Reprinted from last week's @First, the FPC e-newsletter:
Last Sunday in worship, Kathie read the story of God’s call to Samuel to be a prophet. Samuel was a little boy apprenticed to the priest Eli. One night Samuel kept hearing someone call his name. He assumed it was Eli, but it wasn’t. Eli figured out that God was speaking to the boy. He told Samuel what to say the next time he heard his name called: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel did just that, and he received his first prophecy from the Lord.
It’s a charming story about how we need mentors to teach us to hear God’s word. But the story has an edge to it. God called Samuel to tell his mentor that he’d been fired. Eli and his sons were guilty of financial and sexual misconduct. Their sins has finally brought down God’s judgment upon them.
It seems that every week brings a new story of clergy sexual abuse or embezzlement in a congregation or charity. The call of Samuel indicates that such sins are longstanding problems, but that doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to them. First Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have policies in place to prevent these types of transgressions from occurring:
• All FPC staff members, including ordained staff, are required to pass criminal background checks before they are hired. Key volunteers, such as lay leaders who transport or chaperone children and youth, also have to pass background checks.
• Ordained ministers in Missouri Union Presbytery must complete Boundary Training every three years in order to remain in good standing. This training teaches clergy how to teach and care for members of their congregations in an appropriate manner.
• Each year, an outside accounting firm conducts a full review of FPC’s financial records. The results are reported to the Session.
There are other policies and procedures in place as well. Of course it takes more than policies to restrain vice and promote virtue. It takes people who say Yes to Christ’s call to repent, believe the gospel, and lead holy and joyful lives, relying on God’s grace. Your church has good people and good procedures. We want to earn and maintain your trust.