First news item on day one

Zero tolerance. This is the stance taken by the New Apostolic Church towards sexual abuse and assault. And this is what Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider made clear at the conference of the District Apostles in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I want ministers to be absolutely clear on what sexual misconduct can do! They need to know how bad and damaging it is to the soul!” This is what the international Church leader said at the conference of the African District Apostles that kicked off the current round of sessions.

Signing a declaration of intent before ordination is one thing, he said. But what is more important is that those who are responsible in the congregations and districts are trained in prevention and how to handle any possible cases. “This is an important issue, and the Churches in particular have a responsibility,” added the Chief Apostle. “The people, our congregations, and our brothers and sisters are to know that the New Apostolic Church sharply condemns sexual abuse, nor will it tolerate physical intrusion of a sexual nature.”

Policy has an immediate effect

With this statement, the Church leader corroborates the activities of the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa, for example, which District Apostle John L. Kriel reported about in a previous meeting. This was one of the points on the agenda of the District Apostle Meeting Africa yesterday, Wednesday. Today, the District Apostle Meeting International will follow with Church leaders from around the world participating.

A sexual misconduct policy has been in effect in the Regional Church Southern Africa since 5 July 2020. A day later already, a first case was reported, District Apostle Kriel said yesterday. Still a huge challenge is the pronounced culture of silence that prevails in society in general, but the policy of “what you don’t talk about doesn’t exist” is no longer tolerable.

Against any form of sexual misconduct

The policy sets a clear road map for dealing with “any form of sexual misconduct” by ministers or functionaries. The document defines responsibilities, describes preventive measures, installs procedures for suspected cases, and outlines pastoral care for those affected. The policy is comprised of 18 sections and will come into effect on 1 May 2020. It will be translated into all official languages in South Africa.

The policy deliberately refers to “misconduct” and not just to “assault” or “abuse” because the measures are not only directed against criminal acts, but also against the non-punishable violation of another person’s personal boundary. This includes gestures or comments, but above all the violation of the principle of pastoral care—for example, when those in need of love and care are exploited by those they go to for help.

The New Apostolic Church Southern Africa is working closely with relevant professionals and organisations. It is up to the victims alone to decide whether legal proceedings should be initiated. Cases of sexual misconduct among minors are always reported to the police in accordance with South African law.

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Andreas Rother
District Apostle Meeting (DAMI)