Stewardship comes in many forms. Stewardship can be how we care for our church facilities; it can involve giving campaigns and practices. Stewardship can also include making sure our churches and church events are safe places for all people. Stewardship is being a good manager of the tangible things that God entrusts to us, like buildings and equipment and the intangible things that God entrusts to us, like the spirits of our congregants and visitors, the faith of our children and youth. I want to talk to you about a difficult topic, but a topic that is part of our stewardship – stopping criminal conduct in our churches.

While we hope all who volunteer and lead our churches are living the integrity of Christ, sometimes they don’t. Clergy sex abuse scandals have rocked the Roman Catholic Church and now the Southern Baptist Church. These kinds of crimes not only dishonor God, but they do lasting damage to those whom God loves and diminishs the entire church’s witness to Christ. Part of our stewardship is doing everything we can to address and stop criminal activity that is perpetrated by leaders and staff in our churches. While we think these kinds of things don’t occur in our churches, they do. Earlier this year, I wrote about fraud in the church https://dscumc.org/2019/01/fraud-in-the-church/. According to Church Mutual Insurance, one third of all congregations will experience a theft each year. The average fraud is over $120,000. Stopping fraud means greater resources for mission and ministry. Stopping sexual abuse is our moral duty.

The Desert Southwest Conference has set up an anonymous hotline for reporting criminal activities such as financial fraud or sexual abuse in our churches. The 24-hour hotline is available at 1-855-FRAUD-HL or reports can be submitted online at www.FRAUDHL.com. The company ID DSCUMC is required when you make a report as well as the church’s name or pastor’s name and city/state. These confidential reports will be sent to the Bishop and District Superintendents, who will investigate them.

We ask your help in getting this hotline information to your church’s congregation. Over this next month, we’ll be adding it to our DSC communications and we ask you publicize it in church communications, websites, etc. Each church will receive custom magnets with the hotline information. Please post the magnets and the poster (available for downloading, https://dscumc.org/hotline-reporting/) in highly visible places in your church. You are welcome to reprint this article in your church newsletters. Please stress to your congregation that this hotline is for criminal activity only, it is not for disagreements with the pastor or other non-criminal conflicts. As always, a person may also contact their pastor or district superintendent directly with any concern. We are committed to being good stewards of the gifts and people God has entrusted to our churches. If you see something, please say something.

In Christ’s service,

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