Safe Church


Safe Church Certification is now hosted by Praesidium Academy. If you have used Praesidium in the past for your certification, you still have an account. If you are unsure, you can try to log in using the email you believe you last used and reset your password. If you continue to have trouble, email Emma Helms-Steinmetz to troubleshoot.

Please follow the step by step guide to begin creating your account.

Each parish has a registration code which is used to help track certifications, and also to make sure the necessary courses are available based on how you are registered. Please look at the this registration code document, or email your parish administrator for Safe Church.

Please review the recommended courses from The Episcopal Church to know which courses are required for certification based on your position within your parish.


The Diocese of Southern Ohio’s Safe Church Education and Training Policy

The purpose and intent of this policy is to safeguard employees, children, and others where possible from sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.  The policy is not meant to define an all-inclusive theology of sexual behavior. The Episcopal Church’s teaching on sexuality is based on Biblical principles and the resolutions of General Convention.  The Policy and Procedures that follows focus on the behavior of employed and volunteer personnel in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.  This Policy defines basic terms in order prohibit sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse; as well as retaliation for bringing complaints or participating in the complaint process within the setting of the church and its ministries and sets forth a process for receiving such complaints and resolving them.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio has approved this updated and revised policy at their meeting on April 26, 2018. It is the expectation that this policy be followed by all Vestries and other Governing Boards; and be studied on an ongoing basis.

Children and youth
  • A child is defined as anyone under the age of 12 years.
  • A youth is defined as anyone who is at least 12 years old, but not yet 18 years old.
Church Personnel

For the purposes of this policy, the following are included, but not limited in the definition of Church Personnel when they are functioning in their respective roles for or on behalf of the Episcopal Church:

  • All clergy whether stipendiary or non-stipendiary
  • All paid personnel whether employed in areas of ministry or other kinds of services by the Diocese, its congregations, schools or other agencies, such as camps, and conference centers
  • Those individuals who contract their services to the Diocese, its congregations, schools or other agencies on any on-going or regular basis
  • Volunteers, may also be considered Church Personnel and covered by these Policies & Procedures by the nature of certain roles and context of ministry as covered in the “Safeguards for Prevention of Sexual Misconduct” specified herein.  Volunteers may include members of Advisory Boards, Vestries, Bishop’s Committees, Trustees, Boards of Directors, etc.
Clergy, Lay-Professional, Licensed and/or Other Personnel Working With/Around Children and/or Youth
  • All clergy whether stipendiary or non-stipendiary who engage in ministry service
  • All paid employees
  • All volunteer Church Personnel whose work takes children/youth throughout the facility and/or assists with children/youth programs who have keys, giving them access to the buildings and grounds
  • All wardens
  • All persons who supervise or assist with supervising children or youth, other than church school teachers, in ministries, programs or activities more often than occasionally
  • All duly-appointed and licensed lay persons, whether as an employee or volunteer, who is authorized to provide ministry on behalf of the Church (other than distribution of the Bread and Wine by a lay person at a public service of Holy Communion), such as Stephen Ministers, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, etc.
  • Children’s or youth choir directors, organists and other musicians who work with children or youth in any regular capacity; other than a single service as a guest musician (with no individual instruction)
  • Lay youth ministers and/or Directors
  • All Church Personnel who work or assist in the nursery more than four times a year or who work in the nursery if they are the only person over 18 present at any time
  • All staff, whether volunteer or paid, at church camps
  • Church School teachers
  • All persons who provide transportation to children or youth without other adults in the vehicle more often than occasionally
  • Adult participants in overnight events with children/youth more than two times a year

Abuse refers to acts of mistreatment of anyone under the age of 18 (or mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, or physically impaired person under age 21) such as:

  • Physical abuse is non-accidental injury, which is intentionally inflicted upon an individual.
  • Sexual abuse by an adult is any contact or activity of a sexual nature that occurs between a child or youth and an adult.  This includes any activity, which is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the adult, child or youth.
  • Sexual abuse perpetrated by another child or youth is any contact or activity of a sexual nature that occurs between a child or youth and another child or youth when there is no consent, when consent is not possible, or when one of them has power over the other. This includes any activity, which is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any of the children or youth.
  • Emotional abuse includes mental or emotional injury to any child, youth or adult that results in an observable and material impairment in the individual growth, development or psychological functioning, or that impedes an adult’s ability to function.
  • Neglect is the failure to provide for a child or youth’s basic needs or the failure to protect a child or youth from harm as specified by law.
  • Economic exploitation is the deliberate misplacement, exploitation, or wrongful temporary or permanent use of a child or youth’s belongings or money.
Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, meaning unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors and other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct or communication is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of the individual’s employment; or,
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or,
  • Such conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment or unreasonably creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive Work environment.

