Faith Institutions have had significant well-documented and very public moral failings in recent years, especially due to protecting high profile Christian leaders. These are not only 'failures', they are actual sins committed against vulnerable individuals... and they are sins that have damaging impact on far too many. This has also done damage to the reputation of Christ and to church credibility. Tragically, this has also derailed many earnest Christ-followers who are rightly and deeply grieved by overt hypocrisy and abuse.
Because of this reality, Vineyard Columbus has gone to great lengths in recent years to build systems and processes to protect and respond to potential victims. In this current matter, it was due to the discernment by one of our pastors who heard indications of a potential concern who ultimately alerted leadership and initiated our investigative processes. After reviewing the matter, we jointly invited the volunteer and pastor to engage with us in a third-party process to investigate the report and evaluate if the incident was possibly larger than first reported.
In summary, after 8 months of review, dozens of interviews by experts who review and assess misconduct in Christian organizations - the report's findings were inconclusive and did not extend beyond the single incident of a disputed complaint of verbal harassment. It’s important to clarify, no physical harassment was ever mentioned, implied, nor discovered.
An inconclusive report leaves us in a difficult tension between two important principles: First, we believe reporting victims and choose to respond as if the report is accurate. Second, we value robust processes and due diligence. In this case of an accusation that is verbal in nature, and without prior history, the inability of an independent third party to confirm misconduct has informed our response(s) and how we are navigating these tensions.
At the same time, while the VC Pastor consistently disputed the specific allegation, the pastor fully took responsibility and ownership for several significant contributing factors: lack of professionalism including not following church policy when traveling, not immediately self-reporting nor removing themselves from a situation where he was inadvertently alone with another individual while traveling, and consuming alcohol.
Vineyard Columbus has four stages of engagement in this situation: development, discipline, dismissal, or disqualification. Upon review of the report’s findings and its recommendations, our advisory group has concluded that the report does not disqualify the staff member involved from pastoral ministry at Vineyard Columbus. Upon the completion of an intensive review, the third party makes no such recommendation in their report. Our staff member does remain on a long-term corrective action plan that is significant and consequential.