Safety and Care
This Safety and Care page is designed to express our care here in Risen Hope Church. It contains information and protection for members of our church who are in crisis. It also establishes Links of Accountability for Risen Hope pastors and members, should people ever think that we have seriously drifted doctrinally, or have seriously (or criminally) mishandled pastoral care situations, or have been guilty of scandalous sins.
Abuse Hotlines and Reporting Information
- For immediate help for those who have been abused call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE. People may also click here for further assistance (recommended by Ministry Safe, a child safety organization which our church utilizes).
- To report any abuse or suspicion of abuse, immediately contact Child-line at 1-800-932-0313. Mandated reporters can report at this site.
- A mandated reporter is anyone required by law to report suspected child abuse. Please click here to learn who are mandated reporters. Anyone may report suspected child abuse, but minimally, anyone who volunteers in children’s ministry, who serves as a pastor or on staff in the church, and who has regular responsibility for a child must report suspected abuse.
RHC Child Safety Policies and Procedures
Ministry Safe Child Care and Programs
Risen Hope offers children’s ministry during worship for children from 12 months old through 6th grade. All children’s workers (both during large events and in our home-based Community Group meetings) must complete the requirements for working with children in full compliance with PA law, and fulfill the training we offer through the child-protection organization, Ministry Safe. In addition, no access into our children’s ministry area during RHC events is permitted by anyone who is not a parent and/or a fully background checked individual, with Children’s Ministry clearance.
Click here for more info about Ministry Safe.
A Word to Parents
As should be apparent in this world, parents are encouraged to watch over their children carefully when in any public settings, including church. We recommend that parents not allow their children to roam (or run) through the church building or outside without supervision when church events are going on. While we try to provide a safe context for our children and families, it is important that parents take primary care and responsibility for their children.
Risen Hope Church’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Child and Sexual Abuse
(Please note: some who have endured the trauma of abuse prefer the term “victim” while others prefer the term “survivor.” In this statement we will use both terms to honor all.)
The Bible emphasizes that we should protect vulnerable people from evil ones who abuse their power. This means that there are some things that can be said, and other things that must be done, to protect actual and alleged victims who are entrusted to our care; before, during, and long after due process for anyone accused is completed.
Given the Bible’s teaching about the dignity of every man, woman, boy, and girl—in that each is made in the image of God—we affirm that any harassment or abuse of any kind (whether sexual or physical or verbal) is a great evil against another human being, and a great affront against God’s image with which every person is endowed.
We also affirm our love for, and desire to protect, any alleged and/or actual survivors of physical abuse and/or sexually harassing or predatory behavior. While God’s Holy Law forbids us to treat the accused as if guilty before due legal process proves him or her so, it also expects us to take the accusing alleged victim seriously, to treat him or her with dignity, and to secure the accuser’s safety even while due process is pursued. This means that we must commit to real and substantive actions to care for the accuser until that process is complete, and beyond.
We want to reassure every one of our members by stating our ongoing commitment to the following actions. We will continue:
- To answer the call as church elders to defend and protect to the best of our ability, those who are vulnerable and/or abused.
- To train our members, including all our pastoral staff and children’s workers and volunteers, to be equipped in child protection measures in accordance with the child safety organization, Ministry Safe.
- To apply the aggressive child protection policies and measures that are legally and denominationally required, and pastorally important.
- To invite all victims/survivors of abuse to report any abuse to us with the promise that we will take every allegation seriously.
- To report every allegation of physical or sexual child abuse to civil authorities so that each might be investigated thoroughly and impartially by God-ordained authorities. We will choose to do this even when the law does not require it.
- To take actions to ensure the immediate protection of anyone who is in fear for her or his safety.
- To cultivate a church environment where those vulnerable to abuse or survivors of it, feel safe from predatory or abusive persons. We also will pursue a culture in which potential and actual perpetrators know that they will not be sheltered or free to prey.
- To counsel survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse to take meaningful steps to ensure their long-term safety, including: PFAs (Protection From Abuse/restraining orders), elder-endorsed separation, and whatever other actions are needed to protect them and/or their children from their abuser(s).
- To provide sexual abuse survivors with ongoing spiritual care and fellowship as we are able.
- To hold RHC members spiritually accountable for sexual harassment and/or abuse, by subjecting them to church discipline and removal from church membership if unrepentant.
- To remind the members of RHC periodically of our commitment to these matters.
