Pastoral misconduct about power

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by gb93433, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433
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    http://www.abpnews.com/www/847.article

    Pastoral misconduct about power, ethics panelists say

    By Ken Camp

    Published: February 23, 2006

    WACO, Texas (ABP) – Sexual misconduct occurs among ministers at a rate higher than among other trusted professions such as doctors and lawyers, Joe Trull told ministers at an ethics conference at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary.

    At its heart, sexual abuse among clergy represents betrayal by a minister who abuses the trust of a vulnerable and wounded person, said Trull, a retired ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

    Trull participated in a panel discussion on clergy sexual abuse during the conference, sponsored by the Christian Ethics Today Foundation.

    “Clergy sexual exploitation is not primarily about sex. It is an abuse of power expressed in a highly destructive sexual manner,” Trull said.

    While pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church have captured much of the media attention, clergy sexual abuse is “not just a Roman Catholic problem,” he said.

    Several studies during the last 25 years across denominational lines have demonstrated consistent results -- about 10 percent to 12 percent of ministers acknowledged they engaged in sexual intercourse with church members, and roughly one-fourth to one-third admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior, he noted. In more than 90 percent of the cases of sexual abuse in Protestant churches, the misconduct occurs between a male minister and female church member.

    To offset that record, churches benefit from having gender balance in their ministerial staff when it comes to offering pastoral counseling, said Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco.

    Depending on the nature of the counseling, some topics are best dealt with by a counselor of the same sex, she noted.

    “My policy is that I don’t counsel people more than three times. After that, then I refer them,” she said, pointing out the danger of boundary violations in extended counseling relationships.

    When a minister abuses an individual, the church also feels victimized, and it may react in inappropriate ways, said panelist Philip Wise, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock.

    “Churches often do what families do -- keep it quiet and try to heal the hurt,” he said. “But often, people who cross a barrier once will cross it again unless there are appropriate consequences that occur and appropriate protections put into place.”

    Wise told the conference he will counsel “anybody, anytime” about spiritual matters, but, like Pennington-Russell, he refers all other counseling needs to qualified professionals. Knowledge of church members’ intimate secrets can render a minister ineffective in his role as pastor to those members, he noted.

    “As a pastor, there are some things I don’t need to know,” he said.

    James Carter, retired director of church-minister relations for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, agreed.

    “What often happens in a church (when abuse occurs) is that they circle the wagons and try to keep it quiet,” he said. “Often, they pass along the problem to somebody else.”

    Quoting Marie Fortune, a recognized authority on clergy sexual abuse, Trull said abusive ministers usually fall into two categories:

    -- Predators. Typically, they are manipulative and controlling, but they also can be charismatic and charming. They seek out powerless and vulnerable women – generally -- whom they can use. They are sociopaths who will continue to abuse their position if given the opportunity, leaving behind a trail of victims, Trull asserted.

    -- Wanderers. Generally, they are less successful professionally and personally than predators. Because they feel inadequate, they may give in to temptation and violate a boundary with another needy person. Typically, wanderers feel shame and guilt for their one-time failure. Given time and professional help, they often can “find their way back to wholeness and restoration,” Trull said.

    Ministers can avoid many problems by making it a policy never to be alone with a person of the opposite sex other than a spouse, Carter said. In private counseling sessions, he suggested always making sure someone is in a nearby room.
     
  2. Johnv

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    I suspect that the reason non-catholic pastoral misconduct does not gain notariety in the same manner as Catholic pedophile cases is because sexual misconduct tends to be among adults, and is therefore not newsworthy. In other instances, the misconduct is consentual, such as adultery, which likely would not catch the attention of the national news.

    That being said, it still occurrs, and is still a problem that must be dealth with when it arises.
     
  3. Joseph M. Smith

    Joseph M. Smith
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    Years ago the Quaker author Richard Foster identified sex, money, and power as the unholy trinity that ensnare us. These themes go back, in one way or another, to Genesis, don't they? It feels to me that somewhere near the root of the problem is the insecurity that some pastors feel, so that they have a terrible need to be needed and to be affirmed, unable to find satisfaction within themselves and within their own relationship to God. I have known nearly a dozen pastors who fell into this kind of trap, and most of them had acted as though they were the greatest preachers since Chrysostom, but could never get enough accolades.

