About 50 Korean American pastors gathered at Cerritos Mission Church earlier this month for a 'Crisis Management Seminar' hosted by Dr. Benjamin Shin, the director of the Asian American Doctor of Ministry cohort at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology.
The seminar was split into two parts, the first which featured Dave Carder, a counselor who has dealt with hundreds of cases of extra-marital affairs, sexual abuse, and other related incidents. Shin spoke during the second portion, sharing updates on an incident that occurred in July in a mission team sent by the college ministry Korean American Campus Mission (KCM), an incident which Shin said triggered this seminar.
“We wanted to provide this time to provide resources for Korean American pastors, especially since they don't go over this in most seminaries,” said Shin, who shared a list of counselors, lawyers, and police officers who could help in similar situations.
For many involved in the KCM incident, which involved allegations that a pastor engaged in inappropriate conduct during the mission trip, this was their first such experience dealing with moral failure among ministry leaders. For Shin, who helped KCM's leaders throughout the handling of the incident, it was his seventh time.
One of the things Shin said he learned from Carder, and from his own experiences, is that it's best to “go public” about these incidents rather than hiding them, and to act quickly. When KCM's director, Pastor Richard Kim of Gospel Life Mission Church, was first informed of the allegations, the pastor who headed the mission team was immediately removed from the mission field and Kim was sent in his place. KCM also issued a public statement on its website. Once the pastor admitted to the allegations, he was immediately terminated from his position in KCM and his local church.
Shin also said he and KCM focused on ensuring the recovery of all of those affected by the incident – the students, parents, and the pastor. The students, who chose to remain in the mission field, had their own debriefing session with parents, KCM staff, counselors, police officers, and other pastors, and are currently being matched with long-term counselors. KCM is also undergoing a process of completely overhauling its staff, and will have more stringent policies in recruiting, Shin said.
Carder shared in detail the circumstances for reporting similar instances or instances of sexual abuse, and said that the “state of California mandates reporting for cases with reasonable suspicions,” which could include any situation in which “any normal person might suspect” abuse. Some examples of symptoms of abuse include frequently being late or absent from school, having knowledge of sexual facts or terms beyond the child's age appropriateness, fear of being alone with men or boys, and eating disorders, among others.
“The government wants you to err on the side of reporting,” Carder said, and emphasized that mandated reporters are protected by law to ensure their safety.
“What if someone else approaches me and tells me that they have a 'hunch' that someone might be facing abuse?” asked one attendee.
“Invite them to tell you more,” Carder responded, “but you are only mandated to report if you are the one who is suspecting abuse.”
Carder warned the pastors against “trying to investigate” a situation on their own.
“After you have reported, you have satisfied your legal demands,” said Carder. “The more you find out by investigating on your own, the more liable you are if you choose not to disclose that information.”
He also offered some guidelines to the pastors to avoid falling into such situations, such as never being alone with minors in a room or in a car, and avoiding touch, such as tickling or back rubs.
“Be smart, don't put yourself at risk,” Carder said.
Meanwhile, Shin and KCM leaders have started a 'Faith Hope Love Fund' to offer financial assistance to the students affected by the KCM incident this past summer who may want to seek counseling but cannot afford to do so. Those who are interested in contributing could write checks to KCM, with 'FHL' written on the memo line. Contributions can be mailed to Cerritos Mission Church at 12413 195th St, Cerritos, CA 90703.