Safe Church

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York is committed to the safety and well-being of the adults and children who make up our beloved community.
When we are baptized, we vow to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and “respect the dignity of every human being.”
These vows are reflected in the Safe Church policies we have developed to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment in our churches and diocesan programs.

Safe Church Policies

Safe Church policies safeguard the adults and children who take part in our churches and diocesan programs:

Compliance with NYS-mandated Sexual Harassment Prevention policies: 

In order to ensure compliance with state-mandated Sexual Harassment Prevention policies, all church staff should:

  • Complete Safe Church training at least every five years, per diocesan Safe Church policies, AND,
  • View Sexual Harassment Prevention Training videos from the New York State Dept. of Labor: Part 1 and Part 2 (total viewing time approximately 45 minutes)

Intake Officers & Pastoral Care Team

Our Intake Officers handle complaints related to any violation of Safe Church policies, in accordance with civil laws and the canons of The Episcopal Church.

Our Pastoral Care Team provides counseling and support to potential victims of Church-related sexual abuse, exploitation, or harassment at no cost. Any of our Intake Officers can make a referral to this team.

The Very Rev. Wanda Copeland | (612) 810-3293 | e-mail
Mr. Lawrence Mathews | (315) 760-2773 | e-mail
Dr. Jack Wohlers | (315) 415-0768 | e-mail

Background Verification

Parishes wishing to do a background verification should email Kathy Dengler at [email protected] with a request to start the process. Please included the full name and email address of the potential employee or volunteer. The cost of the background check is $22. Once the report has been completed the Diocese will send an invoice to the parish.

Safe Church Training

Safe Church training for church employees, leaders, and members promotes standards and practices designed to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment.

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York offers the following training opportunities based on the “Safeguarding God’s Children” and “Safeguarding God’s People” curricula from the Church Pension Fund:

  • Safe Church Training Workshop: trains adults to identify, prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, harassment and exploitation.
  • Safe Church for Teens Training Workshop: trains youth and youth in leadership roles to recognize signs of sexual misconduct and to prevent and report violations.

Safe Church Training: Policy changes during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Effective May 2020 until further notice. 

The requirement for Safe Church training to be taken “in-person” for the initial training has been lifted during this time of social distancing. Online training using Safeguarding Online currently accepted with the following requirements:

  1. Trainee/Clergy Person Conversation: Information presented in the online training modules is challenging and the material may cause the reader to experience discomfort and disturbing thoughts or emotions. Therefore, before starting the online training, the trainee must have a conversation with their clergyperson. The purpose of the conversation is to address any concerns the person may have about the topic of sexual abuse and to be sure they have contact information for resources if they find they are struggling with the material.
  2. Follow-Up Zoom Workshop: One of the best ways to prevent sexual abuse in our parishes is by encouraging people to speak about this topic to each other. In-person trainings provide an opportunity to practice speaking out loud about the prevention of sexual abuse. This opportunity is lost for those taking the online training as their initial training. Therefore, it is required to attend a one-hour Zoom workshop as a follow-up within 6 months of the online training. These will be scheduled periodically. Please check the diocesan calendar for a list of upcoming workshops.

Questions about this policy change may be directed to Kathy Dengler on the diocesan staff.

Who Should Be Trained?

All members of our churches are encouraged to participate in Safe Church Training. The more informed and aware we are, the safer our churches will be for all children and adults.

Individuals who complete the three-hour Safe Church Training workshop are awarded a certificate. Certification is valid for five years and may be renewed by attending the workshop again or completing Safeguarding Online. The following individuals are required to have up-to-date Safe Church certificates:

  • Clergy
  • Vestry members
  • Parish employees
  • Worship Leaders, Lay Ministers & Eucharistic Visitors
  • Anyone volunteering or working with children in any capacity

All Youth Leaders under the age of 16  are required to attend Safe Church for Teens training annually, and all youth in the Diocese are encouraged to take this training.

Upcoming Trainings

Safe Church Training workshops are generally free and are approximately three hours long. The workshop will be useful to all members of your congregation in identifying, preventing, and responding to sexual misconduct, harassment and exploitation. Clergy, vestry members, parish employees, Lay Ministers and Eucharistic Visitors and anyone volunteering or working with children are required to complete the Safe Church Training workshop.

Safe Church for Teens Training workshops are generally free and are approximately three hours long. These workshops help youth and youth leaders to identify the warning signs of sexual misconduct and abuse and to report concerns or incidents. Youth Leaders under the age of 16 are required to take this workshop annually.

View a list of upcoming Safe Church and Safe Church for Teens Training Workshops

Plan a Safe Church or Safe Church for Teens Workshop

If your parish, district or group would like to plan a Safe Church or Safe Church for Teens workshop, please contact a trainer from the Safe Church & Safe Church for Teens Trainers Roster and arrange a mutually agreeable date and time.

Responsibilities of the host parish:

  • Mileage reimbursement and/or an honorarium may be offered to the trainer.
  • Arrange to print the necessary course materials in advance.
  • Provide light refreshments during the break.
  • Pre-register participants and inform the trainer of the total number of individuals expected at least three days prior to the workshop. Each workshop can accommodate approximately 15-20 participants, but enrollment should be discussed with the trainer.

Safeguarding Online

Clergy and lay parishioners in the Diocese may renew Safe Church certification by using Safeguarding Online. (Certification must be updated every 5 years.)

The Safeguarding Online program was developed in response to requests from Episcopal Church clergy and lay leaders for more flexible and easy-to-access training. The modules are short, focused courses that can normally be completed in 30–45 minutes, and can be taken from any location where a high-speed internet connection is available.

Safe Church Trainers will continue to be available to lead in-person training for those taking the Safe Church program for the first time and for those not interested in the online option when renewing their certification.

If your parish would like to participate in Safeguarding Online, please contact Kathy Dengler. Each parish participating in Safeguarding Online will identify one individual in the parish to be the parish’s administrator for online training. The administrator will be responsible for setting up parishioners in the online system. Please provide Kathy the name, email address, and phone number of the parish’s designated Safeguarding Online administrator. Kathy will work with the administrator to set your parish up for Safeguarding Online.

View required Safeguarding Online courses by position.


To learn more about becoming a Safe Church Trainer or a Safe Church for Teens trainer, please contact the diocesan offices.

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