Dissertation Projects

Date of Award

2004

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

H. Peter Swanson

Second Advisor

Nancy Vyhmeister

Third Advisor

John Matthews

Abstract

Problem

In recent years sexual misconduct among clergyman has received an unprecedented public profile as victims have become increasingly willing to speak up and the media has disseminated the stories of clergy abuse. An increasing number of people have been willing to risk their personal reputation and go public with their stories. Effective ministry occurs only within a climate of trust and credibility; however, the ministry is increasingly losing its credibility in society. The goal of this study was to prepare, present, and evaluate a seminar for Brazilian pastors in the North American Division, discussing the main reasons for a pastor’s fall into sexual misconduct and the strategies to keep him from falling.

Method

This seminar deals with clergy sexual misconduct involving male pastors and female parishioners. This narrow focus does not exhaust the variety of misconduct currently present within the church, although all available statistics indicate that in the majority of cases males tend to be the perpetrators. The seminar was presented May 22-24, 2002, during the Brazilian pastors’ meeting at Pine Springs Ranch, California. This seminar was attended by twenty-seven pastors and their wives.

Results

All pastors were shocked by the new understanding of this subject. They realized that people are twice as likely to be sexually exploited by the clergy than by secular therapists, and that between 20 and 39 percent of surveyed clergy reported sexual contact with parishioners. They strongly agreed that pastors must be very careful to avoid using pastoral power to take advantage of parishioners and that it is the pastor’s responsibility to be alert to the likelihood that certain parishioners will be attracted to him. He must manage such situations in ways to protect the parishioners. They also recognized that extraordinary safeguards should be kept in place if pastors ever have to practice long-term, cross-gender counseling. Finally, the pastors recognized how important it is for every Seventh-day Adventist pastor to conform to the highest standards of moral conduct as a symbol of the Christian faith for people in the church and in the community at large.

Conclusions

In the light of responses from Seminar participants and in view of the findings in the literature, the following conclusions have been drawn. Colleges and seminaries should provide a course in ministerial ethics that includes a clear focus for understanding the dynamics of sexual misconduct. The church must be more proactive in addressing the issues of clergy sexual misconduct because the ministerial role places a pastor in a sexually vulnerable position. The pastor who does not understand his vulnerability is either naive or consciously courting danger. Finally, the church leaders should make efforts to train and prepare godly women to counsel women, as is advised in Ellen G. White’s writings.

Subject Area

Seventh-day Adventists--Clergy--Sexual behavior; Sexual misconduct by clergy

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.32597/dmin/554

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