Methodists Say: Sexual Predators (Who Are Ministers) Beware!

The Catholic Church perhaps became an example of the negative publicity and damage that can befall a denomination that harbors rather than addresses its leaders who have engaged in sexual misconduct.   While somewhat of an oversimplification, the Catholic Church was accused of knowingly retaining priests (and others) who had sexually molested children and adults.  Worse, it was accused of placing these purported offenders in positions where the problem would and did continue – thereby increasing the number of victims.

The problem played out in the media and across the globe.  It was and continues to be ugly.  Recently, in fact, an Atlanta mega-church has suffered public allegations by multiple members that the head of this church molested them as children, taking advantage of their minority, vulnerability, and his position to do unspeakable things to them.   The threat of allegations is real.  The threat of other sexual predators within religious organizations is real, irrespective of denomination. 

In the United States, had the Catholic Church been a typical, private and non-religious entity, the legal risks associated with harboring a sexual harasser and perpetuating the scope of the problem would have captured at least the CFO’s imagination and created some sense of urgency to take action.   But, the Catholic Church was not Corporate America –  but the wisdom of thinking like a “real” corporation arguably has been learned there and other denominations have taken note.

The United Methodist Church has taken a stand on this issue of ministers engaging in inappropriate and improper sexual relationships with members.  What a difference the media coverage has been in contrast to the Catholic Church’s debacle. 

 The bottom line is that members of the clergy must think like Corporate America, provide training in their workplaces like Corporate America, and take allegations seriously in their workplaces (like most of Corporate America).  So long as humans make up a church, so too will human frailties exist in the church.   Ministers and pastors should take pains to study Human Resources as preparation for running the church’s business, and to take smart actions when allegations arise. 

The first step may be as simple as adding a solid Human Resources company to the “rolodex” that handles workplace investigations, such as One Mediation, and provides training.    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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