The Belmont GRACE Survey
This morning, I made a very important announcement (view here @ midway point). I shared how that for too long churches have been largely inept at aiding victims of sexual assault and abuse, and at providing a protective and safe environment for all its members. Certainly, these lapses were not always intentional, but the church-at-large cannot afford to hide behind excuses any longer. That is why Belmont desires to lead the way in our city, state and nation in providing a template for other churches, especially independent churches, to follow. It is time for us to set the pace and the bar high. True discipleship also means protecting our members.
For us to lead successfully we need your help. Without you we cannot know where there are gaps in our processes and heal where there may have been infractions. For this reason, I am asking you, on behalf of our College of Elders, Pastoral Leadership Team and Staff, to take an important survey now. It isn’t long and will only cost you a few minutes of your time but will go a long way in helping us be the safe-healing-center we are ordained to be.
The survey is anonymous, so there is no need to fear any of our team knowing your responses.
We have hired a third-party independent organization to administrate the survey and to aggregate responses while protecting the information of respondents. Click here to find out more and to take the survey.
Who is the Third-Party Organization?
We are launching the assessment-survey in partnership with Boz Tchividjian, grandson of the late Billy Graham, and his organization, GRACE.
GRACE is an acronym for, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.
For many years Boz worked as a Florida prosecutor helping victims of sexual crimes and abuse. He noticed that in many instances, organizations, including churches, did not come to the defense of victims. Sadder yet, in some cases organizations protected the accused. Boz shared with me that he witnessed a double abuse exacted upon victims: The initial crime and the lack of care from organizations. It was like adding insult to injury. For this reason, he launched GRACE with a qualified team of professionals.
Find out more about GRACE, here.
Why Did We Contact Grace?
A while back our pastoral leadership team began asking a few questions.
- Are there people in Belmont’s present, or past, that have been sexually abused by a member, leader or employee of Belmont? Specifically, on campus or at a church sponsored or related event?
- If there had been abuse, and it had been reported, did Belmont and its leaders do all they could to come to the defense and aid of the victim? Did they shepherd the situation(s) well?
- Is Belmont safe, compliant and doing all it could to be a place where families could come and worship in total safety?
We began asking these questions, not because we were interested in digging up dirt, but because we were shocked and dismayed at how many Christian denominations and churches had covered up abuse. News sites and outlets were reporting new scandals hourly, and we were hurt and saddened by the reports. The #metoo/#churchtoo movement went viral and many victims found their voice.
One such scandal was right in Memphis at one of Tennessee’s largest churches. An allegation twenty plus years old had emerged and the story was the same as all of the others: a victim was never protected, heard or given justice, and the abuser went on to have an illustrious career in ministry. Church polity had failed the victim.
One name kept emerging as our team did research – GRACE. Boz was often quoted in many of the articles we were reading, and we felt that we should give Boz a call and find out how they might help us become a safer church.
Our goal was simple: Make Belmont Church the safest church in Tennessee, and hopefully the nation. We wanted to be a church where the redemptive power of God was at work protecting our body, redeeming and reforming the broken, and giving no safe harbor for wolves in sheep’s clothing. We recognized we needed help, and contacted GRACE.
GRACE informed us that there was a process to employing their services which would begin with a survey. Boz reminded us that without the survey he and his team could not know how to help Belmont get safer. They needed to see if there were gaps, as well as provide a platform which would allow possible victims of abuse to anonymously report. If, during the survey, allegations came to light, then GRACE would inform Belmont, without revealing names of victims, and encourage an investigation of the allegations. The burden of releasing them to investigate would rest with our elders and the PLT. Of course, and God forbid, if any of the allegations were to come from someone presently underage, or a minor at the time of the alleged abuse, then law enforcement would be immediately contacted.
We were told by GRACE that if we chose to use their services, then they would also review the policies and procedures of every department, walk through our facilities, and report their finding to us, and lastly, provide recommendations.
How Can I Help?
In short, please take the survey and encourage your fellow Belmont members, past and present, to do the same.
While sexual abuse is a subject we may not want to talk about or address, it is a fact that one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. 82% of all victims under 18 are female. Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault (statistics provided here). We cannot allow Belmont to be a place where the horrors of sexual crimes take place. We must not fail the least and most vulnerable among us, yet we cannot do it alone – we need your help.
Additionally, if you are the parent of a minor that attends Belmont, would you please let your child take the survey? We understand if you have hesitation, but we feel it is appropriate to ask you to let your minor 12 and older take the survey assessment. If misconduct has occurred, it is critical for all ages to have redress should they want it. I have five children twelve and older that will be taking the survey. That is how much I believe in it. I know I can trust your help with this.
Lastly, let me ask you not to fall into the trap of believing that we would be better off letting sleeping dogs lie. Our team hopes that nothing amiss will come of this survey, but we also know that we have to provide a way for people who may have been abused to anonymously share their story. One victim unheard makes us all victims.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, for taking the survey and loving Belmont. If you have any questions please feel to email me, and I will be happy to try and answer any inquiry you may have.
In His love,
Paul Anthony González