“This policy statement is superseded by The United Methodist Book of Discipline and is meant to support the disciplinary process where appropriate.”
The intent of this policy by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference is to provide guidance to laity, clergy, and lay employees of the Annual Conference and the local church in cases of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and abuse. Moreover, this policy works toward the end of providing for the safety of the parishioners by ensuring a protective climate, protecting the special relationships between pastors and those to/with whom they minister, and by ensuring health and authenticity in pastoral ministries. It is our hope that the existence of this policy with a focus on prevention, intervention, and restoration will act as a deterrent against inappropriate sexual behavior.
The Pastoral office is a position of great trust, responsibility and power. This trust and responsibility provide the opportunity for a unique relationship of grace and caring. Persons in pastoral roles sometimes violate the trust given them by participating in inappropriate sexual behavior which is an abuse of their power. Sexual misconduct which includes harassment and sexual abuse, is one of the gravest violations of this sacred trust and is a breaking of the covenant.
“For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness to the Christian gospel, and in consideration of the influence of an ordained minister on the lives of other persons both within and outside the Church, the Church expects those who seek ordination to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of Christian life. To this end, they agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God” (¶ 304.2, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2008.
Sexual Misconduct: It is misconduct when any person in a ministerial role of leadership or pastoral counseling (clergy, religious, or lay) willingly engages in sexual contact or sexual behavior (communicates sexual interest and/or content) with a congregant, client, employee, student, staff member, etc. (adult, teenager, child) in a professional relationship. Such misconduct is a violation of the ministerial relationship in which a person in a position of religious leadership takes advantage of a vulnerable person, instead of protecting him/her.
Sexual misconduct is exploitative, abusive, and a violation of ethics.
1 It is sin. To use sex in an ungodly way violates our covenant with God as well as with each other.
2 It is a violation of role. The pastoral relationship presupposes certain role expectations. Sexual misconduct must never be a part of the pastoral, professional role.
3 It is a misuse of authority and power. The role of church leader carries with it authority and power and the attendant responsibility to use this power to benefit the people who call upon the church leader for service. If such activity is initiated by another, it is still the church leader’s responsibility to maintain the boundaries of the relationship.
4 It is taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person seeking support or advice. The person comes with a predisposition and the faith that the church leader will act in ways that contribute to his/her well being and not to his/her detriment.
Sexual Harassment: The use of one’s authority or power, explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his or her refusal to participate in unwanted sexual activity; or the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Complainant: This is the person who submits either an informal or formal complaint alleging inappropriate and/or unsolicited sexual behavior. The complainant may or may not be the person experiencing sexual misconduct. For example, a family member, friend or colleague of the person experiencing sexual misconduct may be the complainant whose information initiates the complaint.
Respondent: The term “respondent” is used to represent the person against whom a complaint is made of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment.
Petitioner: The individual who has requested restoration to pastoral office or is in the process of restoration.
Policy Oversight and Implementation
The role of the Board of Ordained Ministry is critical in this area of sexual ethics and for the development, interpretation and implementation of this policy as approved by the Executive Session. The Board’s oversight of this policy is through the Executive Committee.
A In accord with the current Discipline of the United Methodist Church, the Executive Committee shall be accountable to the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Bishop and Cabinet.
1 The initiative for Preparation and Prevention is with the Executive Committee.
2 Intervention and Restoration come in response to a request by a respondent and by the determination of the bishop.
B The Executive Committee will work to implement this policy.
a Recruit and train persons for the sexual misconduct Response Teams.
b Secure and develop resources for prevention and intervention.
a Be responsible for the education of clergy members and lay leadership in the Peninsula Delaware Conference as well as leaders and members of all churches and charges.
b Oversee the implementation of prevention efforts, starting with steps outlined in this policy.
a Always initiated by the bishop and district superintendent.
b Implementation of the intervention process as outlined in this policy is with the leadership of the district superintendent and the responsive and supportive role of the Executive Committee and its response teams.
a When a person requests restoration to ordained ministry and at the subsequent recommendation of the bishop the Executive Committee may initiate and oversee the rigorous process that leads to healing and wholeness which could result in restoration
C The Executive Committee will annually review this policy and the ways in which it is being implemented.
1 Annually review and recommend changes in this policy Statement on Sexual Ethics.
2 Annually bring this policy to the attention of all clergy, all lay members and leaders, and staff persons of the Annual Conference.
3 Annually review and recommend any needed changes in the ways this policy is implemented, seeking greater effectiveness in prevention, intervention and restoration.