    I personally never felt it necessary to take the kinds of precautions described in the article -- never being alone, etc. -- and visited people freely and without worrying about my behavior. I knew that I was secure in my marriage and in my own sense of self-worth. Admittedly, I never faced a deliberate temptress -- something this article does not touch on.
     
  4. j_barner2000

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    I prefer to avoid the appearance or opportunity for anyone to bring the accusation.

    A pastor in a neighboring community was driving to the nearest Walmart (until last year when they put in a new one) about 60 miles away. A female member of the church asked if she could ride along. He agreed and they drove up an back in his car, just the 2 of them. They are both single aults.

    She accused him of making inappropriate overatures (comments and touch) which he denies.

    He left the ministry and the church has suffered as a result of the scandle. Nobody really knows the truth other than God and the people in the car, but if he would have been careful to avoid the opportunity for rumors.

    I am careful to avoid the rumor mill. I am secure in my marriage and the faith that God will keep me clean if I follow Him and His Word.
     
  5. Brother Ian

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    It all brings reproach to the cause of Christ. . . the false accusations and the actual cases.
     
  6. humilis

    humilis
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    Several years ago, we had a Music Minister who had an affair with our Youth Pastor's Wife. He came before the Church and confessed, at the prompting of the Pastor, and He resigned His position. The Youth Minister also resigned. The Music Minister then went into private business for a while and now is on staff at a Local Church as the Music Minister. With simple rules, these situations can be avoided.
    Now the question for you fine people here; should someone who has confessed to such a thing, be restored to "full" service, should they be placed back on staff in the same position at the same Church or a different one? In the case above, this is the second time at two different churches, this music minister has had this issue.

    Thanks for your input.
     
  7. gtbuzzarp

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    That's the best way to do it! I have a friend who is a teacher. If a female student is staying late, he makes sure the door is wide open and tries to make sure a female staff member is there. If not he makes sure someone knows about it. He won't give female students rides if it is going to just be him and a female student.

    I also know pastors that make sure their wife is there when counseling female members, or the wife is the one that does the one on one with females.

    Several years ago I was in a big church where people didn't ususually get fired, they just got reassigned to another ministry. This not only went for ineptitude in their job but also for sexual misconduct. I have since learned other things about this church, and I think being the high profile church that it was, they to cover things up instead of dealing with things the way the Bible describes.

    I have also been in a church where things were dealt with in a Biblical way. It made me respect my pastor even more.

    I think lots of churches try to sweep that sort of thing under the rug out of fear, etc. The world loves it when there is a scandal in a church. And IMHO, if more churches dealt with this sort of thing in a Biblical way, maybe there wouldn't be so many occurences.

    Tommy Nelson in his "Song of Solomon" videos used a story about a man who went to a village and saw a great number of people missing hands, legs, arms, etc. When he asked about it he found out that it was caused by alligators, but it was taboo to talk about alligators in this village. He uses it as analogy for sex in the church. It's a subject that in most churches is taboo to talk about.

    He also made a statement that married men have no business being alone with a woman who is not their wife. That's good advice for more than just married men, and I think in this day and age, it is particularly sound advice for pastors (single or married).
     
  8. gtbuzzarp

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    Humilis how many years were there inbetween the 2 MoM jobs? That is a difficult question. While God does forgive, I don't know that it is wise for a church to hire an individual like you described.

    But that begs the question. Should a person that was in sexual sin before becoming a Christian be treated the same was as a Christian who got involved in sexual sin? IE, should a former homosexual, prostitute, pedophile, etc, be restricted from working at a church if you believe say a pastor, etc, involved in sexual sin while in the pastorate should not ever return to the pastorate.

    In my opinion, the pastor who is a pedophile is just as bad as one who has committed adultery. The only difference is that the one who has committed adultery won't have that show up on a criminal background check or a list of sex offenders. So the hiring church might not know anything about it. And I don't know if legally a church can tell another church that the person was fired because of adultery. Anyone know the answer to that?
     
