I belong to a Methodist church in Bowie. I go to a Methodist church because I want to go to a protestant church and I am too liberal to go to a Baptist church. There are very few religious choices around so I’m limited in where I can attend.
I am not Methodist; I am not Baptist; I am not Christian Reformed (the religion I was raised in). I am, however, a Christian.
Currently, the Methodist church is proposing that we check new members out on the Sex Offender Registry for Maryland. Really. At what point do we check them out? When they’ve come twice to services? Five times? Ten times? If they want to join, are we going to run a background check before they do? I don’t think so.
This is just ludicrous.
First, as a United Methodist member in the California-Nevada Conference, I am appalled. This does however sound consistent with other things my daughter-in-law reports from her UMC in Glen Burnie. It may also reflect incomplete and or inaccurate information. As a former district lay leader and current staff parish chair I am aware that there has been movement for some time toward doing background checks on church employees and even long-term volunteers in connection with safe sanctuary policies. Our conference insurance agency is in the process of requiring background checks on employees, which has to do with liability issues for the church. When the safe sanctuary policies (aimed at children’s sexual safety) were being developed here, individually by each church following guidelines, there was a great deal of over-reaction due to only partial understanding – reactions such as yours, and frankly mine – and overly stringent interpretations of what practices ought to be followed or required. A level of sanity has followed here, hopefully it will there as well. I would be happy to continue the conversation or answer questions “off-line.”
The Glen Burnie church is in the same conference as I am so it is no wonder that your daughter-in-law’s church is telling you the same thing.
I’m the SPRC’s rep for safe sanctuary so I know what the guidelines are for volunteers but this policy implies that it is for everyone who walks through the doors– that’s not right. Eventually, those who need to walk through the doors the most, will stop walking through the doors if we run background checks on them just because they are attending church where children are also attending.
The SPRC chair and I agree that this is over-stepping our bounds and the minister is bringing it back to her supervisor so we have time to get it modified before it goes into effect at the charge conference in October.
Thanks for your insight and feedback!