Safe Gatherings Update from Bishop Laura Merrill

 March 15, 2023

Greetings in Christ’s name!

As you may remember, with an overwhelming 97% vote in June 2022, the Arkansas Annual Conference adopted a new policy to create a protective environment in our churches for children, youth, and vulnerable adults and the volunteers who work with them. The adoption of this policy replaced the former Safe Sanctuary Policy and approved use of the Safe Gatherings online training and background check system for all churches within our conference.

While I was not here for your vote to approve it last June, I can testify to the positive impact of Safe Gatherings certification on the church’s ministries. Protection of vulnerable people, from young to old and in between, becomes something we take seriously and learn about together. In addition, our neighbors learn that we take this seriously and that our church earnestly strives to prevent the tragic harm to children, youth, and vulnerable adults that occurs far too often. We create a new culture that strengthens our church and our community. 

Aside from being the right thing to do, compliance with Safe Gatherings certification was the overwhelming will of the members of the annual conference. The original deadline for appointed clergy and assigned laity to complete this certification was scheduled for December 31, 2022. Unfortunately, we have a large number of persons who did not meet that deadline and who still are not certified, as we near the end of the first quarter of 2023. As such, all appointed clergy persons, assigned lay supply, and assigned certified lay ministers in the Arkansas Conference are required to complete this training; your availability to serve the local church will depend on your compliance. This requirement also extends to all adult chaperones who attend any district or conference event intended for children and/or youth. 

Furthermore, it is strongly encouraged that all local churches use this certification for any lay paid staff and for anyone who volunteers with children, youth and vulnerable adults. Completion of this process will be an important part of our being ready for summer vacation bible schools, mission trips, and camps.

Helpful instructions and links can be found below along with contact information for Safe Gatherings. Michelle Moore, the Conference’s Children, Youth & Young Adult Coordinator and Developer of Clergy Recruitment, can also be reached at for more information and any questions you might have. 

Thank you for all you do to build up the Body of Christ!

Grace and peace, 

Laura Merrill


All appointed clergy persons, assigned lay supply and assigned lay certified lay ministers should use this link to start the Safe Gatherings Certification process:

Clergy/Lay Supply/Certified Lay Ministers Safe Gatherings Certification Instructions

All lay persons, paid church staff and local church volunteers, should use this link to start the Safe Gatherings Certification process:

Lay Local Church Paid Staff and Lay Local Church Volunteers Safe Gatherings Certification InstructionsAll ARUMC local churches should have your church administrator or a clergy person contact Safe Gatherings at 888-241-8258 to set up your church’s account. Be prepared to give Safe Gatherings the name(s) of those who will be administrators of the Safe Gatherings account for your church. These persons can be an office administrator, admin assistant, youth ministry worker, children’s ministry worker, etc. Please note that for clergy serving at multiple churches or administrators that work for multiple churches, this dashboard must be set up for each individual church.

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