D Full or part-time leadership is essential for effective prevention, intervention and restoration. The CARE Team will be accountable to the Executive Committee and the Bishop and Cabinet.
1 Throughout each quadrennium, training in sexual and professional ethics, boundaries, and systems theory for churches will be offered.
for Staff Parish Relations Committees
for lay speakers
for all church workers
in district training for clergy and laity together
in varied local settings
These training opportunities will be organized with the help of the CARE Team. Every clergy person who is new to Peninsula-Delaware Conference is required to attend sexual ethics/boundaries training prior to or within the first month of service per scheduling by the CARE Team. Participation records of all trainings will be tracked by the Board of Ordained Ministry.
3 A self assessment test will be given to all clergy to explore their vulnerabilities in the area of sexual ethics. This will be administered by theCARE Team. The results will be seen by no one but the clergy person taking the test. Professional guidance will be available for those who feel they are at risk.
4 When candidates for ordination are interviewed by the Board of Ordained Ministry, they will be asked the following question:
How do you understand ¶ 304.2 of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE 2008which reads in part: “For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ...(clergy agree to) fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness...” to apply to you in ministry.
This will be asked by the Pastoral Care and Human Relations interview team of the Board of Ordained Ministry and by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry at the beginning of the certification process.
5 A copy of the Conference sexual misconduct policy will be made available annually to all clergy, all Lay Members of Annual Conference, all Staff-Parish Relations Committee chairs, and by District Committees to persons at the beginning of the certification process.
6 All local churches shall adopt a sexual misconduct policy to assist in prevention of such occurrences and to protect themselves from legal liability. The policy must be shared annually with staff and church leaders. The policy should be included in Charge Conference materials. The district superintendent shall give guidance in composition of such material.
7 A sexual ethics or misconduct policy of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference is required to apply to all employees of the Conference. The policy must be shared annually with the employees.
8 This policy as regards clergy supersedes local church policies.
9 The Board of Ordained Ministry will develop a list of sexual healing ministries and make them available to pastors. It is suggested that existing pastors have prayer partners.
10 All clergy persons in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference are required to undergo a criminal background check specified by the Board of Ordained Ministry every four years. The criminal background check may be paid for through continuing education funds.
The Process for Intervention
1 When a written complaint against a pastor (respondent) is received, the bishop and the district superintendent will confer in prayer and concern.
2 The complainant is interviewed by the superintendent to clarify the complaint, and to request further details, and to determine if there are questionable statements in the complaint. The superintendent explains the process of bringing a complaint against a respondent for alleged sexual misconduct, inappropriate sexual behavior or harassment to the complainant. The superintendent points out that if the respondent confesses, the official complaint is brought by the bishop and the cabinet, no longer by the complainant. The superintendent then reports to the bishop the contents of the meeting.
3 The bishop then sets a meeting with the complainant and the superintendent to further clarify the complaint. The complainant is instructed not to have any further contact with the respondent and, for the protection of all, to keep the complaint and these meetings confidential.
4 The bishop and the superintendent then meet with the respondent and present the written complaint. The respondent is interviewed about the complaint. If the respondent confesses to the allegation, the respondent's understanding of the allegation is clarified. The respondent is instructed not to have any further contact with the complainant and to keep the complaint and the meetings confidential.
5 If the respondent confesses to the complaint, the bishop and the superintendent confer about the next steps. Concern for the respondent, the complainant, and the church are expressed in every meeting. The cabinet is informed and the next steps of the process are determined.
6 If the respondent denies the complaint and through the district superintendent and the bishop there is just resolution with the complainant, the matter may be terminated by the bishop with confidentiality maintained.
7 If the respondent contests the complaint and there is no just resolution, the bishop and superintendent confer with the Cabinet to determine the next steps. The procedure shall go forward as outlined in The United Methodist Book of Discipline, 2008 Section XV (¶361-363 and ¶2701-2719.
8 If the respondent confesses, the bishop may ask for the convening of the Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry to request suspension. The district superintendent and/or the bishop then meet with the respondent and inform him/her of the suspension process.
9 If the Executive Committee grants suspension then the superintendent contacts the chairperson of the SPRC and sets a date immediately to convene the SPRC to inform and consult with them concerning the suspension process.
10 The CARE Team Convener contacted by the superintendent and after consulting with the superintendent designates response team members to be present when this information is shared with key leadership and congregation. The consultant or the Chairperson of the Response Team attends the meeting of the SPRC. Other persons may be asked to attend the meetings as deemed necessary by the superintendent. Meetings are also set for the week after the announcement to the church for members to ask questions, state opinions, and express their feelings about the suspension and misconduct.
