Is sexual misconduct still an issue?

Is sexual misconduct an issue of concern in The United Methodist Church?

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women reports some interesting responses to sexual ethics questions asked of clergy attending a boundaries training session.  For example, 41% of the respondents said they personally know someone who reports being the victim of sexual misconduct by a ministerial leader, and 44% know a clergyperson (including, perhaps, themselves) who has had sexual relations with a member of his/her congregation (other than their spouses).

More than a third of those answering the questionnaire (35 percent) said it is morally OK for a single pastor to date one of his/her parishioners.

The sample of people surveyed do not statistically represent the church as a whole, but the responses offer some insight into attitudes toward sexual misconduct and how it is defined.

You can read the complete “Women by the Numbers” article on the GCSRW website.


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  1. John J. Shaffer

    I have known a large number of pastors who dated and married members of their own congregation. In nearly all cases, there was no evidence of abuse. However, having said that, it will happen less and less because of the concerns being raised about the abuse of power. I have had friends who wanted to date a specific person and they asked that person to leave their church and attend another church during the courting period. It can get very complex.

    There are clear guidelines which can and should be followed. There are articles and organizations available to help sort through such issues.
    Marie Fortune is one of the better experts in this field. She is based in Seattle.

  2. Lee Greenawalt

    Sexual misconduct is a serious issue, including what is misconduct ? A pastor-parishioner date ? A hug in greeting or sympathy ?

  3. Tom May

    To the question as to ‘sexual behavior still being a concern of the church,’ I find that sexual misconduct–adultery and fornication are mentioned in the Bible far more than the sins of theft and murder. Sexual misconduct strikes at the core of reproduction (and that’s the purpose of marriage and families in a human, and Christian society). I constantly suggest, either believe the Bible, recognize sin and works against it, or close up shop and name churches as ‘gatherings’ or ‘social clubs.’

  4. William schillereff

    The percentage of respondents to questionnaire is to small to guarantee accuracy and random answers. The results are in all probably skewed. No conclusion can be drawn from these results which have any scientific basis.

  5. Tom Simpson

    Sexual misconduct should always be an issue in any church of the world. Having said that, the definition here in America is and always has been skewed. Any abuse in the sexual respect context should be unacceptable. That leads me to the crux of a very volatile argument now in the midst of the Methodist church. That is how to define gay and lesbian marriage, if that is possible.
    The basis as I understand the problem goes back into the Old Testament admonishments, however there is no basis for the notion that Christ ever issued an opinion on the subject. Rather, he chose to minister to those in need and he was crucified for that. The question for the church is simply who offers the enlightened word with respect to the Christian basis that rests primarily in the teachings of the New Testament.
    Does it rest in the Book of Order, written by Scribes and Pharisees within the denomination
    or the word we all chose to use as the basis of belief on Sunday morning, which is the Bible, more precisely the New Testamant? Further, what part of the Bible is really our basis of belief?
    Yes sexual abuse exists in all forms of sexual relationships, including those sanctioned by the church. That includes heterosexual marriages and well as gay and lesbian marriages. That is the issue that has always been part of life on earth and it can be an issue among believers as much as any other group on can name.
    My honest opinion is that the church is guilty of abuse in the Schaeffer Defrockment. That does not absolve Pastor Schaeffer from responsibly resolving the issue in other ways. The bottom line is that all sides need to center up on the broader issue of abuse at least in the Christian context. That is Passive Aggressive Behavior, possibly the most divisive form of abuse ever invented by anyone.
    I speak as a confirmed Lutheran at the age of 13, an active member of the former EUB and a heart felt part of the Presbyterian church, for more than 30 years. The point of this information is simply to point out the broader view than one I would have gotten as a life long member of a denomination

  6. howerw3

    What if we spent half the amount of time, energy and focus on this issue as we do on homosexuality? We might be a lot more humble and a lot safer. Perhaps we would be a lot more godly all the way around. Hypocrisy? ought to be the first question we ask.

  7. ksu777

    There is not sexual harrassment unless there are unwanted advances. If any type of approach is mutual, there is no harrassment.

  8. John J. Shaffer


    I don’t know what you have in mind, but on the face of it, your statement is false. If a fifteen year old and a pastor have mutual approaches, it may not be sexual harrassment, but it is a no-no and it is clearly an abuse of power by said pastor, male or female.

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