Synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland © Thomas Frey
29 pastors of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland have been investigated since 2003 on suspicion of sexual abuse. Among them are both criminal and disciplinary proceedings.
Church spokesman Jens-Peter Iven said on Tuesday during the EKiR synod in Bad Neuenahr. In 14 of the 29 cases, the verdicts were reached. Nine cases were dropped. Six more are still pending, three of which are being investigated by the public prosecutor's office.
Iven emphasized that some of these cases date back many years. This would also apply to cases reported by victims to the so-called independent commission of the national church.
Since the commission was set up in 2012, he said, 20 people had approached it. Seven of the accused were pastors; in thirteen cases, however, the abusers were youth workers, deacons or other church employees and volunteers.
State synod to pass prevention law
At its meeting, which runs until Thursday, the state synod plans to pass a prevention law to replace the "Guidelines for Dealing with Offenses Against Sexual Self-Determination" that have been in effect since 2003. According to the new law, full-time employees must submit an extended certificate of good conduct at the start of their service and then every five years.
The same rules are to apply to volunteers, provided they have contact with minors or dependent adults. In addition, there should be a ban on hiring people who have been convicted of a crime against sexual self-determination. All institutions are obliged to develop a protection concept.
Edwin Jabs, head of the Protestant Central Office for Family and Life Counseling, explained that the Rhenish regional church is concerned with coming to terms with the past and not with minimizing and covering up the past. "In the church, however, there is a certain guilelessness," he said. "One simply cannot imagine that sexual violence can occur in one's own parish, for example."That's why the church is now focusing on nationwide prevention programs.