Mission Agency Continues Its Work
On Child Abuse Allegations and Policy
A retired United Methodist bishop and two professors in the field of medical care make up an independent panel that will receive and assess reports on alleged child abuse at a denominational mission facility in Africa a generation ago.
The General Board of Global Ministries, the international mission agency of the denomination, is also drafting specific guidelines on child and sexual abuse for all of its employees and mission personnel, based upon a policy adopted in mid-April by the board’s directors, meeting in Stamford, CT.
Bishop Marshall “Jack” Meadors, who has a background in justice issues, will chair the “Independent Panel for Review of Child Abuse in Mission Settings,” named by the president and chief executive officer of the mission board. The focus is on allegations arising from alleged incidents more than 20 years ago at a youth hostel in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The bishop’s two colleagues are Dr. Edith Fresh, an expert in child abuse issues who teaches at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Rev. Jim Evinger, a Presbyterian clergyman who teaches clinical nursing at the University of Rochester. Mr. Evinger assisted the Presbyterian Church USA in an independent investigation of allegation of child abuse at the Methodist-Presbyterian Hostel a year ago in Kinshasa.
It was during that investigation that information surfaced suggesting that Methodist students or personnel may have been involved in situations of abuse. The United Methodist independent panel was approved by the directors of the mission board last October.
Thirty-nine persons were nominated for service on the new panel, according to Bishop Joel N. Martinez of San Antonio, president of the board. Bishop Martinez and the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary, selected the panel members.
The first meeting of the panel was held in February, according to a report presented on April 12 to mission board directors. The independent panel will report to the directors on an annual basis.
In addition to the three members, Cecelia Long, who formerly worked with the denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, will act as a resource person to the panel and will receive all reports intended for review.
Persons who wish to convey information to the independent panel should contact Ms. Long by letter or e-mail. The addresses are:
“It is extremely important that those with any relevant information directly contact the independent panel, not staff of the General Board of Global Ministries,” said Rev. Day, the general secretary of the mission agency. “This is indeed an ‘independent panel’ panel and must be kept that way. We are extremely pleased that persons of the caliber of Bishop Meadors, Dr. Fresh, Mr. Evinger, and Ms. Long have agreed to do this sensitive and important work.”
Directors in April adopted a general child and sexual abuse policy that will guide the units of the organization in applying the declaration that “child abuse is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The policy defined “child abuse” as “the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, or exploitation, negligent treatment, or maltreatment of a child by any person.”
The policy will apply but not be limited to the “recruiting and screening of all employees and mission personnel of the General Board of Global Ministries.” Procedures are expected to be in place by March of 2006.
Date posted: Apr 19, 2005