“Safe Sanctuaries” is the name United Methodists commonly give to their efforts to make programs welcoming and safe, reducing the risk of abuse or mistreatment. While the language of the policy most often refers to children and/or youth, the policies and procedures apply to ministry with any vulnerable adults who need our special protection. Our purpose for establishing this policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our total and unwavering commitment to the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of all our children, youth and vulnerable adults. Safe Sanctuaries is all about making a congregation a safe place where anyone may experience God’s love and fellowship within a community of faith that respects healthy boundaries.
Scriptural basis for “Safe Sanctuaries”
Throughout the Scriptures, we are taught to provide special care for the most vulnerable among us. Widows, orphans and strangers are to be given special nurture and attention. Jesus told his listeners that all children were to be cared for, not only because of their worth, but because of what they have to teach us. Jesus also taught that we will be judged according to how we treat one another, because “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
The damage caused by abuse or mistreatment is devastating, long-lasting, and far-reaching. Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the most vulnerable among us. In our society, that includes children, youth, and adults with physical or mental disabilities. Sadly, the church may be the only place where some people find the unconditional love and care they so desperately need to grow and thrive. We must take seriously our responsibility not only to care for these brothers and sisters, but to create a place of safety and refuge within our sanctuaries.