Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Oklahoma Conference updates safe sanctuary training

5/10/2022

By Rev. Derrek Belase, Director of Connectional Ministry

In 1994, the Oklahoma Annual Conference made a significant decision when the first conference Safe Sanctuary policy was approved. It was revised and updated in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2010 and 2012, but since then, there have not been any significant changes or alterations to the policy.

In 2003, a task force developed legislation that was approved by the conference related to local churches. Expectations for local churches included a locally adopted and implemented policy for creating safe ministry environments for children, youth and vulnerable adults as well as requiring background checks on all volunteers and staff members, and filling out a yearly “Safety Audit” as a tool to measure risk factors in a church and serve as a guide for the development of a policy and procedures.

In the beginning, background checks were conducted by conference staff members using paper forms, which were not secure. In 2011, the conference retained a new company for background checks, removing billing issues and enabling a paperless process.

Minimum requirements for local church Safe Sanctuary policies include the following:

  • Applies to all paid and volunteer staff who work with children, youth, and vulnerable adults;
  • Require a screening process for workers with children, youth, and vulnerable adults;
  • Include aspects of training, supervision, and support of workers with children, youth, and vulnerable adults;
  • Provide information and/or training on safety issues for the entire congregation;
  • Specify procedures for reporting and responding to incidents of abuse or injury;
  • Include a comprehensive assessment of safety in the ministry of the local church.

Earlier this year and as a response to the potential settlement regarding the Boy Scouts of America lawsuit, conference leadership appointed a taskforce to review our Safe Sanctuary policies at all levels, and to make a full report at the October called session of the annual conference. Rev. Eva Marie Campbell is chairing the taskforce which is made up of lay and clergy from each district of the conference.

In addition to that work, the conference has moved to a new training and background check platformed called Ministry Safe. The training portion of this is available to all local churches free of charge. As of April 1, 2022, all conference ministries will begin using the same platform for our background checks. Local churches are encouraged to switch to this provider as well.

More information about this can be found at the conference website. We will be providing technical assistant for Trak-1/People First, the former background check company, through December 31, 2022.

As Bishop Nunn wrote, “Ministry Safe, along with timely background checks, ensure that those vulnerable persons placed in our care encounter our Wesley traditions in a protected space.”

With spring upon us and as churches begin planning for summer programs like camps and Vacation Bible School, this is an appropriate time to review your church’s policies and to become familiar with Ministry Safe.

If we can answer any questions for you, please be in touch with Adriana Trejo (atrejo@okumc.org; 405-530-2036). If you need assistance in setting up your church’s account, there is a great tutorial video found here.

 

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