Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

Shepherds Protecting Shepherds

The Sunday before last, I was so focused on listening to the bishop, speaking my truth where I’d been shunned, and not harming or betraying the complainant, that I barely paid attention to what my former church’s new pastor was saying.

When the bishop called “Pastor Nancy” forward to speak about the complaint against a pastor at her church, what did she say? Did she talk about how hard the experience was for the complainant? Or for Pastor X’s wife and family? Or for the congregation?

No. She talked about how hard it was for CLERGY to see the church holding their colleague accountable.

When Nancy mentioned the Episcopal Church’s new Title IV canon, which spells out the process for responding to misconduct, did she praise the church for adding new protection for victims of clergy misconduct? Did she thank the bishop for being faithful to the canons in the way he sought justice in this case?

No. She talked about how hard the new Title IV is on CLERGY.

Pastor Nancy isn’t alone in her worries. In a 2012 article published by Episcopal Digital Network, a lawyer for the church said, “In terms of what it’s done to clergy rights it’s more than a disaster,” and that the new law gives “incredible power to bishops to get rid of priests.” Most of the commenters seem to agree.

What that article doesn’t say: some priests need to be shown the door. Richard Blackmon’s 1983 doctoral thesis, “The Hazards of the Ministry,” found that 12% of Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner. And what about the ones who don’t admit it? And what about the ones who sexualize their pastoral relationships without physical contact? That happened to me, and nearly seven years later I’m still trying to heal. I claim the title “survivor” because many of us literally don’t survive after sexual misconduct by a minister.

And Pastor Nancy thinks this is hard on CLERGY?

Comments on: "Shepherds Protecting Shepherds" (3)

  1. “And what about the ones who sexualize their pastoral relationships without physical contact?”
    That is a trigger statement for me. To this very day a particular family; sisters and their spouses feel they are responsible for keeping a certain church alive. I give them credit, yes, they have fulfilled many important roles, however this family has also tolerated their spouses flirting and even their children being inappropriate. Several years ago, one of the spouses stood ‘way too close’ while I was doing dishes in the church kitchen. Knowing my husband wouldn’t deal with it, I finally thought of more reasons to leave and the stress of knowing I couldn’t speak to leadership had me stating bluntly, “I have to get out of here.” My husband agreed, mainly b/c we now realize he wasn’t truly saved and didn’t really care!
    I have been invited back to this church and several others. Each church has maintained certain individuals in key leadership roles which make me feel unsafe. It was nice to visit and the ‘message’ was well delivered, however true worship did not enter my heart because I was grieved.

  2. What a heartbreaking story. Church is supposed to be a safe place for vulnerable people, but often it feels as dangerous as a battlefield. I am so sorry the church chose to look the other way rather than dealing with the person who harassed and abused you. Thank you for having the courage to share this sad story. You have my prayers for healing.

  3. Rev. Mary Ramsay said:

    Shepherds protecting shepherds. Yes, that happened to me, and others whose names I don’t know.
    After I came forward about the sexual activities that our minister led me into, and I finally told our Bishop. He did nothing and I attributed that to his not believing me.
    Fast forward…almost 30 years. I have learned what many knew later, that during my absence from the Episcopal church, the Bishop (John Shelby Spong) was one of them too. He didn’t doubt my truth telling, I’m sure. He just advocated for denial to any and all who questioned him. As far as I know, my minister Rev. Walter S. Was passed on to another Diocese, in Ohio. There, Walter was not as fortunate as what’d been decided in that “Highly Educated” New Jersey suburb. Among other things, several other women came forward at St Luke’s.
    I’m so very grateful! These were the same women who had vilified me. Thank God for the Church that they spoke! Finally he was sent from NJ to another state, where he teaches bridge.
    Plenty of women thee….
    Thank you with all my heart for this “meeting”. I was almost destroyed by him.
    And blessings to all who come here. You are Not alone!

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