Everyone pays a high price for ministerial misconduct

Word & Way

By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Anyone who has ever googled any topic or product online usually will get a similar ad from amazon.com at or near the top of the returned search list. Smart marketing — but in the case of ministerial or pastoral ethics, everyone pays a high price when the church shepherd breaches trust.

God’s under-shepherds must be held accountable for the care of their congregations.

“I just wanted to talk to the pastor about my uncle’s abuse,” the young woman sobbed to her friend. “Instead, he pushed me down on the couch in his office and raped me.” Though she remains active in a local church in a different town, she still has difficulty sitting through most worship services.

The teenaged girl often hung out with her best friend, a PK (pastor’s kid), after school, usually at one or the other’s home. One day at the minister’s house, the pastor grabbed his daughter’s friend while his daughter was next door. The girl managed to fight him off. A few years later she learned her mother and the pastor were having an affair.

Both these stories are true. The victims aren’t identified because neither reported the incidents and probably never will.

Sexual misconduct and abuse grab the most headlines among the ethical and moral breaches ministers make, primarily because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church. Uncovered first in Boston in 1992, the scandal and ongoing investigations continue to unveil abuse.

While sexual misconduct gets the most attention, other moral issues also are garnering notice. The Internet and social media have helped both to uncover unethical behavior and to contribute to it, believes Tarris Rosell, Rosemary Flanigan Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo.

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