Gathered in a plenary assembly on Tuesday, June 1, the 79 delegates of the CNEF almost unanimously adopted a “Charter of commitment” in order to fight against sexual abuse.
It was at the instigation of the former president of the National Council of Evangelicals of France, Étienne Lhermenault, that the subject sexual abuse in the church was discussed at the end of 2018 during a Plenary Assembly. Questioned by "what we heard in the Catholic Church", the former president initiated a working group on this issue.
"The worst would have been just to make fun of our Catholic friends" and "the least worst would have been not to worry about it thinking that it only happens to others" declared the Director General of the CNEF, Clément Diedrichs during a video press conference. The organization, which includes 32 unions of affiliated churches, 162 works and represents 70% of evangelical places of worship in France, has chosen to commit to fight against this scourge and to offer support and recommendations.
A responsibility for “prevention” and “setting an example”
Between 2019 and 2021, the organization's legal department received eleven reports of sexual abuse. 3 cases of sexual assault committed by church leaders, as well as 8 reports made by pastors who sought legal advice after learning of situations of sexual assault.
For Marc Deroeux, vice-president of the CNEF, the organization has "a responsibility for prevention, reaction and setting an example". He insists on the application of “good practices” within the CNEF communities, so that “they remain and are places of benevolence, of welcome, places where one can feel safe”.
A “Charter of Commitment” was adopted in the Plenary Assembly on Tuesday, June 1, almost unanimously, with 78 votes for and one abstention. It stipulates in particular that the unions of churches of the evangelical organization undertake to recognize "with humility that sexual abuse has taken place and unfortunately can still take place in our churches" and details five commitments:
- implement preventive actions in the communities and associations of the CNEF
- ensure that the victims can be accompanied on the road to restoration
- report and deal with situations in accordance with the laws of our country
- ensure that ministers of religion are chosen with vigilance
- train them in their spiritual and legal responsibilities and accompany them in the exercise of their ministry
The Charter is accompanied by a 44-page guide, intended for church leaders, which offers "theological insights", "legal insights" as well as practical advice, a "set of recommendations and advice for enlightened benevolence. ". A listening service will also be set up within a few months.
Camille Westphal Perrier
Article originally published in June 2021.
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