Examples of unwelcome sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Threatening adverse employment actions if sexual favors are not granted;
  • Promising preferential treatment in return for sexual favors;
  • Unwanted physical contact;
  • Sexually offensive remarks, including the following kinds of prohibited behavior:
    • Verbal: sexual advances or propositions or threats; continuing to express interest after being informed the interest is unwelcome; sexual innuendoes; suggestive or insulting comments or sounds; sexual jokes or teasing of a sexual nature; commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; and any other abuse of a sexual nature.
    • Visual: display of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or letters; leering; obscene gestures; sexually suggestive or offensive graffiti.
    • Physical: unwanted physical contact, including offensive touching, pinching, brushing the body, intentionally impeding or blocking movement for sexual gratification; unwanted sexual intercourse or other unwanted sexual acts; sexual assault or battery.
Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is the development or attempted development of a sexual relationship between a person in any ministerial position, lay or ordained, and an individual with whom he or she has a Pastoral Relationship.

For the purposes of this policy, a Pastoral Relationship can include but is not limited to:

  • A clergy person and any person who attends a congregation or other ministry setting in which the clergy person serves; or
  • Someone who seeks direct ministry from the clergy person.

A Pastoral Relationship can also exist between any clergy person or duly-appointed lay person, whether as an employee or volunteer, who is authorized to provide and does provide such ministry, including but not limited to:

  • Counseling
  • Pastoral care
  • Spiritual direction or intentional spiritual guidance
  • Ministration of any Sacrament (other than distribution of Communion by a lay person at a public service of Holy Communion)
  • Life/leadership/peer coaching
  • Hearing a person’s confession, in the course of the duly-authorized ministry
  • Other ministers licensed under Canon III.4: Pastoral Leaders, Worship Leaders, Preachers, Eucharistic Visitors, and Catechists and those they serve in the course of these ministries.

Working to keep all our ministries safe for all people, the Policy of the Diocese of Southern Ohio emphasizes a comprehensive approach commending the following areas:

  • Screening and Selection of individuals
  • Education and Training
  • Monitoring and Supervision; as well as
  • General Conduct of church personnel
Screening and Selection
  • It is strongly suggested that Church Personnel who Regularly Work With or Around Children or Youth (as described above)should be screened and selected utilizing at least the following:
    • Survey–A standardized application or Personal Information Survey [see Appendix B] completed by the prospective volunteer that includes their willingness to authorize the release of information to conduct a background check if requested, and includes an acknowledgement that the applicant has received and read these policies [see Appendix B and Appendix C]
    • Interview– An interview of the individual by a supervisor (whether employee or volunteer) who had full training themselves to review any ministry/role description, these policies and the completed Personal Information Survey or standard application returned by the prospective volunteer or employee
    • Background Checks– References, Criminal Records and Sex Offender Registry Checks in any state where the applicant has resided during the past seven (7) years, and other states, if any, as determined by the congregation / agency
    • Vehicle Records (if applicable) – Driving or Motor Vehicle Records Check if transporting children or youth regularly or for an extended trip of more than 48-hours
    • Training– Successful Completion of Safe Church Training, either online or by live classroom training. All Paid Church Personnel, other than limited single-purpose independent contractors, are expected to complete full Safe Church Training within ninety days of employment
  • It is the expectation that all information gathered about an applicant (whether employee or volunteer) will be carefully reviewed and evaluated by a supervisor (ideally by at least two people in leadership) at the local congregation or agency to make a determination, in consultation with others as necessary, of whether this is an appropriate person to work with children & youth and to represent the Church with pastoral care.
  • As a human resource best practice, all congregations and other related agencies should have personnel files developed and maintained in a reasonable and timely manner, kept where other church records are kept for all paid Church Personnel.
  • To the extent possible, no two immediate family members will be asked to exclusively work together with or to supervise one another when working with or around children or youth.  For the purpose of this policy, immediate family member is defined as spouse, partner, child, parent, sister, brother, similar in-law relationship, step-family member, grandparent or co-habitant.
Education and Training
  • Online or live classroom training is available and is offered broadly to anyone in a congregation/ agency.
  • Safe Church Training utilizes the Safeguarding our Children and Safeguarding God’s People materials developed by The Episcopal Church and also includes training on prevention of sexual harassment and exploitation in addition to prevention of abuse. Both parts of the training are required for certification. Only training using materials approved by The Episcopal Church is acceptable by the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
  • Certificates of Program Completion are issued upon the successful completion of training.
  • Local congregations / agencies are encouraged to keep a copy in their files as well.
  • Training must be repeated / renewed a minimum of once every five (5) years with a “refresher training.”
Guidelines for Monitoring and Supervision for Protection of Children and/or Youth

The following guidelines are intended to assist Church Personnel in monitoring and supervising behaviors and interactions with children and youth to identify and stop those that may be inherently harmful to children or youth, which are the type used by child molesters to “groom” children, youth and their parents, or which may create the conditions where abuse can occur more easily. They are also used to guide decisions about interactions with children and youth in church sponsored and affiliated programs.  They are not designed or intended to address interactions within families.  Any exceptions to these guidelines should be reported to the supervisor.

