Church Insurance Company no longer requires abuse-awareness training

May 27, 2002

The Church Insurance Company (CIC), one of the leaders in the church in raising awareness of sexual misconduct, has been quietly eliminating its training mandate for its customers.

Since 1994, Church Insurance has required four hours each of adult and child awareness training in order for dioceses and other church bodies to qualify for liability policies. In the last nine months, however, the company has filed for a change removing that warranty requirement, according to Rod Webster, senior vice president and general manager of the CIC, a division of the Church Pension Group. The filing has had to be made in each state in which CIC does business, so the lifting of the requirement has occurred gradually. In addition, those dioceses covered by CIC's new affiliate, Church Insurance of Vermont, have not had the warranty as part of their policies. The new requirements have been approved in about 70 dioceses, though some won't see the change until their next renewal.

Webster said the change was made 'in large part, because we don't think it's necessary anymore. The church is doing a good job.' He said he doesn't know of any diocese that has eliminated the training.

Church Insurance lost some business to other companies that did not require the training, Webster said. More important, he said, the requirement put the company in a bind in terms of its mission of serving the church. 'How are we ever going to walk away from a claim? ... It's hard to imagine us doing that.' For example, denying coverage because a diocese did not conduct the training would affect each parish in the diocese.

The Rev. Virginia Herring of Greensboro, North Carolina, co-chair of the Committee on Sexual Exploitation, said the committee has discussed the issue and that, from a personal point of view, she sees the move as positive. 'I think that it's probably a good thing,' she said. 'It shouldn't change anything. We ought to have policies and procedures in our dioceses because it's the right thing to do, not because we're going to lose our insurance.'

Herring said she could not foresee a diocese or parish simply eliminating the training. 'My perspective is that it allows us to do this because it's part of who we are, being sanctuary, being church; it allows us to be a safe place.'

Julie Denman, director of congregational support for the Diocese of West Tennessee, said her diocese is just as committed to misconduct-awareness training, but found it could do the training in about half the time. 'People resented the time, but I don't think we've cut the training,' she said. 'The main emphasis is on understanding [abuse] and reporting it. We're real committed to the training.'

Webster said Church Insurance is planning later this year to implement incentives for its clients, 'a series of rewards for dioceses and parishes who do a good job at keeping misconduct as low as possible.' That will happen as its liability business is moved to Church Insurance of Vermont, which is able to pay dividends. 'That gives us a whole new technique for rewarding dioceses and parishes who do it right--with money,' said Webster. For those who don't 'do it right,' the company may consider imposing higher deductibles. Those changes are still being studied by the CIC board, bishops and diocesan chancellors, however.

Herring said that at its May meeting the Sexual Exploitation Committee began to form a network of provincial representatives, who will help dioceses communicate with each other. 'My hope is that people would in fact become more connected and more creative' in addressing misconduct awareness, she said.

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