Sagemont Church's Response to Houston Chronicle Reports of Abuse in Southern Baptist Churches
Sexual deviance in American society is said to be epidemic. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. And in eight out of ten cases of rape, the victim knows the perpetrator. The report also notes that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Statistics reveal that 60,000 children will be victims of “substantiated or indicated” sexual abuse every year in the United States. The numbers are horrific and yet, we should not be surprised since many websites report that eight out of ten men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography on the internet monthly. And, that Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average. Patrick Means, author of “Men’s Secret Wars,” revealed that 63% of pastors confirmed that they struggle with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion.
It is heartbreaking and humbling to know that even within the ranks of Southern Baptists, there have been cases of exploitation. A recently released series of articles in the Houston Chronicle shed light on the scope of these scandals. At Sagemont, we “weep with those who weep” in all instances of abuse. We are reminded in the scripture that Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me” (Matthew 19:14). He also warned in the strongest terms about offending those who are vulnerable: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy mill stone be hung around his neck and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
We take seriously our responsibility to protect those within our care. Our policies, which have been in place for a number of years, are designed to protect your children, birth–18 years.
Some of the policies include:
Sound and Safe (two-hour video seminar) – All Sagemont staff members are required to view a video seminar created by professional counselor, Mike Schumacher, outlining the scope of the problem and designed to help identify and prevent abuse and neglect.
Background Check and References – Prior to hiring or enlistment, background checks are performed on all prospective staff members and all adult volunteers working with children. Additionally, staff and volunteers agree to have this background check repeated on a regular basis. References are required for all prospective staff members.
Vetting Volunteers– All volunteers working with children are thoroughly vetted by Sagemont Staff and are “known individuals” in our church ministries.
Security Cameras – An extensive network of security cameras is in use throughout our facilities. All of the classrooms in our Children’s Building (ages birth–fifth grade) have security cameras.
Classrooms – All classrooms are staffed with a minimum of two adults, and all Children’s Ministry classroom doors have windows. All preschool classrooms have a privacy area where parents can watch their children through a one-way mirror.
Security Teams – Sagemont has three tiers of security present on Sunday mornings—paid professional police officers, paid security personnel, and Sagemont ERT (Emergency Response Team) consisting of trained Sagemont volunteers. Paid security personnel are on our campus 24/7, 365 days a year.
Local Authorities – Sagemont is a mandatory reporter and, as such, is required to report any case of abuse and/or neglect to local authorities. Our Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry staff members receive training and are aware of our mandatory reporting status.
The recent revelations in the Houston Chronicle have saddened our hearts and strengthened our resolve to protect every individual that participates in any activity that we sponsor. Here are some additional measures that we will be looking at:
- We will review our Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual and make any appropriate changes.
- We will review our Abuse and Neglect Policies and make appropriate changes.
- We will provide additional ongoing training to our staff to help identify and prevent abuse and neglect.
- We will cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention to effect positive changes to protect the vulnerable.
For the last 53 years, God has faithfully watched over our congregation. We have always, in the past, taken the responsibility of protecting the flock very seriously. It is sad and heartbreaking to know the extent of sexual deviance that is taking place in these United States. We must all take seriously the responsibility to “guard the flock.” Certainly, there are “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” even in the church. Pray for us as we explore the ways and means to create an even safer environment for the future. If you have any input or insight that you would like to share, please give me a call.
God bless you, brothers and sisters,
Chuck Schneider, Executive Pastor