  • All Church Personnel who work with children and youth must agree to comply with the Diocesan Guidelines for Appropriate Affection. [Please see Appendix A]
  • No person will be allowed to volunteer to regularly work in a parish context with children or youth until the person has been known to the clergy and congregation for at least six months.
  • Programs for infants and children under six (6) years old will have procedures to ensure that children are released only to their parents or legal guardians or those designated by them.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from the use, possession, distribution, or being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or the misuse of legal drugs while participating in or assisting with programs or activities for children and youth specifically.
  • Parents or guardians must complete written permission forms before Church Personnel transport children and youth for a church sponsored activity or for any purpose on more than an occasional basis.
  • Church Personnel will respond to children and youth with respect, consideration and equal treatment, regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, culture or socio-economic status. Church Personnel should be a positive role model by maintaining an attitude of respect, patience, and maturity.
  • One to one counseling with children and/or youth will be done in an open or public or other place where private conversations are possible but occur in full view of others.
  • Personnel are prohibited from dating / becoming romantically involved with a child and/or youth.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from having sexual contact with a child and/or youth.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from using the internet to view or download any sexually oriented materials or possessing any sexually oriented materials (magazines, card, videos, films, clothing etc.) on church property or in the presence of children and/or youth except as expressly permitted as part of a pre-authorized educational program.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from discussing their own romantic and /or sexual activities, including dreams and fantasies, or discussing their use of sexually oriented or explicit materials such as pornography, videos or materials on or from the Internet, with children and/or youth.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from sleeping in the same beds or sleeping bags, tents, or other rooms with children or youth unless the adult is an immediate family member of all children or youth in the bed, sleeping bag, tent, hotel room or other room. In the event of overnight programs / events, it is the expectation that sleeping arrangements will have been discussed and planned ahead of time, shared with the Vestry / Board, and approved by parents / guardians of the children and/or youth participating.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from dressing, undressing, bathing, or showering in the presence of children and/or youth. [Please see Appendix A for a “Sample Plan” to address changing/bathing.]
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from using physical punishment in any way for behavior management of children and youth. No form of physical discipline is acceptable.  This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting or any other physical force.  Physical force may only be used to stop a behavior that may cause immediate harm to the individual or to a child, youth or others.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from using harsh language, degrading punishment, or mechanical restraint such as rope or tape for behavior management.
  • Church Personnel are prohibited from participating in or allowing others to conduct any hazing activities relating to children’s or youth ministry or camp activities.
  • It is strongly urged and best practices confirm that every program for children and youth have established ratios for adults and children. It is strongly suggested that the established ratios should be maintained at all times, including activities that occur off church premises. The suggested ratio being one (1) adult for every five (5) children/youth.
  • Church Personnel should not be alone with a child or youth where other adults cannot easily observe them; i.e., no private place or closed room without a window in the door (or adjacent that people can see in).
  • Supervisory personnel are to monitor and supervise the behavior of adults, youth and other children, so that inappropriate behaviors and interactions can be identified and stopped.
General Code of Conduct
  • Church Personnel agree to do their best to prevent abuse and neglect among children and youth, as well as sexual harassment and exploitation among the adults involved in church activities and services.
  • Church Personnel agree not to physically, sexually or emotionally abuse or neglect a child or youth, nor engage in harassing or exploitative conduct with the adults they minister to.
  • Church Personnel agree to comply with the Guidelines for Appropriate Affection with children and youth [Please see Appendix A].
  • In the event that Church Personnel observe any inappropriate behaviors or possible policy violations with children or youth, or adults served by the Church, Personnel agree to immediately report their observations as herein provided.
  • All Church Personnel acknowledge their obligation and responsibility to protect children and youth and agree to report known or suspected abuse of children or youth to appropriate church leaders and state authorities in accordance with these policies.
  • Church Personnel understand that the church will not tolerate abuse of children/youth, nor the sexual misconduct of adults and agree to comply in spirit and action with this position.
  • The Diocese prohibits direct supervision of children or youth within the congregations, agencies, and organizations of the Diocese by anyone with a civil or criminal record of child sexual abuse or who is currently under investigation for sexual abuse or who has admitted to engaging in prior sexual abuse or has been known to have a paraphiliac diagnosis (in other words, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc. as defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-V™ or its updates).
  • Child Abuse Reporting – The Episcopal Church takes any concern of policy violation very seriously. All incidents of suspected child sexual abuse should be reported immediately to 911 or the local Public Children’s Service Agency [PCSA] (Administered by Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services) in accordance with Ohio law. Anyone can submit a Confidential Notice of Concern [Please see Appendix D] – and forward it directly to the Intake Officer of the diocese. It is critical that clergy understand how the “cleric-penitent” relationship is considered privileged (and when it is not) under Ohio statutes [applicable statutes include: Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.421(A)(4)(a)—(d); § 2151.85; § 2317.02(c)]The policy of the Diocese of Southern Ohio is to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in investigating any and all allegations.