11 The superintendent in consultation with the respondent and SPRC will decide how he/she will communicate with the church about the suspension and the reason for it. The superintendent encourages the respondent and the complainant to secure counseling, and the superintendent will offer a support person. If asked, either the superintendent or the Board of Ordained Ministry will recommend such persons. The Response Team may also designate members to continue to be in contact, prayer and support for the respondent and complainant. If possible, the superintendent shares the name of the pastor who will be provided at the expense of the Annual Conference as the interim pastor of the church.
12 When the congregation is informed, the superintendent, another cabinet member, response team members and others designated are present. During this meeting the superintendent announces the suspension. After the announcement persons may ask questions, talk one-on-one with Response Team members or others designated, and pray together before leaving.
13 The superintendent notifies the other pastors of the conference by mail or phone giving them a brief statement about the suspension.
14 The superintendent returns to the church within a few days to meet with persons who want to ask questions, state opinions, think of steps to move forward, and pray.
15 The superintendent continues to meet with the Lay Leader and the SPRC chairperson to decide on the next steps.
1. Recruit and train 10 people organized into two Response Teams.
à Inclusive membership: clergy/lay, male/female, different cultures, and urban/rural.
à These persons should be highly trained in the areas of sexual misconduct, pastoral care, and intervention.
à Recruit and train one additional person yearly, so as to keep the teams up to strength.
à Have ongoing training with a training event once a year and with the debriefing of each intervention.
2. The Response Team assists the superintendent in the intervention.
3. Intervention should involve care for all affected persons with team members assigned to have a pastoral presence with:
à Complainant(s) or the person experiencing the sexual misconduct.
à Family of the Respondent
4. Intervention with awareness of both the short term and long term needs of the congregation (and those within the congregation who may have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse), the victim(s), the respondent’s family, and the respondent, as they go through a complex process that is a grief process and much more.
a Short Term Intervention includes:
à Short term is up to five meetings, including the meetings with SPRC, Church Leaders and congregational meetings.
à Response Team available to the congregation as well as to assignments with specific persons.
à If possible professional counselors should also be available.
à Have a toll free number for people to call for help.
à A seven day devotional developed for the congregation to use in processing.
à Any inquires from the media regarding an incident of sexual misconduct must be directed to the bishop or a designated person. Questions from the media shall not be addressed by any member of the response team.
b Long Term Intervention
à An interim pastor(s) with special training whenever possible.
à The district superintendent (assisted by interim pastor and/or the sexual ethics consultant when needed) strategize with the SPRC and church leaders for the church to move forward.
à When possible, professional counseling available for victim(s), the family of the charged cleric or church worker, the charged cleric or church worker.
3.RESTORATION OF RESPONDENT
Process of Healing and Wholeness Leading to Possible Restoration
The Conference believes that there are cases where healing and wholeness for function of ministry can be achieved for persons who are suspended or have previously been suspended and are on leave of absence and who:
· have confessed to a charge of sexual misconduct and shown remorse,
· when appropriate have participated actively in a mutual process of reconciliation.
Where these conditions have been met the person may be restorable to function as an ordained clergy person. The process will involve a close relationship between the bishop and cabinet and the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry.
When the supervisory response period is over, and the petitioner requests to participate in a process leading to healing and wholeness for the function of ministry, and the bishop believes this is possible, the following process will be set in motion:
1. The Bishop requests that the Executive Committee of BOOM engage in a process possibly leading to restoration for a clergy member of the Conference known hereafter as the Petitioner.
2. The District Superintendent brings the facts of the charges to the Executive Committee of BOOM. The accuser may be invited to share his/her perspective.
3. A meeting is arranged between the Executive Committee of BOOM and the Petitioner and his/her district superintendent. At this meeting, the Petitioner will state his/her case. Applicable documentation and a report from the therapist will be presented, and then there will be a period of questions and answers. The Petitioner may bring a friend or adviser who will not act in the role of a lawyer.
4. After the meeting between the Executive Committee and the Petitioner, there will be a time of prayer and discernment taken by the Executive Committee before a decision is made. When the decision is made, it will be communicated to the appropriate parties.