- To submit (as pastors) to Regional and National Sovereign Grace Churches processes of judicial review should any allegations of abuse or of mismanagement of abuse situations be raised against us (see under Church-Pastoral Links of Accountability). We will inform our RHC members of their recourse to the Regional Judicial Review Committee members and other regional leaders.
- To continue conversations with members of our church, including some past or present victim-survivors who wish to be a part of that conversation, in order to learn how to better care for survivors of abuse.
- We will remain in full agreement and compliance with the excellent and affirming Sovereign Grace Churches’ Child Abuse Statement, found here.
Whenever any child abuse, suspicion of abuse, or accusation of abuse occurs, our first action will be to report to civil authorities, whose responsibility it is to pursue every legal means to discover the truth and, where applicable, enforce justice. Next, we will take immediate action to provide protection for anyone accusing another of abuse.
While we will protect the accuser with all due diligence and care, we must also ensure that the accused receives due process and is assumed innocent until proven otherwise. Such due process, as taught in Sacred Scripture and applied in our Sovereign Grace Churches’ Book of Church Order (BCO), will be pursued as expeditiously as possible.
We earnestly desire that alleged abuse and/or criminal mismanagement of abuse situations be investigated by both civil and, where applicable, church authorities, and that if any criminal acts have been committed, the guilty be exposed and face justice.
Church and Pastoral Accountability
Our Sovereign Grace Churches Accountability and Partnership
Risen Hope Church—in compliance with biblical principles of multi-church partnership, accountability, and care—has been a part of Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) from the start. As it says in our Sovereign Grace Churches Book of Church Order, Section 1.5 and 1.6: “Christ is the head of one body, the church universal, consisting of the elect saints of all ages who share the one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all…Moreover, no local church is omni-competent or self-sufficient to carry out the mission which Christ has entrusted to the entire church (Matthew 28:19, 20). Each local body stands in need of other local bodies in a relationship of interdependence.”
At Risen Hope Church, we express our spiritual unity in Christ and our interdependence with other local bodies as a partner church within the denomination of SGC. Our denomination has long committed to gospel mission, pastoral care, and the love and protection of children. Partnership is vital to our health and mission. We are stronger together than we are separate. Through partnership in SGC, we benefit from the gifts and wisdom of others, we do more to advance the kingdom of God, and we are held to a higher level of accountability.
Scripture commands pastors to keep a close watch on their life and teaching (1 Timothy 4:16). We need and eagerly desire the accountability provided within our denomination. In our partnership there are three levels of governing bodies which provide accountability for elders:
- Local Eldership
- Regional Assembly of Elders (RAE)
- Council of Elders (CoE).
Pastors in SGC are accountable to their local eldership and congregation members. In addition, pastors are held accountable within SGC through the Regional Judicial Review Committee (of the RAE) and the SGC Court of Appeal (of the CoE). SGC has the authority to remove a pastor’s ordination and discipline a pastor for teaching heresy or for gross or scandalous sins.
Congregational Recourse and Appeal
Our Book of Church Order (BCO) guarantees that members of RHC have recourse and appeal, should they believe RHC pastors are failing to serve or lead according to godliness or truth. The BCO may be found here.
Qualified witnesses (see BCO Section 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124) who are members of a SGC church may bring charges or an appeal in writing (BCO Section 24.2.5) related to:
- Alleged scandalous sin (BCO Section 24.1)
- Alleged theological heterodoxy (BCO Section 126.96.36.199)
- Alleged pastoral “deficiencies” (BCO Section 24.13.1)
- Alleged mismanagement of abuse situations/church discipline/excommunication (BCO Section 23.2.2-4)
- Alleged criminal offense or charges (BCO Section 188.8.131.52)
Qualified non-members may also bring evidence of alleged criminal or scandalous sin (BCO Section 184.108.40.206).
Sovereign Grace Response Committee for Sexual Misconduct
According to the Book of Church Order, 2020 edition, Sovereign Grace Churches defines sexual misconduct as inappropriate behavior relating to or involving a sexual nature. For the purposes of SGC’s policy, it is to be broadly defined to include behaviors such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and child sexual abuse. The BCO announces the formation of a new committee to address child sexual abuse along with other sexual wrongs. It states, “The Sovereign Grace Response Committee for Sexual Misconduct will be established (1) to ensure that sexual misconduct accusations are reported to civil authorities as appropriate; (2) to help local churches ensure that victims of sexual misconduct are protected, cared for, and supported; (3) to ensure due process is followed for local churches and elders within Sovereign Grace Churches in compliance with the Book of Church Order; (4) to provide resources to local churches and victims of sexual misconduct.