Complaints dealing with suspected abuse are to be reported first to civil authorities to help ensure the ongoing safety of the child; with follow-up through the Church Reporting Process.  All matters of sexual misconduct by clergy fall under Title IV of The Episcopal Church’s Constitutions and Canons, and related Diocesan Canons, which spell-out the appropriate ways reports are received and acted upon.

Governing Board Responsibility

The Governing Board (Vestry or Mission Council, etc.) is responsible for helping to foster a setting free from abuse and sexual misconduct and for enforcing this policy. It is critical that clergy understand how the “cleric-penitent” relationship is considered privileged (and when it is not) under Ohio statutes [applicable statutes would include: Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.421(A)(4)(a)—(d); § 2151.85; § 2317.02(c)]

Initial Complaint

The Episcopal Church takes any and all concerns of violations of these Policies very seriously.  Anyone may submit a Confidential Notice of Concern [Please see Appendix D ] directly to the diocesan Intake Officers for all reports/complaints pursuant to Title IV of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. The Rev. Rob Willman and Amy Howton currently serve as intake officers, and can be reached at

Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Prevention
  • Sexual misconduct is not primarily about sex; rather it is about the misuse of power and the betrayal of the covenant or trust relationship between a person in a ministerial, pastoral or leadership role in the church and someone committed to their care or to whom this relationship connotes trust. Maintaining the line or boundary between appropriate professional conduct and misconduct is the responsibility of the church leader. Failure to do so is a “boundary violation.”
  • The Diocese of Southern Ohio will not tolerate sexual misconduct and abuse in any form by any person representing the Episcopal Church in any ministerial service to the Church including, but not limited to, any ordained person, aspirant, postulant, candidate, or seminarian sponsored by or working in this Diocese, and by any lay employee or volunteer working in any capacity for the Diocese, any diocesan related institution or any congregation in the Diocese.
  • This policy and the law of the State of Ohio prohibit sexual harassment, misconduct and retaliation for having brought a complaint or having opposed sexual harassment and/or for having participated in the complaint process.
  • Situations of possible abuse require civil authorities to investigate all reports made to peace officers or the county public children services agency. It is diocesan policy to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in investigating any and all such allegations.
  • Relationships of unequal responsibility or status may not be treated as mutual. It is not appropriate for the deeper emotional and relationship needs of clergy or other church workers engaged in pastoral care to be directed toward those among whom they minister. Where dual relationships are attempted, one relationship or the other is inevitably sacrificed. In all cases, clergy are bound to protect the pastoral relationship regardless of their own personal needs.
  • In the Diocese of Southern Ohio, dating between a bishop, priest, deacon or paid lay church professional and a member of the congregation inwhich s/he ministers is not permissible
    • With any person to whom the church professional person has given or is giving counseling, spiritual direction or guidance
    • With any person from whom the church professional person has received confession or confidential information
    • With any patient, resident or student in an institution at which the church professional person currently serves as a teacher, counselor, administrator, or chaplain.
Guidelines for Appropriate Affection

The Diocese of Southern Ohio is committed to creating and promoting a positive, nurturing environment for all our ministries that protect those in our care as well as co-workers from abuse and our Church Personnel from misunderstandings.  When creating safe boundaries, it is important to establish what types of affection are appropriate and inappropriate; otherwise, that decision is left to each individual.  Examples of behavior thought generally appropriate or inappropriate allow Church Personnel to comfortably show positive affection in ministry, and yet identify individuals who are not maintaining safe boundaries with those to whom we minister. The guidelines are based, large part, on avoiding behaviors known to be used by perpetrators for future abuse.

Examples of positive and appropriate forms of affection are included in Appendix A.

Guidelines Regarding Counseling
  • By the nature of pastoral care vs. professional counseling, it is expected that after three counseling sessions have been held concerning a given particular life issue/crisis, clergy and other pastoral care providers shall refer the counselee to other professional counselors for continued care / counseling.
  • Dating between an church professional person and a counselee is not appropriate at any time after counseling has ended even if one or both parties have departed from the institution in which the counseling relationship was established.