Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I write on a matter that will not be new to any of you, but about which I feel some urgency. We have a duty as Christian ministers to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in our congregations. To that end, every person in the Diocese of Bethlehem who works with children must receive the necessary training and certifications specified in the policies of the diocese, the canons of the church and the laws of the state. If, by some misguided chance, you regard this requirement as a box to be checked, or a bureaucratic infringement on your ministry, let me assure you that I do not.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has instituted new requirements for the clearances necessary for employees and volunteers who work with or come into contact with children. Under the new law employees and volunteers are considered mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. You were notified of these changes in June and the new state requirements are spelled out in detail on our website.
Clergy and employees must come into compliance with these requirements by December 31, 2015. Clearances need to be renewed every 60 months. Congregations are required to see original documentation and maintain records of their volunteers’ and lay employees’ compliance with these guidelines.
Clergy and lay people who work with children also are required to complete the Safeguarding God’s Children training program offered by the Church Pension Group. Those who need to receive this training may register by following a link at the bottom of the Safe Church page on the diocesan website, where you can also find diocesan policies and a field guide to their application.
I urge anyone who is not in compliance with diocesan policy and state law, or who supervises anyone who is not in compliance, to make immediate arrangements for the necessary training and certifications. As ministers of the gospel, we must take every measure possible to safeguard God’s children.
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe