Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Have You Been A Victim Of CSM?

"If this was any other man, I would have known it was not right,...
But church is supposed to be a sanctuary. I couldn't make sense of what was happening.
He broke my connection to all that is holy. What hurts me the most is that this wasn't just physical rape, it was spiritual rape."
~Carolyn, survivor of Clergy Sexual Misconduct 

Clergy Sexual Misconduct

According to a 2009 study spearheaded by Baylor University more than 3 % of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been the victims of clergy sexual misconduct since turning age 18. Placing the numbers in perspective, it is reported that the average U.S. congregation size is about 400 adult members. This averages out that within the average congregation that there are about  7 women who have been victimized at some point in their adult lives. 92% of the solicitations or advances for sex were done in secret and 67% of the offenders (church leaders) were married. 

The Abuse Of Position & Power

"When a religious leader has a sexual relationship with a congregant, it's not an affair,...It's abuse of power-the power that we give to our religious leader as a community. It must be addressed in that context."

This unprecedented study was done under the direction of  Dr. Diana Garland, dean of Baylor University's School of Social Work, and continues to rock the religious community.

"Because many people are familiar with some of the high-profile cases of sexual misconduct, most people assume that it is just a matter of a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers...What the research tells us, however, is that clergy sexual misconduct with adults is a widespread problem in congregations of all sizes and occurs across denominations. Now that we have a better understanding of the problem, we can start looking at prevention strategies...We examined this problem to help the church take leadership in responding; the church needs to be the church,...Clergy sexual misconduct tears a church apart, and we must address it."

In effort to bring attention and solid solutions to this problem within the church Baylor University has also launched a Clergy Sexual Misconduct Awareness & Prevention Web Site. They have also introduced a sample code of ethics for congregational leaders as follows:

1. Provide spiritual guidance and teaching for congregants, congregational staff members, and members of the larger community.

2. Treat staff and congregants with dignity and respect.

3. Uphold integrity through honest communication.

4. Nurture their personal religious life through prayer, meditation, and study.

5. Maintain healthy boundaries with congregants by nurturing family relationships and/or friendships with others whom they do not also serve as religious leader.

6. Refrain from making sexual overtures and engaging in sexual relationships (other than with one's spouse), or sexually harassing congregants, whether or not the leader and/or congregant is married.

7. Be accountable to an identified supervisor or group of peers that conducts regular performance reviews, seeking input from members of the congregation.

8. Avoid disclosing private information about congregants.

9. Recognize the power dynamic in their role with congregants, using that power to seek the well being of those they serve and never for their own personal ends.

10. Limit their professional role to pastor, teacher, or priest to avoid dual relationships and arbitrary boundaries with congregants.

11. Provide time-limited pastoral care during times of crisis but avoid entering counseling relationships with congregants.

12. Provide referrals to community agencies and professionals for congregants who need mental health or social services.
Silence Is Fool's Gold

One thread that is common in CSM cases is silence. The victim is encouraged and seemingly rewarded by the congregation to be silent, encouraged to not tell anyone what happened or what they are currently experiencing. This is a two edged sword however, the same congregation that often rewards with a fake inclusion for silence, often condemns and ostracises the victim for their participation and presence in the situation and for any public hint of impropriety.

On the other side there's spin management which large ministries able to afford media and public relations firms have become expert at doing. When this is "spun" the right way, situations such as these are almost always never the Pastor or spiritual leaders fault and he is normally a "good man" often being lied on. The congregation is often told to not mention what is happening or that has happened, in order to "keep the favor of God" upon the lives of the individual members. In other words, "dumb down, don't rock the boat and pray!" the demand for accountability is deemed as being "in the flesh" by many of the die-hard faithful.

Even though, there are some things that a healthy congregation should and can do along with a rightly intended leader to make sure that things are conducted in a godly and biblically centered manner if something like this should happen. Baylor released a sample code of actions that a healthy congregation can take to avoid these sort of situations:
1. Educate members on the role of sexuality and power in relationships, studying religious texts and principles that relate to our sexuality and handling the power we have (whether as parents, teachers, employers, supervisors, and leaders) and how a community is responsible for its members who are vulnerable to the misuse of power.

2. Educate members about the "normalcy bias" and the "norm of niceness," and the kinds of situations in which we have experienced these disincentives to act, and appropriate responses.

3. Adopt written codes of ethics and clear role expectations for leaders. Those expectations should include proscribing congregational leaders from serving in the dual role of professional counselor or therapist.

4. Conduct thorough reference checks on potential leaders, including persons in previous congregations not selected as references by the leader.

5. Provide accountability structures with regular reporting expectations.
All Shapes & Genders

Although this is a new area of study and one that has had very little by way of empirical verification, it should be known that there is enough data to suggest that sin and impropriety doesn't discriminate by gender lines. Before one gets too comfortable it should be known that too many women who have been hurt by sexually aggressive male pastors, sometimes seek out solace in congregations lead by women. In general it is thought that women clergy will be more sexually pure and or faithful than most men. This can be and often is a deceitful stereotype. There are a growing number of women clergy who are not only covert lesbians, but who are also sexual predators and "alpha motherly" figures that target the women of their congregations. There is no benefits to leadership gender identity when money, popularity, fame and attention are the spoils of labor.

