Friday, March 11th, 2022
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.”
My Siblings in Christ,
The Church is called at its foundation to be the life-giving Body of Christ. A place of hope, peace, community, belonging and love. It is a place where all people should find a home and feel safe.
However, there have been instances throughout the church where those in authority have inflicted serious wounds on the body. They have perpetuated evil and have injured our siblings, including children. We have heard stories of people staying silent, looking the other way, not reporting for fear of reprisal or ostracism. This must not, this will not, happen here.
I write out of a deep sense of my calling as a bishop and to reiterate that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in our churches. We will do everything to safeguard and protect all those who enter our doors, and it takes all of us - priests, deacons, employees and laity. We must be proactive.
I have often said that following Christ with our hearts and lives is not easy. We are called to live a life like Christ. This goes beyond simple profession of faith. It requires action.
When someone who represents the Church violates trust, it is earth shattering. It breaks our sacred connection with Christ. Those painful stories can crush the soul and our faith.
Jesus does not permit us to sit on the sidelines. We cannot stand by, especially when a child of God is being harmed. By allowing evil to take root – this is sin. As Christians, we must do the right thing.
If you see something or suspect something, I beg you to come forward. We cannot look the other way because we fear being ostracized. You are called by Christ to do more, be more. Be the person who speaks up and brings a problem to the attention of someone who can take action.
The Church needs to be place of safety and trust. Our diocese is committed to ensuring that our churches are safe for our children and other vulnerable individuals. To assist you in living into this commitment, I remind you of the following: All clergy, as well as all volunteers and paid staff, are required to take Safe Church training every three years. This training teaches participants to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and the behavior of sexual perpetrators, how to respond to those signs and behaviors when they are observed, and provides screening information to help stop abuse before it happens. It is my expectation that everyone will comply with this requirement and renew their training on a regular basis.
Your diocesan staff will all be renewing their training. In addition, I recommend this training for all in church leadership positions. To sign up for Safe Church training or find out more about it, please contact Canon Betsy Ivey, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to reporting suspect abuse to the civil authorities, clergy are required to share what they know with me, even if it involves another clergy member, immediately. Likewise, if you have engaged in inappropriate or criminal conduct, you must also report it to me. This is part of your vows as leaders in the Church.
I have said many times that there will be no secrets in the church. I will not tolerate abuse of any kind in this diocese or in any of our churches; whether it is financial, physical or sexual. If you hurt a child, we will do everything to protect that child. Our commitment to Christ allows us to do no less.
Each day we face choices. Those choices form us and shape our souls. We must always choose what is right. The truth of Christ must always prevail.
The Rt. Reverend Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania