Pastors, Clergy, Counseling and Liability

Misconduct by pastors is becoming an increasingly important issue in the church today. Ministers who engage in sexual contact with adult members of their congregation expose their church to potentially substantial liability. “Research reveals that nearly ten percent of pastors have adulterous affairs and fifteen percent are addicted to internet pornography.”1

In a recent poll taken by Christianity today shows a staggering trend.

Despite recent attempts by many churches and denominations to raise the awareness of both clergy and laity to the debilitating effects of sexual misconduct, the list of persons whose ministries have been marred by illicit liaisons continues to grow.

There are a number of resulting outcomes from this activity, some of which are obvious. Shattered lives, church discipline, Media scrutiny, litigation against the pastor and or church, and more. But one thing many don’t consider is possible criminal charges against the pastor.

There is another possible consequence in such cases that often is overlooked. The minister who engaged in the sexual acts may be charged with criminal behavior and prosecuted. If convicted, the minister faces imprisonment. A recent case in Minnesota concluded that the defendant claims that the clergy sexual misconduct statute violated the First Amendment.

Every church leader needs to take responsibility and create an open environment of prevention. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Develop a prevention policy
  2. Share it with the congregation
  3. Train all leadership, bring in an attorney who specializes in this area, (yes there are specialists)
  4. Develop accountability system and use technology products such as XXXwatch

1John Thoburn, M.Div., Ph.D. and Rob Baker, M.A., quoted December 2012 at church seminar.

Recommended reading; Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systems Approach to Prevention, Intervention, and Oversight [Paperback] John Thoburn (Editor), Rob Baker (Editor), Maria Dal Maso (Contributor)

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