According to the book, 'Wolves Within The Fold, Religious leadership and abuses of power' by Anson D. Shupe, it is common that the victims of this type of abuse and misconduct faces serious health and mental challenges and most times a sexual identity crisis that sometimes lasts a lifetime and together creates a lifetime of pain. This is regardless of whether the actions were perpetrated by male or female clergy. 

Clergy Sexual Abuse vs. Clergy Sexual Misconduct

Is there a difference between CSA and CSM?

Technically, yes there is, however the results are dramatically similar if not the same. As described above as "spiritual rape" an individual the victim of sexual abuse, often finds themselves powerless to do anything to respond to, stop, or free themselves of the abuse. A victim of CSM often feels the same and ends up in the same condition or situation with an equally great level of shame and guilt because of actions that are initially perceived as having been within the individuals control to prevent and or stop. In my opinion, this is the distinguishing factor.

The misconception of those on the outside is that the victim of CSM invites or wants a sexual relationship when in all actuality quite the contrary is true. Sometimes all that is really desired is attention. What is also most times not true is that the victim of CSM was in control of the situation at any point. None of this is to hold the responsible person harmless, however it is to point out that often times there is a total relinquishment of the individual self within these sort of situations. In many cases there is a seduction of the mind away from family friends, children, and spouses that occurs making the victim extend themselves out upon fantasy and unrealistic promises.

In many cases it can begin as innocently as driving someone's car, picking up someone's clothes, or doing some other personal or special task for the "man-d of God". As stated the results of shame, guilt, depression,  feelings of being used, suicide and suicidal feelings are all too often the same in victims of both CSM and CSA. These feelings and real life situations cannot be minimized by caring and concerned individuals. 

Be it known that there is a small number of cases where the victim is the aggressor. There are women (and some men) who prey on the "preacha" in an effort to destroy his character and integrity, this article DOES NOT reference those situations or focus on those situations other than by encouraging those women (and men) to, repent, get saved and seek the Lord while he may be found of you.   


There are devastating effects of CSM. The financial fallout is only one aspect of the pain that this brings. Dollars can be lost and earned again, but the psychological effects that the victim experiences may never be overcome. Not to mention the spiritual fallout that occurs as a result of this type of behavior. Some individuals are yet further solidified in their disassociation from God and the church because of this. In all, there are more reasons than a few for the defiled aggressors of this sort of ungodliness to cleanse their hearts, hands, and deeds and for the undefiled to remain undefiled in the way. 

To those who have been victims, caught in an illicit relationship, blinded by promises, position and all the deceit that was thrown at your abilities to rightly reason, there is yet healing at the cross of Christ and HE will never abuse you and in the midst of this has never walked away or forsaken HIS commitment. The church must be use the healing salve of Christ and be there for the victims of this sort of abuse and misuse, and leadership must insure sound systems of accountability so that these things don't occur and so that the chances of this happening is severely reduced if not eliminated. God's house should be a place of healing and not a place of abuse and or misconduct!  

1 Thess. 4:10-7 ~ "1-Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more. 2-For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3-For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4-That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5-Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6-That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7-For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."




  1. Clergy Sexual Abuse is certainly Clergy Sexual Misconduct, but Clergy Sexual Abuse is more than simply clergy sexual misconduct.

    I believe that the Catholic church is finding that out once again all too painfully at the present.

  2. Great and timely article, Pastor Burnett. I have a few questions for you. These are questions that have been raging in my mind for some time now, since I am aware of several cases of clergy sexual misconduct and abuse.
    1. When there is an accusation of misconduct, what is the Pastor's responsibility to the flock as far as explanation goes? Should he keep quiet? Should he be open to questions from members of the congregation about the accusation - such as "Is it true?".

    2. If he is guilty - let's say he had an affair, or he got someone pregnant - does that mean that he is no longer qualified to lead the flock because of this violation?

    3. What if he never addresses the rumor? Should the members assume he's guilty, or just drop the matter?

    4. What if he keeps on preaching (harder and better than ever!), will God still use him and bless the people?

    5. What is the larger Church's responsibility to the local church that's facing a situation where the Pastor is accused of misconduct? Should they address the local church or leave that to the accused Pastor?

    This is such a BIG problem in seemingly successful churches pastored by some really BIG named people. Any perspective and Biblical guidance you can give us would be appreciated. Also, because I have so many questions, if you would prefer to refer me to another source for answers, I will surely understand.


  3. Anon March 19 4:51PM,

    First, you don't have too many questions and I'm glad you've asked and commented. You asked:

    1. When there is an accusation of misconduct, what is the Pastor's responsibility to the flock as far as explanation goes? Should he keep quiet? Should he be open to questions from members of the congregation about the accusation - such as "Is it true?".

    This really depends upon the level of the offense. A general congregant that has had an affair outside the church is somewhat of a different situation. individuals that have affairs and sexual trysts with other individuals within the church should be handled differently.

