Denominational Policies on Clergy/Professional Sexual Contact
Click on the Denominational name to read their policy.
- Anglican Church of Canada. Diocese of Toronto.
Sexual exploitation is any form of sexual contact or invitation to sexual contact, with an adult by a professional person, cleric or anyone in a position of authority, trust or power over that adult whether or not there is consent from the individual . . . Meaningful consent for sexual activity is not possible in a fiduciary relationship.
- Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney Australia (9 page pdf document).
One of the most destructive moral failures by clergy is sexual misconduct. The damage caused by this failure spreads like a virus throughout the church, devastating families and individuals. Sexual failures are often headline news, implicating clergy in all religious bodies.
In one study questionnaires were sent to 1000 Baptist pastors. Of those responding, 14.1 percent acknowledged inappropriate sexual contact in their ministries; 70.4 percent said they knew of some other minister's sexual failings; and 24.2 percent reported that they had counseled at least one person who claimed to have had sexual contact with a minister.
What is clergy sexual abuse? Clergy sexual abuse is a boundary violation. Sexual activity in the context of a relationship between parishioner and pastor is an improper and harmful use of that relationship. Clergy sexual abuse violates the sacred purpose of the pastoral relationship . . .
But what about . . . ? Is it ever okay? Sexual relationships between pastors and parishioners fail the parishioner 99.5% of the time. Perhaps one relationship in 1000 results in marriage . . .
. . . it is stressed that where one person holds power over another, either in fact or perceived, a relationship of mutual consent may be impossible to achieve . . .
It is inappropriate for a rostered minister to date a parishioner or someone working under the minister's supervision within the congregation he or she is serving, until that relationship has ceased for a period of at least one year and after consultation with the synod bishop.
Professional/Clergy misconduct is a violation of professional ethics, a violation of personal boundaries, a violation of trust and power. Where an imbalance of power exists, there can be no authentic consensual relationship.
Marie Fortune describes the emotional cost of such violations for the victims including feelings of shame, guilt, stupidity, betrayal, and exploitation. The victims become depressed and lose faith in themselves and their religious convictions . . .
Clergy misconduct is a grave injustice toward another person and an entire religious community. It is a power issue. A sacred trust is violated.
While sexual misconduct is not limited to clergy, research indicates that between 10 and 23 percent of clergy (of all faiths) have engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with church members, clients or employees with whom they have a professional relationship.
Because a fiduciary relationship is based on authority, trust and power, it renders sexual misconduct inappropriate and wrong.
Can clergy sexual activity ever be consensual on the part of the victim?
NEVER! The power differential in the relationship automatically puts the priest (or deacon) in the position of power. Therefore, there can never exist a true mutually consensual agreement. It is the obligation of the priest (or clergy) to hold the sexual boundaries in all relationships.
- United Methodist. General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
It's about power … Clergy misconduct of a sexual nature (clergy sexual misconduct) is about power - power which is abused through sexualized behavior. It is always the PASTOR'S responsibility to ensure that appropriate boundaries are experienced in the pastor-congregant relationship …
Please note that this website is about clergy misconduct of a sexual nature which happens between adults and is not about child sexual abuse .… We understand that sexual abuse can occur in many different relationships, however, this resource addresses the specific dynamics of the pastor/parishioner relationship.
- United Methodist.
. . . many United Methodist annual conferences include in their ethics policies an explicit ban against pastor's dating in their congregations.