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Independent Committee of Inquiry (Congo)
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Debbie Gardiner
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Panel confirms abuse in the Congo mission field

Report calls for mandatory reporting and other policy changes

On September 25, 2002, the Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council received the final report from the Independent Committee of Inquiry regarding charges of physical and sexual abuse of children and adults by missionaries working in the Congo between 1945 and 1978.

In the 173-page report, the committee concluded that abuse did take place against children of Presbyterian missionaries at a boarding school and a hostel in the Congo. It also confirmed abuses against children and adults in the United States.


The report carries 30 recommendations calling for changes in policy and procedures to prevent abuse in the future. The Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council has appointed a work group of national staff and church leaders to recommend next steps in light of the report. The work group will make its final report at the September 2003 meeting of the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council created the Independent Committee of Inquiry in 2000 to investigate charges of abuse by Presbyterian missionaries. Initially charges had been brought against the late Rev. William Pruitt in Grace Presbytery. When Pruitt died the investigation ended in accordance with the PC(USA) Constitution.

In an effort to "help the survivors, the well-being of the larger Christian community, the General Assembly-level offices, and the integrity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" the Independent Committee of Inquiry was created with an explicit pastoral, rather than judicial, purpose.

In her report to the General Assembly Council on September 28, 2002, the Rev. Barbara Renton, GAC chair, said the report was received by the Executive Committee with "heavy hearts but proud of the pursuit of the truth." Read her statement.

The Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council made four recommendations in response to the report. The recommendations include sending a letter of apology to the survivors, adopting procedures for handling confidential material, appointing a work group to recommend next steps and dismissal of the Independent Committee of Inquiry with gratitude. Read a background report and the Executive Committee's recommendations.