    Even further beyond that are individuals holding positions within the church that get caught up. In my opinion, a position holder, whether they do this within or outside of the church, the congregation should be addressed openly and forthrightly at least on the general principles involved. A truly repentant position holder will render or be willing to render a apology which will still much of the negative talk and set a spiritual and restorative tone around the failure, which is the objective anyway.

    Now, NONE of these statements consider criminals or predators. They should be handled and addressed openly and the congregation protected.

    We should keep in mind that allegations are different from what has been proven or actual events, however repeated allegations could be an indicator of guilt. There is no easy answer. Only that a person with impeccable character wouldn't be accused of something all the time.

    Now, I temper my comments with experience. I have witnessed personally first hand, a women who tried to destroy a preacher friend of mine because she wanted attention. She confessed such to me and my wife BUT maintained her lie until she decided to quit he allegations 9 months to a year after the pastor suffered the pain and loss that he suffered.

    We must accurately judge the difference between criminal activity, sexual misconduct, and people who are just responding out of a failed relationship. Some people are ashamed because they got caught or knew they were wrong before they got involved. That type of guilt has also destroyed churches because people sat silently and didn't set the record straight.

    So advising the church is an area which wisdom should be used and God should be honored.

    I'll get to the rest in a minute

  4. You asked: 2. If he is guilty - let's say he had an affair, or he got someone pregnant - does that mean that he is no longer qualified to lead the flock because of this violation?

    No, that doesn't necessarily hold true, however he may permanently forfeit a certain type of ministry because of his sexual sin and indiscretion. For example, many hold that a Bishop cannot be a Bishop if a prior wife lives. So what happens if a Bishop divorces? The scripture does not distinguish the difference of "fault" in the case of the Bishop. because of this some conclude that the Bishop with a second living wife must relinquish his Bishopric as soon as he marries living number 2.

    I don't know the answer to this one and am open to hearing opinions. I can only set forth the case, but it could be a possibility that a person disqualifies themselves from future types of service because of past or current sins.

    I do know this, a pedophile should never have the opportunity to council children again. A thief shouldn't count the money alone either...

  5. You asked:3. What if he never addresses the rumor? Should the members assume he's guilty, or just drop the matter?

    Now, let's assume that this is a situation where the person has engaged in sexual misconduct. It is ungodly for a person that cares about the congregation to not address the pertinent issues. What's more, when rumors start flying, that's not healthy for the church.

    Now, to the focus of the article...a predator or someone taking advantage of another in the church is probably too far gone to even address anything. Therefore it takes people to make him accountable for their actions. The bible gives the process by which grievances of this sort and manner should be handled. i believe following that prescription is the godly and biblical way to address the issue that is rumored. A godly person appreciates the opportunity to address a lie and correct an untrue rendering of important events.

    You ask:4. What if he keeps on preaching (harder and better than ever!), will God still use him and bless the people?

    Will God use the obstinate of heart and unhearing of his council to council you? This is the question. I heard Carlton Pearson on a new record today. Sounds like the old Carlton Pearson. However there is no substance. Hasn't been for a long time. i think we've got to peel away what we "think" God sounds like and distinguish his true and real voice. The church lacks that sort of discernment.

    5. What is the larger Church's responsibility to the local church that's facing a situation where the Pastor is accused of misconduct? Should they address the local church or leave that to the accused Pastor?

  6. Pastor Burnett, I read this when you first wrote it and wanted to tell you how awesome it is for you to clarify the differences between the types of sexual issues occuring in the church.

    I agree with you on the responses to anon. I wish all pastors would be proactive and educate their congregations BEFORE something breaks out and rumors destroy.

    I would suggest they take your post and make a bible study out of it. What's wrong with educating people on how they should conduct themselves should a situation occur?? Many times the stuff hits the fan because instead of education, there is suppression.

    Anon is probably like many people. They simply want to know what is right and godly in dealing with sexual sins in the church. To me that is healthy and godly.

    On question 5, I would say the larger church body (denomination) should exercise due intervention with the sheep in mind. Im always reminded that God spoke his "woe" to the shepherd that scatters the sheep. Any leader who is in protracted sexual sin places the sheep in danger. Responses should be redemptive but without respect of persons. There are people who are cunning enough to slip out of serious scrutiny. Sherman Allen is a real good example of that.

  7. Gcmwatch,

    I totally agree my friend. The "secrecy" of the church and the suppression of God's response to sin is what's killing the church.

    Now, within the church, sin is simply considered a "character flaw". There is a minimization of sin and what it is. It's much deeper than a character flaw however, and I believe that it's incumbent upon leadership to make those things plain and like you said. Educate the congregation and display how and why the biblical method of addressing these issues is the best method in addressing them.

    I mean people would think twice if they knew that a biblical method in dealing with these situations were going to occur.

    Then most certainly the denominational or organizational church has no excuse. They are held collectively by the same standards of righteousness and should move to address the issues publicly. Sometimes we think that addressing it among ourselves or in the closets is sufficient...but the people need to see where the leadership is going and it's not a mystery. It should be made plain.

    So there is a lot that could be said on this Elder.


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