sexual assaults in the future.6
- Despite messaging from current leadership and staff, attempts to address this crisis without a safety policy have left our fellowship unprotected and victim-survivors unsupported.
- As the attached letters show, there have been many times when events have put our members at risk, in direct contradiction with the assurances that workers have made that predators are ‘being handled’ appropriately. 7
- We cannot depend on a ministry that does not provide for a home or the care of a family to suggest an adequate policy that protects children, women, the vulnerable in the fellowship, the church in the home, and property.
- The ministers in this fellowship are not responsible for providing for a home, nor do they know the feeling of responsibility and care for a spouse, children, or grandchildren.
We invite you to unite with us in safe fellowship in accordance with these guidelines, whether you are a Friend, Elder, Worker, or Overseer.
Letters of support from some who have signed
- Sexual assault (SA) is any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim-survivor. Sexual assault is a broad term that applies to many types of sex crimes committed against adults, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent or when power differentials exist. In our fellowship, workers have authority over friends, brother workers have authority over sister workers, and men have authority over women, so what may seem to be a ‘consensual relationship’ may result from coercion.
- CSA, or child sexual abuse, refers to sex crimes committed against a minor. CSA is sometimes referred to as sexual abuse (CSA). CSA may be committed by adults or by older children. CSA can be either physical or nonphysical. CSA can even exist in the absence of touching. This might include exposing a person’s genitals to a child, encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts either in person or on a video, photographing a child in a sexual position, obscene conversations or text, etc.
- The Impact of Sexual Violence. National Sexual Violence Resource Center. https://nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Factsheet_Impact-of-sexual-violence_0.pdf
- Facts and Statistics About Sex Offending. City of Golden, Colorado. https://www.cityofgolden.net/media/FASO.pdf
- Ahrens, C. E. (2006, December). Being silenced: The impact of negative social reactions on the disclosure of rape. American Journal of Community Psychology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1705531/
- Effects of sexual violence. RAINN. https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence
- Letters of support from some who have signed