Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

What resources does your church offer for victims of clergy sexual misconduct? Go ahead… take a moment to look. Type in “sexual misconduct” into your denomination’s website search box and see what comes up.

If you belong to the UMC or the ELCA, you uncovered a wealth of resources. The Methodist website leads to a helpful article, “Sexual Misconduct Within Ministerial Relationships.”  A footnote to that article leads to the superb UM Sexual Ethics page. At the FaithTrust training last week, Marie Fortune had us spend several minutes on this page. It includes resources for victims/ survivors, accused pastors, conference leaders, and congregations. The UMC response (or the response of any church) can still be harmful, even with these resources. But the UM Sexual Ethics page gives victims a way to name their experience and take steps toward justice and healing.

The Lutheran site leads to a library of great resources for congregations, including “Safe Connections: What Parishioners Can Do to Understand and Prevent Clergy Sexual Abuse” and “Healing in Congregations After Clergy Sexual Abuse.”  The ELCA produced these documents in the late 1990s and put them online in 2005. They remain among the finest of all the denominational resources for prevention and response.

The Unitarian Universalist Church offers a comprehensive guide for victims called “Speaking Truth to Power.” Under “Filing a Complaint,” the UUA is brutally frank about the limits of their response. They call it “still extremely dangerous for victims and survivors” with “chances of being severely revictimized” at near 100%. This is true in all churches, but only the UUA has the backbone to name it. If my church had given me such a warning, I would have been better prepared for the long nightmare I experienced.

The PCUSA’s “Creating Safe Ministries”  helps church leaders as they receive and respond to complaints of clergy sexual misconduct. In the “Rebuild Trust” tab, I was especially pleased to find Marie Fortune’s seven elements of justice-making (truth-telling, acknowledging the violation, compassion, protecting the vulnerable, accountability, restitution, and vindication) from her classic work, Is Nothing Sacred? I’m also impressed that the church provides an ombudsman for overseas Presbyterian mission workers.

The United Church of Christ offers “Making Our Churches Safe for All,” a prevention guide for local churches.  The Disciples of Christ post their recent resolutions on this issue. The Southern Baptist Convention has gathered resources from many sources: its own insurance company, the federal government, and the Arizona, Texas, and Alabama state Baptist Conventions. Kudos to the SBC for sharing these resources, especially framework for prevention and response created by the Alabama Baptist Convention.

The only online resource offered by the Episcopal Church is this page, hidden deep within clergy pension resources. All they offer (and only to clergy and administrators) is the chance to buy their “Safeguarding God’s People” training materials. I can attest the training is good; it opened my eyes to the fact of my own abuse and galvanized me to seek justice. But the denomination offers no online resources for victims, or even any clear way to find the training materials. I actually found this link via the ELCA website.

Many faith traditions still consider clergy sexual misconduct as “sexual immorality” or “an affair.” For these, the only resources I could find were those created by survivors. I have gathered all those resources in the Victims & Survivors tab on this blog.

If your church resources fall short, you can still get great information from other denominations. For survivors, I recommend the Methodist and UUA websites; for congregational leaders, the Lutheran materials. For bishops and other judicatory leaders, please read the UUA’s courageous self-disclosure and know: this is how victims experience “justice,” even in your own church.

Comments on: "What Does Your Church Offer Online?" (5)

  1. The articles on this site are great. Resourses on UK Church websites are almost non-existant. Something we aim to change with Gods help.

  2. Thanks, Andrea! I’m glad to know that survivors are active in the UK too.
    All churches have room to improve in the way they respond, even the ones at the top of my list. I’m planning to send my report to high-level decision makers in all the churches I mentioned. I want to thank the churches that have strong resources and inspire the others to do better.
    I was curious about the UK, so I looked up what the UK Methodist church is doing. I found something remarkable: the church is inviting information on “safeguarding concerns” going all the way back to 1950. They want to improve the way they respond, and they want to make sure they haven’t left any vulnerable people in danger. This seems very hopeful! I’m sure it is in response to the courageous and persistent voices of survivors.

    • I hope your work has the success it deserves. We are currently trying to ‘encourage’ the Baptist Union of Great Britain to get some policies and info in place. They have some procedural info but sadly it is rarely followed when an accusation is made.

  3. That’s great! I hope you’ll keep me posted on your progress; I would love to share with U.S. readers what is happening in the U.K.

  4. Knowing what I know about the Unitarian Universalist Church’s (mis)handling of clergy abuse, both sexual and non-sexual clergy misconduct, I am not convinced that the UUA being “brutally frank about the limits of their response” by saying it is “still extremely dangerous for victims and survivors” with “chances of being severely revictimized” at near 100% is “backbone” so much as a knowing and willful attempt by the UUA to dissuade clergy abuse victims from filing a formal complaint against a UU minister. In late July of this year (2015) I sent an email to the UUA’s “Safe Congregations” requesting the most recent policies or procedures for filing a complaint against a minister. In spite of several reminder emails, and two phone messages, I have not received ANY response whatsoever from the person(s) responsible for the initial handling of clergy misconduct complaints. The only way that I know with certainty that the UUA actually did receive the emails in question is that one of my follow-up emails received an automated “out of office” reply when the person went on sabbatical. This institutional stonewalling is even worse than what I have experienced in the past.

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