The Church expands its misconduct policy
Clear words, strong action… In line with this motto, the New Apostolic Church is continuing its fight against sexual misconduct. This was also evident at the meetings of the District Apostles this past week.
The following leaves no room for doubt: “The New Apostolic Church strongly disapproves of any actions that infringe upon a person’s sexual self-determination.” This is what it says in the new Guide For Ministers, which is currently being worked on and will likely be distributed in the coming year.
The guidelines ratified by the International District Apostle Meeting apply worldwide, and therefore also section 3.20.12 “Protection from sexual violence”. This makes clear: all Regional Churches have committed themselves to prevention, education, and intervention.
The Guide for Ministers states further: “Well-founded cases of suspicion are to be reported immediately to the relevant authorities established under the laws of the respective country.” And: “The District Apostles issue regulations for the prevention and handling of sexual assault in pastoral care, and for co-operation with law enforcement authorities of the state.”
Report from the field
There is more to this than mere words. A misconduct policy has long been in effect. This was also on the agenda of the District Apostle Meeting Africa this past Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland. District Apostle John L. Kriel reported on the ongoing development of the corresponding policy in his working area of Southern Africa.
Since July 2020, a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy has been in effect in South Africa that 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. A panel staffed with registered professionals outside of the pastoral realm can be contacted.
Ratified and expanded
This policy has just been reviewed and ratified—this is done every two years—by another independent panel of experts. Meanwhile, the Regional Church is working on extending the programme to the countries of Botswana and Namibia.
Workshops were held there in August and October respectively to sensitise the leadership to the issue and to set a timetable for the policy’s implementation. Regional expert panels have been set up. The policy is to take effect from March 2023.
Donations and evaluations
Prevention, education, and intervention are also the three pillars of the Awareness Concept of the New Apostolic Church Southern Germany. The programme was developed in 2015 and launched in 2016. In addition to guidelines, it also includes raising awareness and training events on how to deal with the issue in a mindful manner. An important element is a code of conduct in ten concise points.
A review and advisory panel consisting of doctors, psychologists, and lawyers can also be consulted here—as, for example, also in the Regional Church Northern and Eastern Germany. In both of these Regional Churches, as well as in Western Germany, ministers and functionaries are obligated to submit an extended certificate of good conduct, which is examined by a lawyer with regard to relevant offences.
The fight against sexual misconduct does not end at the church door, however. The Church aid organisation human aktiv in Germany has been working with the child protection foundation Hänsel and Gretel for years. About 150,000 euros have been donated to various projects since, most recently into the distribution of so-called Strong Kids Boxes (Starke-Kinder-Kisten) for kindergartens and primary schools. The boxes contain items that are to help children become familiar with their own boundaries, feelings, and their own bodies in a playful way. After all: “Protection from sexual violence is a duty incumbent on society as a whole, and the New Apostolic Church and its ministers are likewise committed to this duty.”
Photo: Romolo Tavani - stock.adobe.com