Clergy ethics and sexual abuse

In seminary, I received no ethical training. My former denomination provided no ethical training and no ethical guidelines. Numerous times when I have inquired about such policies, I was either ignored, told that unethical behavior will not occur in our denomination/diocese, or have been given ambiguous information that provides no real guidance. The general area of clergy ethics is of great interest to me.

I have been recently reflecting on the issue of clergy sexual abuse. Various sources on this subject estimate that 15-20% of clergy have sexually abused someone. Sadly, many cases of sexual abuse are unreported, ignored, allowed to continue, or hidden by church leadership. Many churches do not have established policies for handling sexual abuse allegations.

In the interest of ministerial accountability, I have drafted the following statement. This statement is offered as a model for Christian leaders in developing some fundamental approach to dealing with sexual abuse in the church. It does not cover all areas but is intended to address proven abuse by clergy. Any person or organization is free to use or adapt this text if it is found helpful.

If you have comments or suggestions on this issue, please reply with your comments.

Suggested policy on clergy sexual misconduct

When any secular court of law or any agency or committee of this church authorized to adjudge such matters shall find that any ordained minister of this church is guilty of sexual misconduct or sexual abuse of another person, such minister shall be immediately deprived of ministry in this church, shall retain no emoluments thereof, and shall not be restored to such ministry and emoluments unless proven innocent of the sexual misconduct or abuse in question upon proper appeal in the respective jurisdictions.

Sexual misconduct is defined as sexual touching or sexual relations with any person who is not the minister’s spouse. Sexual abuse is defined as (1) rape, or (2) attempt to coerce into sexual touching or sexual relations any person who is not the minister’s spouse.

This article is part 1 of 2 in the series Ethics.

Alabama Clergy Council Resolution About Terri Schiavo

The Alabama Clergy Council adopted the following resolution in recognition of the plight of the family of Terri Schiavo and the sanctity of life.


Whereas Terri Schiavo, a forty-one year-old, disabled woman, currently residing in Pinellas Park, Florida, is now being starved to death; and

Whereas, many medical doctors agree that she is not in a persistent vegetative state and that she can possibly improve with therapy; and

Whereas, the President of the United States, George W. Bush, has stated publicly that in such cases, and in this case in particular, it is best to err on the side of life; and

Whereas, the Alabama Clergy Council values the sanctity of all human life and affirms that the rights and liberty of mankind come from the hand of Almighty God, not from the will of any government, constitution, or creed; and

Whereas, God has created all of mankind in his image; be it therefore

Resolved that the Board of Directors of the Alabama Clergy Council, joins with millions of others, including the National Clergy Council, the Florida Clergy Council, and the parents of Terri Schiavo, Bob and Mary Schindler, in pleading for Terri’s life; and be it further

Resolved that President George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush are encouraged to intervene and have Terri’s feeding tube reinstated; and be it finally

Resolved that copies of this resolution be distributed to concerned parties and others so that our position be clearly understood and that others of faith are spurred to action.