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Independent Committee of Inquiry (Congo)
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Debbie Gardiner
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GAC Executive Committee Response to the report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry

September 25, 2002

BACKGROUND:

In early August, 1998, Worldwide Ministries Division ("WMD") Director, Rev. Dr. Marian McClure received a call from a former and retired missionary who had served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire, Belgian Congo). This call began a journey with a group of women who told of sexual abuse by the late Rev. Mr. William Pruitt during their time as missionary children. Mr. Pruitt served as a missionary in the same country. The pertinent period is 1945-1978.

Later that year, charges were filed in Grace Presbytery by eight women. In 1999, while the charges were being investigated by the presbytery, Pruitt died, ending the investigation, as required by church law.

In 2000, upon the recommendation of the Worldwide Ministries Division Steering Committee, the Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council authorized the creation of an Independent Committee of Inquiry to investigate the allegations of abuse of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) for the period 1945-1978. The Independent Committee of Inquiry was to function independently and make its report (including any recommendations for additional action) to the Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council.

The purpose of the Independent Committee of Inquiry (ICI) was to be "essentially pastoral in nature, 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 purpose of the ICI is not a disciplinary action under the PC(USA) Constitution, nor is it to evaluate or reach conclusions about civil legal liability." (GAC Executive Committee action, April 2000).

The Independent Committee of Inquiry has now completed its work and delivered its report to the Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council. In addition to the written report, representatives of the Independent Committee of Inquiry will meet with the Executive Committee on September 25, 2002.

The report has three components: a summary (2 pages), a final report (173 pages), and a "need-to-know" supplement (30 pages). The summary and final report will be made available to the public (including the General Assembly Council) on October 1, 2002, once the ICI has had opportunity to fulfill its responsibility to notify those they have interviewed for the report.

RECOMMENDATION:

In response to the written report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry and the helpful discussion with its representatives on September 25, 2002, the Executive Committee hereby:

1. Directs the chairs of the General Assembly Council (GAC) and the Worldwide Ministries Division Committee to send a letter to the survivors identified by the Independent Committee of Inquiry, and make that letter public, to

a) acknowledge and apologize for the abuses that have been done to them, and for the additional suffering caused when reports of harm to them were ignored, misunderstood or dismissed, and when persons representing the Church discounted or overlooked the harm done to them

b) express our commitment to continuing prayer and concern, including the sponsorship of a survivors’ retreat

c) communicate that we will work expeditiously to develop or improve ways to prevent abuse in the future, including a prompt study and response to the specific recommendations made by the Independent Committee of Inquiry, and

d) include a copy of the Executive Committee’s September 25, 2002, action in response to the Independent Committee’s report, and give assurances that there will be more communications to them in the future.

2. Adopts the following recommendations of the Independent Committee of Inquiry: “Recommended Protocol for Handling Future Requests to the GAC Executive Director for Need-to-Know Supplements, including the criteria by which such Requests should be Judged”; and “Guidelines for the GAC Executive Committee to Use in Considering Future Extraordinary Requests for Access to the ICI’s Sealed Files.”

3. Refers the Final Report to a work group to be appointed by the Chair of the General Assembly Council. The work group should be comprised of between five and seven persons to consider and recommend next steps in light of the report. The members can be chosen from both elected members and staff. The work group will make a progress report to the January 2003 meeting of the Executive Committee and a final report not later than the Executive Committee’s September 2003 meeting. Actions necessary between Executive Committee meetings can go forward with the approval of the Executive Director after consultation with the GAC chair.

4. Dismisses the Independent Committee of Inquiry as of midnight October 1, 2002, with deep gratitude for the very meaningful and effective ministry the members have provided for the survivors, their families and friends, and the church as a whole.

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