Churchnet’s Strategy Development Team is coordinating a ministry focused upon preventing clergy sexual misconduct and providing recovery resources for victims.
This project seeks to provide resources to churches and ministers on ministerial sexual ethics, clergy misconduct, and care for the victims of sexual abuse. Churchnet, a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, is a network of Baptist churches throughout Missouri who cooperate together to help churches more effectively engage in missions, evangelism and community involvement. The initiative began with backing of a $15,000 grant.
“We will work with existing ministries and compile information to provide churches with the best resources available for preventing these terrible events in church life,” says Dr. Bob Perry, Churchnet’s former Strategy Development Team Leader. “And when these things do happen, we want to be there with a listening ear, genuine care and practical help for the victims.”
Churchnet, through its Strategy Development Team, will conduct activities in three primary areas:
- Education to help congregations and their leaders better understand the prevalence and threat of sexual abuse
- Prevention of these incidents by appropriate safeguards and awareness
- Care for those who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse through emotional support systems and counseling
A recently disbanded church in the St. Louis area liquidated its assets, $15,000 of which was designated for the education of churches about the dangers of sexual misconduct and care for the victims of such misconduct. Dr. Darrell Pitt and his wife, Rhonda, who were members of the disbanded church, directed those funds to Churchnet for the development of a program to accomplish these purposes. Dr. and Mrs. Pitt, now members of Kirkwood Baptist Church in St. Louis, met with Churchnet Executive Director Dr. Jim Hill to launch this new initiative. According to Hill, this initiative by Churchnet is one of several ways in which the organization is encouraging and assisting churches to engage problems and needs in the “real world.”
The problem of clergy sexual abuse has come to national and international attention due to the litigation of cases of Catholic priests in the United States and other countries. However, the problem is not confined to one denominational group. Protestant congregations around the country have also been negatively affected by clergy misconduct. Recognizing that Baptist churches have experienced and are experiencing the tragic results of such unprofessional and unethical conduct by a relative handful of ministers and priests, greater education and ministry in this area is needed.
Ministry Focus: Clergy Sexual Ethics, Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and Care for Victims of Clergy Abuse
This Churchnet Ministry will focus on three primary areas:
- Information shared with congregations related to how sexual misconduct happens in churches.
- Greater awareness of the danger of sexual misconduct.
- Information about the vulnerability of potential victims, whether children or adults.
- The authority role of minister and the “uneven” relationship that it creates.
- The importance of ministers maintaining strong marriages and having relational boundaries that prevent sexual exploitation.
- How churches and ministers can protect themselves from liability and avoid accusations of negligence.
- The importance of background checks on church staff and youth and children’s workers.
- Practical steps that can make sexual misconduct less likely to happen.
- Encouraging reporting of sexual misconduct by clergy.
- Emotional support and counseling for victims.
- Counseling resources made available to victims.