5. If the Executive Committee of BOOM agrees that restoration is possible, the following steps occur:
a The Executive Committee establishes an accountability group, consisting of five persons, one of which is chosen by the Petitioner (two persons appointed by BOOM, one lay, one clergy; two non-BOOM persons, one lay, one clergy; one person named by the Petitioner). A CARE Team member or a sexual ethics consultant will be the convener.
b The Accountability Group determines what issues need to be addressed.
c The Group writes a focus/mission statement to the effect that it will continue to work toward the restoration of the Petitioner, and it will include the time parameters for the process.
d Areas for work will be listed by the Group to include:
à the call
à spiritual direction (with mentor/director)
à a written covenant between the Petitioner and the Group
e The Group shall monitor the progress of the petitioner and offer evaluation as it relates to the petitioner’s progress.
f The Group shall meet regularly with the petitioner for prayer and spiritual discernment, discussion of issues unique to the situation, and shall maintain confidentiality.
g The bishop must approve the plan.
6. When the work is completed, the Accountability Group, with prayer and concern, makes a recommendation to the bishop and the Executive Committee of BOOM.
7. If the Group’s recommendation to the Executive Committee is for restoration, and if the Executive Committee agrees, the Executive Committee makes a recommendation to the full BOOM.
8. The full BOOM makes its recommendation to the Executive Session.
Our hope and prayer is that all persons within the Body of Christ will take prevention very seriously. Clergy are at risk as they enter into pastoral relationships with many vulnerable persons and breaking the sacred trust is so devastating. When sexual misconduct or even allegation of such occurs, interventionis essential and is shaped 1) by a concern for all who are affected and 2) by the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. While a person is never severed from the Body of Christ, restoration to pastoral office is only possible through a very thorough healing process.
Appendix I: Disclosure
The appendix on disclosure is superseded 2008; Section XV, Complaints, paragraphs 361, 362, 363. Complaint Procedures
The intent is to encourage openness, while protecting the rights of all persons, and to support the disciplinary process where appropriate.
Just as God’s gift of forgiveness cannot be appropriated without confession and repentance, so the process of healing for individuals, the congregation and the connectional church includes the appropriate disclosure of information. Truth telling has the power to release persons, both perpetrators and those who have experienced sexual misconduct, from the bondage of secrecy, denial and guilt resulting from such an abuse of power. Disclosure needs to be made to those who need to know, including the congregation.
When bringing incidents of sexual misconduct to the attention of the proper authorities, the greatest possible care shall be taken to assure that the least possible additional harm is done to the complainant(s) and/or person(s) experiencing sexual misconduct, the respondent, the family and the congregation(s). Procedures will be followed responsibly to ensure fairness and justice. Disclosure should never involve revealing the identity of the person(s) experiencing sexual misconduct or of facts that would readily identify the person(s) without written permission.
Four important reasons justify appropriate disclosure of the problem of sexual misconduct to a congregation whose church leader has either resigned to avoid disciplinary proceedings or who faces such proceedings:
1. It is easier for a congregation to deal with anything, no matter how unpleasant, if it is confronted openly rather than shrouded in secrecy. The truth is always better than lies or rumors. Allegations of sexual misconduct are particularly susceptible to rumors and distortions that over time could destroy a congregation. Disclosure is the first step in the healing process for the congregation’s future health and well being.
2. Disclosure is also necessary for the church to fulfill its mission to reach out to people who need the love, healing and reconciliation that are the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This includes reaching out to persons who have experienced sexual misconduct but have not confronted and dealt with the problem. It also includes reaching out to parishioners whose lives have been disrupted by the sudden and apparently inexplicable disciplining or resignation of their pastor or church leader. It further includes reaching out to the respondent person and person’s family. Disclosure also prevents future abuse within the congregation.
3. Church leaders facing accusation and disciplinary proceedings are entitled to due process and cannot serve or prepare an appropriate defense when surrounded by rumors. On the other hand, church leaders who in fact have been involved in sexual misconduct cannot necessarily be relied upon to be truthful in working with the Staff Parish Relations Committee or congregation. Appropriate disclosure is part of the intervention to confront and resolve misconduct so that all parties involved, including the respondent person and person’s family, are offered steps toward healing.
4. Disclosure may also be required to help protect the congregation or the Peninsula-Delaware Conference from potential legal liability for the actions of church leaders involved in sexual misconduct. As the problem of sexual misconduct is increasingly recognized and dealt with, there is likely to be increased litigation by those who have experienced it seeking legal redress for the pain and hurt they have suffered. The first step in confronting such problems of potential legal liability is disclosure.
