Dear All Souls Family and Friends,
On Thursday, we learned the shocking news that Rev. Ron Robinson was arrested on charges related to child pornography. We are stunned, concerned and deeply saddened due to the nature of his arrest and the circumstances surrounding it. As you may know, Ron was the ministerial intern at All Souls in 2000-2001 and was ordained by the congregation in 2002. Many of our members have worked with Ron in his ministry in Turley, OK over the past decade. He has spoken at All Souls occasionally and at times collaborated with us in worship and classes and preparation of ministerial interns.
In our years of knowing Ron, we had no indication that something like this was possible. Colleagues from all over the country have been calling us in complete shock. It is devastating for anyone to be implicated in such a crime. It is even more so when someone in religious leadership who is a highly regarded leader is charged with such an offense. When a clergy person breaks trust it not only affects many people but it can diminish people's trust in religious leadership overall. It can also affect people's trust in God and religion itself. These situations understandably leave people asking how is that someone who has done so much good, could also do such harm.
We do not know much more than what has been presented in the local and national media about the situation. Please know that we have reached out to offer pastoral and other support to Ron's family, and to our colleagues who work in the ministry in Turley, as well as to some of the seminary students who he teaches and advises. We plan to reach out to offer support to Ron directly as soon as it is possible.
We also want you to know that we are always alert to and aware of the possibilities of abuse around us. Because of this awareness we have proactively instituted a number of church-wide policies over the years that keep our children, youth, staff and volunteers safe, including:
- Background checks. Along with personal interviews and reference checks, before working with children or youth our members must pass a state and federal background check. We repeat this check every two years.
- "Two Adult" Rule. We require adults working in children and youth programs not be left alone with a child or youth unless in plain and public view.
- We have windows in most of our doors and classrooms and a policy that doors are to remain open if there is no window into a room.
- Child Lures Prevention. In our Children's Religious Education classes we teach children that their bodies belong to them and we help them identify many adults who they can trust to tell if anyone ever behaves badly. There are booklets in the Family Room for parents and guardians to go through with their children. We highly recommend each adult in the congregation picks one up and studies it!
- We offer age-appropriate sexuality education. All Souls offers sexuality education classes for children as young as kindergarten. These classes emphasize respect for self and others and telling trusted adults if they feel uncomfortable due to anyone's behavior.
We hope this information is helpful. If you know of anyone who is in need of support regarding this situation, please let them know that this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Rev. Marlin Lavanhar and others will be gathering in the church chapel. It is a chance for people who want to be together to do so, as we try to make sense of this situation, and of the complicated feelings and fears that come up because of it.
In addition, on Sunday, March 26, our All Souls offering was collected for the Third Place Foundation to support The Welcome Table, which is the ministry started and run by Rev. Ron Robinson and his wife Bonnie. Former All Souls Assistant Minister Rev. Debra Garfinkel, has been working at the Welcome Table for five years and she, and Bonnie Ashing, and many others are doing their best to keep the ministry going so that people will continue to receive the food and other support they need. As long as the work continues and is helping the community, we plan to go forward with our contribution. However, we are waiting a few days, at least, to see what the needs are and to make sure that the ministry will be continuing its work before distributing the donations. We will work with our Generosity Committee in making this decision and will keep the church informed.
We hope you will join us in doing what we can to hold everyone involved, and everyone affected by this situation, with compassion and prayer.
Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar and Rev. Barbara Prose