  9. TaterTot

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    We have been in churches where it happened too. On one hand, I say, an emphatic NO! They should not be allowed to be on staff again at a church. But here lately, I have realized that I dont think I am redemptive enough. If I were to have fallen, I would want folks to give me another chance. This is a hairy situation that I dont know a clear answer for.
     
  10. rbell

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    gtbuzzarp, I believe in showing grace (tempered with lots of wisdom) regarding someone's pre-Christian life. If they were an adulterer 30 years ago, got saved 20 years ago, and have been living for God, I have no problem with their being in ministry.

    I can't agree with you equating adultery and pedophilia, though. Granted, both are abominations in God's sight. But one involves a consensual relationship (SINFUL but consensual) with another adult, and the other involves the predatory molestation of a helpess victim. Both are sexual sins, but there are innumerable differences in the nature of them.

    Because of the heinous nature of the crime, and the documented recivitism rate of pedophiles, wisdom dictates that we keep them out of ministry. Can they be forgiven? Sure. Can they ever be fully trusted? Probably not. Do I want them around my children? No.

    I could not see an adulterer continuing to have an effective minsitry in the church which they serve. I have, however, seen (through intensive counseling, accountability, and oversight) people guilty of adultery repent, and be restored to serve God (but usually in other capacities).

    Summary: justice must be satisfied (TRUE repentance), grace should be extended (forgiveness), and wisdom should be exercised (trust, accountability, and behavioral consequences considered).
     
  11. drfuss

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    A church that I attended years ago, now has a pastor who, years ago, got involved with a woman at a church in another state. The pastor went through a rehabilitation program and 17 years ago became pastor of this church. He has had no recent problems in this area that I know of and most members are not aware of his previous problems. However, he tends to hire ministrial staff members who end up with these type problems. For instance, two of his staff had to leave within the past six months after being there for less than a year.

    Could the possible reasons for this be:

    1. Because he had a problem, he tends to hire unstable staff members to give them a second chance?

    2. Because he had the problem, he would feel insecure with ministers on his staff more stable than he?

    3. Because of his inherent instability, he tends to influence his staff in that direction?

    4. All three of the above?

    or

    5. There is no connection with his past.
     
  12. gb93433

    gb93433
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    Years ago I told the leaders in a church I was pastoring that I would not visit a woman by myself. They did not like what they heard.
     
  13. gtbuzzarp

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    That's a very good point. [​IMG] I'm reading thru Leviticus right now and correct me if I'm wrong, but back then both the man and the woman involved in adultery are supposed to be stoned?

    One question, just out of curiosity. For the parents out there,if you had a young attractive daughter (we'll say age 18-25), would you want her to be the admin for a pastor who in the past was involved in adultery? And husbands, what about your wife?

    I don't think I would. And if I wouldn't want my daughter or wife working for this person, then I guess I probably shouldn't say it's ok if someone else's daughter or wife does.
    But then I guess that puts me in a bit of a conundrum. How can I tell me daughter that I believe in grace and forgiveness but tell her no way am I letting you work for that guy? (we'll assume the person has taken the steps rbell outlined above).

    (This is me just thinking "out loud") Perhaps it's not as black and white as I'm trying to make it because I'm leaving out 2 essential elements, prayer and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

    rbell you have some very good points! Can't say
    I disagree with what you said. :D
     
  14. Joseph M. Smith

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    I think that part of the answer is that you believe in the power of redemption but that you also recognize that the human weakness that expressed itself through sexual misconduct in the past is likely still alive in this person, rather like a dormant virus that is capable of being revived. So you permit this person to work in ministry again, but you set boundaries beyond which he must not go, lest he be tempted to something he cannot resist.

    A testimony to the power of redemption: a few years back, after our deacons had elected their officers for the year, I looked at the new chairman and the new vice-chairman and thought (very much to myself!), "How many other churches would have as the two top deacon officers men who had years ago fathered children out of wedlock?" But of course both had come to Christ, both had married and had legitimate families, and both were being reponsibly supportive of their out-of-wedlock children.

    We later ordained to the ministry yet another man in the same situation.

    None of the three has, to my knowledge, ever been anywhere near having this problem again. Maybe part of the redemptive process was that they did not attempt to hide this aspect of their pasts.
     

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