Why do policies matter? The Committee on General Assembly Procedures of the 222nd General Assembly (2016)heard Tuesday exactly how devastating a lack of safeguards can be on the lives of children, youth and vulnerable adults.
Kris Schondelmeyer, a Presbyterian pastor of a congregation in Toledo, Ohio, shared his harrowing story as a survivor of sexual abuse in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Schondelmeyer recounted how he was sexually assaulted by a Presbyterian pastor who was a chaperone a ta denominational youth conference.
Schondelmeyer was speaking as part of the committee’s consideration of the PC(USA)’s “Child/Youth/Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and Its Procedures” as the assembly’s child-protection policy mandated in the Book of Order.
“Multiple leaders at the session and presbytery level knew that the pastor that abused me had previously been arrested, convicted and served prison time for federal child pornography charges in the early 90s,” Schondelmeyer told the committee. Even though people tried to convince the executive presbyter that he should bar the pastor from further contact with youths, the official concealed the pastor’s history, he said.
“He thought he was giving [the pastor] a ‘second chance,’ but I don’t get a second chance to choose whether or not to go into that dorm room, as I did that night he sexually assaulted me,” Schondelmeyer said.
He explained that his choice to come forward and speak out is not about vengeance. “It’s about doing everything we can to protect other children – your children and grandchildren, my child. The children and youth of our church deserve nothing less than our best.”
Following Schondelmeyer’s testimony, PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said: “Kris’s story should never have happened. The church owes Kris an apology, and a policy that would prevent this from ever happening again.”
The committee then unanimously approved the policy.
In other actions, the committee decided to refer to Committee on the Office of the General Assembly several overtures seeking to update the categories by which people identify their ethnicity on church forms, while committing itself to implementing more diversity by the 223rd General Assembly in 2018.
The committee also referred to COGA instructions to develop a process to ensure that multiple viewpoints are shared in deliberations on overtures.
The committee also:
- Approved benchmarks in the employment of women and persons from minoritized racial groups for the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
- Adopted a standard definition of supplier diversity.
- Disapproved an overture that would have suspended consideration of an overture with constitutional implications until the Advisory Committee on the Constitution had rendered advice.
- Approved minutes of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Historical Society.