This month, “Women by the Numbers” takes a look at surprising findings from a program evaluation
analysis about clergy attitudes concerning sexual misconduct. Many denominations and social scientists
have examined sexual misconduct cases involving children; however, this research is specific to adult
victims (mostly women) and perpetrators within The United Methodist Church in the United States.
Clergy attending a boundaries training were asked to anonymously answer seven (7) questions about
sexual ethics. Some interesting findings:
Just how prevalent is sexual misconduct involving ministerial leaders in the UMC? Breaking down the
It might seem heartening that 41% of respondents don’t know anyone involved in sexual misconduct
by clergy, but the reverse is that nearly six of every 10 clergypersons (59%) know someone who was a
perpetrator or victim (sometimes both) of clergy sexual misconduct.
What is an appropriate relationship between clergy and laity within the local church? When asked, 25%
of respondents felt that close friendships with members of their congregation did not affect their
pastoral authority. Likewise, 35% of respondents believed that it is morally OK for a single pastor to
date one of his or her parishioners. Using the same analysis methodology as above, the respondents to
these two statements were aggregated and the data analyzed to determine where responses overlap
and where they are exclusive.
When the responses to those two questions are aggregated:
So, while half of the respondents do not accept close relationships or dating parishioners, the other half
do accept some combination of close relationships and/or dating.
These results indicate that clergy sexual misconduct is still a
problem for the denomination. Having so many of our clergy
personally familiar with sexual misconduct illustrates how
important our efforts are to provide proper boundary and
sexual ethics training for clergy and other ministerial
positions within the church. Because 59% of surveyed clergy
have experience with this issue, it is also extremely
important to have comprehensive sexual ethics policies
available to them and to the communities that they serve.
Find out if our clergy have become more or less ethnically diverse.