FORT WORTH According to sexual abuse trial attorney Kimberlee Norris, child sexual abuse isn’t limited to any spiritual, ethnic, racial or socio-economic paradigm. She said, “That’s the biggest hurdle that many organizations have to get over—the idea that ‘it doesn’t happen here.’”
Norris is one of several sexual abuse litigators presenting at the Oct. 23 Sexual Abuse Summit at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Guidestone Financial and Brotherhood Mutual, among other groups, have partnered to sponsor the national summit.
“The summit is for the leadership of the church and the decision-makers,” said Karen Kennemur, SBTC children’s ministry associate. For example, the information shared is for pastors, executive pastors, business administrators, family pastors, student pastors and children’s ministers.
“Sexual abuse awareness is important in all aspects of the church” added Kennemur, who also serves as an associate professor of children’s ministry at Southwestern Seminary. “The standard of care for our children, students, families, volunteers and ministers must be outstanding. God calls us to excellence and to protect our children and youth.”
The summit will address how to respond to known sex offenders in the congregation and how to respond to present-day allegations as well as past allegations. Attorneys will also discuss changes in the reporting requirements and will suggest the tools of training needed in the local church.
In addition to Norris, other attorneys presenting include Gregory Love, who has provided counsel on sexual abuse prevention to the U.S. Olympic Committee and to Awana International, among other prominent organizations, and Robert Showers, who served in key roles in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Norris and Love co-founded MinistrySafe, an organization committed “to protect children and those who serve them.”
On their website, ministrysafe.com, Norris and Love state, “All ministries abhor child sexual abuse … and most claim to have ‘zero-tolerance’ for abuse, but there is a difference between opposition to abuse in concept and having preventative, proactive initiatives in place.”
Together, Norris and Love have more than 40 years of experience in sexual abuse litigation. They work with ministries to not only meet legal standards but also to implement preventative measures that fit the needs of ministry programs.
Affirming SBC President J.D. Greear’s call for “bold steps” to prevent sexual abuse in ministries, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “It is a call for pastors, church leaders and congregations to take seriously the risks and reality of destructive sin in our own ministries.”
Richards added: “We must all recognize and address this tragic failure on the part of some of our churches to ensure basic protection for those entrusted to our spiritual nurture. I pray and believe that we can work together to end sexual abuse in our churches.”
Cost to attend the summit is $50 for individuals and $45 per person for groups of three or more. For more information and to register, visit sexualabusesummit.com.