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.