Guidelines for Disclosure
The Bishop and the District Superintendent will be the disclosing parties. Any church member can and should report any grievance. The pastor is under obligation to report a church worker to the bishop and district superintendent. In the case of a child it also must be reported immediately to Child Protective Services or the local Child Advocacy Center(MD) or Department of Services for Children, Youth and Families (DE).
1. Disclosure should not reveal by name the identity of the complainant or any one experiencing sexual misconduct unless the person has specifically requested identification. Likewise, care should be taken to avoid disclosure of facts likely to reveal the identity of such persons.
2. Disclosure of other information should be accurate and as factual as possible. It shall be sufficiently complete to provide a clear understanding of the charges and to protect others from further misconduct. Disclosure should also make clear the nature of the process, the respondent’s right to due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
3. Information on what, in our church’s understanding, constitutes sexual misconduct and how the person’s action allegedly violates these expectations of ordained ministers should be provided.
4. Where a clergy person has withdrawn or a lay person resigned without admitting guilt, and before a formal hearing, the disclosure should refer to the allegations of misconduct but should also state that the respondent denied the allegations and withdrew or resigned.
5. It is appropriate to describe to the Staff Parish Relations Committee the conduct of the respondent or that to which he/she has admitted.
6. Initial reporting and disclosure to the congregation should be done in a setting other than the regularly scheduled worship service and will be established in consultation with the Staff Parish Relations Committee and congregational key leaders.
7. The congregation should be informed of steps taken to provide care for the person(s) experiencing sexual misconduct, the person in question and their families.
8. Disclosure will ordinarily not be made to either the secular or church media, but the bishop’s office should be prepared to answer media inquires. Any inquires from the media must be directed to the bishop or those designated by the bishop.
A. All written and signed allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct will be taken as worthy of investigation.
B. The respondent is presumed innocent until completion of the process. Thereafter, the reached conclusion will apply.
C. The rights of all those involved, the complainant and/or the person(s) experiencing sexual misconduct, the respondent, the families of each, the congregation or institution, shall be protected until all the facts have been considered and the appropriate action determined. Special assistance may be needed for those unable to speak for themselves such as children, the mentally challenged and those with Alzheimer's or head injuries.
D. Reports shall be dealt with as matters of highest confidentiality before and after they have been submitted to the appropriate authorities outlined below.
II. Sexual Harassment
A. If You are sexually harassed...
1 Inform the harasser firmly and clearly that you do not want the behavior.
2 If harassment persists, keep a journal which documents all incidents of sexual harassment, including dates, times, and descriptions of the incidents. Record the names of any witnesses. If you receive any written letters, cards, etc. from the harasser, keep them.
3 If harassment persists, seek advice and counsel from an objective person. You may wish to involve this person in subsequent phases of the process.
4 Contact the individual in writing: be specific about the act(s) which you consider to be sexual harassment, and state that sexual harassment is a violation of civil rights.
5 Contact the district superintendent if the behavior requires further action.
B if you are respondant of sexual harassment...
1 Get in contact with your district superintendent.
C if sexual harassment is reported to you...
1 Listen objectively and take it seriously.
2 Help the complainant follow the steps outlines above in Section A.
III. Child Sexual Abuse
C Child abuse must be reported immediately to Child Protective Services (MD) or Department of Services for Children, Youth and Family (DE).
D Contact the appropriate district superintendent or supervisor.
E Do not try to resolve the issue with the alleged abuser.
F Inform the parents/guardian that you have reported the situation
Appendix II: Suspension
The appendix on suspension is based upon and superseded by 2008: Section XV. Complaints, paragraph 361.1c
The intent is to clarify the disciplinary use of “suspension” as a means of providing support through time and resources for the respondent (and family) and for the congregation(s).
The bishop may suspend, upon approval by the executive committee of Board of Ordained Ministry, the respondent from all clergy responsibilities but not from appointment for a period not to exceed 60 days.
1. During suspension, salary, housing and benefits will continue at a level no less than the date of the suspension. The congregation(s) or institution of employment shall assume all costs.
2. The cost of supply for the pastoral charge during suspension will be borne by the annual conference.
3. The interim pastor shall be informed of the circumstances of the temporary suspension in order to minister effectively with the congregation.
4. If just resolution is achieved at any time during the sixty days, the bishop will take appropriate action, which may include but not be limited to restoration to the ministry, withdrawal from the ministry, leave of absence, etc. If the respondent is required to leave the pastorate, $1,000.00 will be paid by the Annual Conference to defray the moving expenses for the family.