Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systems Approach to Prevention, Intervention and Oversight
by John Thoburn M.Div., Ph.D., Rob Baker M.A.,
with Maria Dal Maso, MA
“Nearly 15% percent of US ministers have admitted experiencing sexual attraction on a daily basis toward those to whom they minister and 21% admit to a weekly attraction. That is approximately 120,000 ministers who deal with lust on a weekly basis and not simply lust on the street, but sexual attraction to counselees and parishioners, people who generally have their guards down, who may have affectionate feelings for the pastor, who being in a lustful frame of mind, may misinterpret that affection for passion…” — Introduction to Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systems Approach to Prevention, Intervention, and Oversight (Gentle Path Press, Sept. 2011)
Clergy sexual misconduct knows no denominational lines and is a well-documented problem in Protestant churches. The statistics are shocking. There are around 600,000 ministers in the US, meeting the needs of 300,000 Protestant congregations; 94% of churches have a membership between 100-500 members. Ten to fifteen percent of pastors have sexual contact with someone other than a spouse while in the ministry, over 30 % of ministers engage in sexual behavior they consider inappropriate and over 15% qualify as functionally addicted to internet pornography. Furthermore, when clergy sexual misconduct is discovered in a congregation, seven women, on average, have been victimized.
Following the sensational stories profiling the sexual misdeeds of several prominent evangelical pastors in the 1980s and 1990s, often lurid stories that just could not be overlooked, a plethora of books and research studies shouted from the rooftops what had been quietly swept under the rug for ages – at the same time, clergy sexual misconduct is a real problem often with dire consequences for the life of clergy marriages and for the life of the local church as well.
As overwhelming as this problem seems, there is real hope for healing, forgiveness and prevention. After years of research into the dynamics of faith communities and the devastation created by sexual misconduct, authors John Thoburn and Rob Baker have written and compiled a seminal work – teaming with fourteen contributing authors who are experts in this area – intended not only to treat devastated communities, but more importantly, prevent the occurrence of sexual misconduct. Existing books on Protestant clergy sexual misconduct tend to focus on specific areas, such as rehabilitation for the pastor, denominational policies, or the traumatic effects on the pastor, his family, or the congregation. Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systems Approach to Prevention, Intervention and Oversight widens this perspective by exploring how each of these elements influences one another and why a systemic model is the best approach to shed new light on and address this stubborn, growing and significant problem. In addition, the book gives practical, research-based guidelines that map out step-by-step prevention and restoration approaches for clergy, their families, congregations and denominations.