Churches all too often just simply trust para-church organizations to do the RIGHT thing.
Well, ‘Ethnos360, formerly called New Tribes Mission, released a document in February 2020 called Ethnos360 and Child Safety, where they give a historical account and explanation of their response to child abuse within their organization. They released it publicly on their website, only in a place where most visitors are unlikely to ever stumble across it. Here are the steps to finding this document on their web site.
- Go to https://ethnos360.org
- Click on “About.”
- Click on “Child Safety.”
- In the side bar titled “Historical Reviews,” click on “Find out more.”
- In the first paragraph on that page, click on “Read more here.”
Here is a link to the document that is easier to access: Ethnos360 and Child Safety.
I give this document mixed reviews. It is great to see a public acknowledgement that abuse actually occurred, as well as some names of abusers. This is important not only to prevent those people from being in a position where they can abuse children again, but also for the credibility of the MKs who have been making these allegations for years. There is a lot of push-back from both missionaries and other MKs when you complain about your experience at boarding school. I have seen it so many times with Kent Academy MKs. The publication of this document tells the world that yes, they were actually abused. Granted the document is hard to find, but it is there. Thanks to MK Safety Net for posting it on their Facebook page and web site. MK Safety Net has a great summary of the document which you can read on their website at http://mksafetynet.org/content/mksn-responds-ethnos360-document-about-abuse.
Ethnos360 and Child Safety focuses on sexual abuse, an area that is more black and white than physical or emotional abuse. The investigation also found that 23 individuals committed acts of physical abuse, but those names were not released. They explain that corporal punishment was acceptable back in the day, and also that a child might interpret actions as abusive that were not really abusive, just because they were intimidated by an adult with a “large personality”, or maybe they were more sensitive than other children, who didn’t interpret something as abuse. Really?? No one likes to be punished, but I think we can tell the difference between legitimate punishment (ie; sifting sand) and abuse (ie: being strapped on the back of your legs until they bleed.)
Ethnos360 has named some, but not all, of the abusers. They didn’t name abusers who did not abuse anyone outside of their immediate family. I wonder how they know whether they abused anyone outside their immediate family. If we are talking sexual abuse, it is very possible that they DID abuse other children, but those people just haven’t come forward, so I disagree with the decision not to name these people. They say they want to protect the identities of the MKs, but since they are not naming the victims or the details of the abuse, I don’t see how we would guess the identity of those MKs based on a list of names.
Ethnos360 talks about whether their inquiries are truly independent. They say “Independence isn’t determined by who pays for the inquiry.” Well, of course not! I don’t think there is a dispute over whether Ethnos360 should be paying for these inquiries. The test for whether it is independent is in which organization they hire to do the inquiry. For example, they paid for GRACE to do an inquiry. GRACE is an independent organization. Then they hired IHART to do an inquiry. IHART is not an independent organization. There are a few telltale signs that IHART is not independent. Ethnos 360 states that “We do not have influence over the IHART team or their plans…” And yet, they were able to “shift” from Ms. Hendrix to Ms. Sidebotham as team leader. Would they be able to dictate leadership in an independent organization? Also, they were able to change the name from Independent Historical Abuse Response Team to Independent Historical Allegation Review Team. This change was in line with the desires of Ethnos360, as they state in the document. Can you imagine GRACE making changes in leadership and the name of their organization while they were doing their investigation? These things just show that IHART is not independent, no matter how many times Ethnos360 says that they are.
The Ethnos360 document states that “One reality that was hard to accept was the very idea that abuse did happen within NTM. We did not think any of our members would do something that would harm another person, certainly not a child.” First of all, if this statement were true, it shows a great naiveté on the part of that leadership. Did they think that when someone becomes a missionary they are suddenly perfect? But I don’t believe it’s true. I think the New Tribes leadership did know that their members were harming children, but just did not do anything about it. They already said that “if the offender expressed remorse, they were then taken through steps of reconciliation and some form of restoration.” So they knew what was going on, and this did not hit them right out of left field as they are suggesting.
However others, such as missionaries who are not in leadership and donors, might not know what was going on, since offenses were covered up so well. I see this concept that missionaries cannot do anything wrong at SIM as well. I frequently see SIM missionaries held up on social media to be such selfless and god-like people. Trust me, they are sinful human beings the same as the rest of us. I myself look at some of those missionaries currently living out their lives in Sebring who are so celebrated, and the very mention of their name sends a chill down my spine. Many were cold and unfeeling to the needs of the children they were supposed to be caring for, and some were downright mean, so I think we may be re-writing history here.
In spite of their shortcomings, Ethnos360 is still light years ahead of SIM in acknowledging abuse within their organization and providing closure for the victims. They have done several formal investigations and named some of the abusers publicly. They have provided counseling to the survivors, presumably not requiring the counselor to submit a report of the sessions back to the mission, as SIM has done. They have examined their history and the culture of their mission, seen that it was breeding abuse, and publicly acknowledged this information and the changes that were made. Let’s be clear, they did not decide to do these things on their own. They came about because some brave MKs continued to put unrelenting pressure on them through social media, and also because they have had to settle several lawsuits. The same pressure might be waiting in SIM’s future as well. I am waiting for the day when SIM publicly acknowledges that abuse – physical, spiritual, emotional and sexual – occurred at their boarding schools.’ https://childrenofsim.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/ethnos360-formerly-new-tribes-mission-and-child-safety/