It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…” — 1 Corinthians 5.1a
I’ll bet that title got your attention. Me too.
Last week, a prominent United Methodist Pastor in Texas, Tyrone Gordon, resigned and surrendered his credentials amidst multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. He was one of the stars of our denomination, and though nothing has been proven or disproven, the allegations against him are daunting.
Every time a pastor engages in sexual misconduct (or sexual harassment), God weeps. That’s what I think. This is not Kingdom Behavior.
In our conference we have mandatory sexual ethics training for all pastors, and safe and sacred certification for all who work with children and youth. We work very hard to make sure our churches are sanctuaries from all kinds of abuse.
It pains me to say it, but despite our denomination’s best efforts, some pastors are repressed, and some never learn appropriate boundaries. There are even some who are predators. Some just make stupid mistakes. What I’m trying to say is, sexual misconduct is a rare yet nevertheless present aspect of The Church.
It’s scary, and it sickens me. But sexual impropriety is by no means restricted to clergy.
I would suppose God weeps whenever any doctor, or foreman, or supervisor, or teacher, or co-worker misuses their sexuality in the workplace. It’s a widespread problem.
Here are some stats on work related sexual harassment (from hr.blr.com)
- About 70% of women and 20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
- There are about 15,000 cases of sexual harassment filed each year in the United States.
- These charges cost U.S. companies almost $40 million each year.
- The number of complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years, indicating this is not just a woman’s problem.
There’s a good chance that you or someone you love has been a victim of some level of sexual harassment. Unwanted advances, aggressive behavior, inappropriate humor, power plays, physical assault, etc. This happens more than it should.
When it happens via the clergy, the moral outrage is often stronger because of the perceived higher ethical standards clergy must meet. But the truth is, Christians in all sorts of workplace environments find themselves making poor decisions, inappropriately crossing boundaries, and hurting themselves and others as a result.
Again, this is not Kingdom behavior. So how can we respond?
The two words that come to my mind are: Responsible love.
Responsible love for the victims means listening, believing, showing patience, helping to rebuild trust, and being an advocate.
Responsible love for the one who has engaged in misconduct means counseling, accountability, justice, and hopefully, forgiveness.
Perhaps, most of all, responsible love teaches and promotes healthy sexuality throughout the system.
Painful events like these bring forward so many emotions, and every one of them is acceptable to God. The path to responsible love is a rocky one, not always attained. Still, as Kingdom people, I believe it must be our goal.
I am truly humbled by the recent events in our denomination. It is a reminder that we must all (not just clergy) be mindful and vigilant in our interactions with each other. As painful as times like these can be, we must seize the opportunity to learn and grow.
Because, if we don’t learn and grow…
Have a great week,