(This is the announcement I gave in our worship services at Newberg Friends on August 2, 2015)
We felt the need today to take some time in our worship service to talk and pray about a situation that is likely on many of your minds.
This week, an article in the Newberg Graphic reported on a lawsuit filed July 17 against the Northwest Yearly Meeting, our Newberg Friends Church, and others. The allegations in the lawsuit involve Bruce Bishop, a former employee of Northwest Yearly Meeting, who is alleged to have abused a minor more than 20 years ago.
There are many natural responses you may have to this information. Shock. Sadness. Questions. Concern. Anger. Fear. Grief. For myself, it’s heart breaking to be named as a defendant in a lawsuit like this. We don’t yet know why we are named.
Being a pastor, I’ve walked with many victims of abuse, crying with them and longing for God’s healing work in their lives. I know for some of you, just reading the story probably brought up past pain, and I grieve with you for the hurts this world can bring.
My concern and my heart goes with this person who has stated that he is a victim of abuse. My concern and heart goes with all who have been victims at some point in their lives. Since I found out about the suit, I’ve been praying daily for those who have had old pain resurface.
These allegations from decades ago may raise questions about our care for children and youth in our current ministries.
We have worked hard to make NFC a safe place for your children and youth to learn about and receive God’s love. In 1994, I wrote our first policy for preventing abuse in our church, setting guidelines to never allow an adult to be alone with a child. Others kept revising that work until 2005, when Lecia Retter and Josh Reid put in place additional safeguards, requiring each volunteer with children and youth to fill out a history and go through a background check.
We want to be safe and transparent, and we always welcome comments about how we can improve our procedures. We are committed to the safety of children and youth taking priority over any other concerns.
Our current Youth Superintendent, Rachelle Staley, is also a member of our church. She’s been an amazing resource for me and a powerful advocate for safety policies for youth and children throughout our Yearly Meeting since she began serving as Youth Superintendent in 2008. She has my full support and I am so proud of the work she has done in our Yearly Meeting to make it as safe as possible.
We want to spend some time in corporate prayer.
Whether silent or out loud, there is so much to be praying for: healing and justice for all victims; safety and peace as we move forward; and for wisdom.
Let’s pray together.