In the event that anyone has evidence of scandalous sin, serious error, or grievous pastoral deficiencies in an elder, he or she is encouraged to read relevant parts of the BCO, Section 24. Should it be necessary to proceed, he or she may contact any of the following:
- The other elders in the accused elder’s church (unless all the elders in the church are accused, in which case one of the following people may be contacted.)
- Rob Flood (Chairman of the Regional Judicial Review Committee): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jared Mellinger (Northeast Regional Leader): email@example.com
Sovereign Grace Churches Statements
SGC Statements and Responses to Allegations
You will find below a series of links that connect to statements made by our denomination, Sovereign Grace Churches. These statements are in response to allegations about how a few past situations of abuse were handled. It should be stated that no SGC pastor has ever been charged with abuse or with cover-up of abuse. However, this does not mean that no mistakes have ever been made. SGC leaders have admitted that they have. And for this, SGC pastors grieve deeply. It is in response to these mistakes and to other serious but unsubstantiated allegations that the following SGC statements have been issued.
Please note: these SGC statements are primarily in response to public but unproven allegations. Thus, their content needs to be factual and precise. Sadly, factual and precise language often cannot include the tone of care and compassion that is in our hearts. While these statements include repeated sorrowful acknowledgments that some mistakes were made, as well as expressions of care for survivors, they do not fully express the proven heart that SGC pastors have to care for and protect those who have survived the trauma of abuse. A long history demonstrates that SGC pastors and churches care deeply, even if some of our public statements have not fully expressed it.
For this reason, we introduce the following SGC Statements with a Risen Hope Church Word of Sorrow. By including this Risen Hope Word of Sorrow, we do not mean to imply that other SG churches don’t also feel this sorrow. We believe they do. But we do hope that the content of our website Safety and Care page, together with this Word of Sorrow, will assure any who attend Risen Hope and are traumatized by abuse, of our love and care. Once again, if you have any questions or concerns at all, please feel free to contact the pastors. We will be eager to serve you any way we can.
RHC Word of Sorrow
We live in a time of heightened awareness of child safety and long-overdue cultural sensitivity to survivors of abuse and assault. Risen Hope Church has an ongoing commitment to child safety, and to the protection and care of past and present survivors of abuse. The roots of our concern run deep, as there is a long record of care learned from Scripture, represented in our denominational and congregational DNA, and expressed, however imperfectly, through our church policies and long-standing pastoral practices.
The great majority of society including individual Christians, local churches, and pastoral leaders have not always known how best to serve survivors of abuse. Only recently has our society begun to understand more fully the dynamics and effects of abuse, and the predatory patterns of perpetrators. To be specific, this means that neighbors, friends, parents, community leaders, politicians, corporate and institutional boards, pastors, churches, clubs, and individuals at every societal level have all become increasingly aware of past mistakes, while learning how to provide better care and protection today.
It is sad, but true, that pastors and churches have not always handled such heart-wrenching trials with adequate wisdom. While no SGC pastor has ever been convicted—or even charged—with sexual abuse or cover-up, SG leadership admits that in various ways and times some churches have not served some survivors adequately in their ongoing struggle for healing.
If you or anyone you know is aware of serious mishandling of abuse situations, please know that we want to hear from you so that we might process your concerns with respect and care. SGC has tried to create very safe paths for that to happen. If you feel that your cause has not been heard, if you feel as if you have not been protected or cared for, or if you believe that grave injustice has been committed, we are sorry for any true failure of wisdom or care or protection that you may have experienced.
And please make sure that your cause is heard now. It isn’t too late for you to be heard. It is not too late—no matter how far in the past it may be—for any abuse in any of our churches to be reported. It is not too late for our churches and pastors to learn and to grow. And if any sinful failures have happened, it is not too late for confession and healing to happen.
Once again, we have tried to create safe paths for all this to happen. You have recourse, as you can see in the Church-Pastoral Accountability above and in the statements and documents below. Please know that we want to hear from you, if God gives you faith and courage to let us know.
The Pastors of Risen Hope Church
General Statements about the SGC Abuse-Related Allegations
Please see this page for additional statements from Sovereign Grace Churches.