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Sexual Misconduct in the Emerging Church

30 November, 2004 12:21 AM

Today was the first day of the last Forge intensive for the year - a week of learning, dreaming, sharing, networking and imagining what the church, mission and Christian spirituality might look like in our different cultural positions. A lot of Melbourne's emerging church scene comes out over the week to catch up and engage with one another. This intensive is on the topic of 'Leadership'.

Today we had a number of good sessions. One in particular remains in my mind tonight as I consider ending my day and heading to bed. I thought I'd mention it here in an attempt to get it out of my head before I attempt sleep....

Anne Wilkinson-Hayes spoke today about Sexual Misconduct/Abuse - particularly of leaders. Here in Australia (and around the world) over the past few years there have been a number of high profile cases where ministers/pastors have been accused of and found guilty of a variety of different sexual misconduct actions. All that I am aware of have arisen in traditional or mainline churches....

Anne talked today about how this is a topic that the Emerging Church especially needs to ponder and grapple with. Sexual misconduct by leaders is not just an issue for larger mainline churches - in some ways the emerging church might even be more vulnerable due factors including (and I'm generalizing here):

- lack of accountability to outside groups/denominations.
- lack of policy and/or thought through strategies in some of these areas due to the informality or lack of resources of groups
- decentralized leadership that often is a little chaotic
- lack of training in these areas due to a laity leadership model
- smallness of groups which can lead to real relational intimacy
- gender imbalances in groups sometimes make it difficult to follow policies

These were just a few of the reasons why the EC might be more vulnerable in this area. Again they are gross generalizations and not applicable to every EC - however even if none of them apply - I still see this as an important issue to grapple with and one in which I'm yet to see any real work or discussion had in EC circles that I have something to do with. I'm wondering if others have anything to share in terms of resources - ideas - suggestions on how you tackle this area as Emerging Churches. Interested in your thoughts...



hmmmm, anne wilkinson-hayes...

where do i know that name from? is/was she a quaker from canberra?

the other darren » 30 November, 2004 12:41 AM

I would add one more "potential pitfall":

- Emotional neediness on the part of an EC leader.

This obviously comes in various forms.

Something I've seen work is an EC leader proactively, intentionally seeking out accountability & conversation with a non-EC church leader who is sympathetic to the EC. Yes, they do exist. :)

Matt » 30 November, 2004 4:41 AM

no - not from Canberra - living in Melbourne, originally from Britain. She's sort of my boss at the BUV.

True matt - thats another potential vulnerability.

Darren » 30 November, 2004 7:18 AM

This premise is built on an assumption that that a set of factors determines the liklihood of misconduct which I think is flawed. Sorry. Circumstances may increase opportunity, but don't create monsters.

If you were to give everyone in church a butchers knife and opportunity, would they start stabbing one another? ... OK bad example! But seriously, I think that sexual misconduct as evidenced by the media is caused by a condition.

At best you might argue that deviants could better hide within the environment of the EC, but again, due to the relational aspect of the EC I am not convinced.


Garth » 30 November, 2004 9:09 AM

Ouch !

I just re-read my response and it sounded a little harsh...wasn't supposed to be...sorry.

Garth » 30 November, 2004 3:39 PM

no worries Garth - I hear what you're saying and would agree with it in many ways - except that my point really (and I didn't argue for it too well due to the 12.21am time of writing) was that sexual misconduct is just as big an issue for the EC to think through as it is for every other church. I guess what I was trying to show was some of the ways in which EC could be especially susceptible to it when other factors are in place also.

Darren » 30 November, 2004 7:05 PM

Fair point too matey !

Garth » 30 November, 2004 8:43 PM

Hi Darren, I am with you all the way on this one. The issue isn't only that there is moral failure but an abuse of power. Anyone can fall.
Some very good stuff put out by Greg and Meryem Brown from Queensland. 3 papers. "Sexuality in ministry", "Power & Boundaries in Ministry " and "When a minister Falls" All are must reading for anyone in ministry regardles of where or what. The one on sexuality has a helpful section on pornography which is a major issue for some pastors especially on the internet

» 1 December, 2004 12:43 PM

I forgot to say that their address is synergia@powerup.com.au

» 1 December, 2004 12:45 PM

Well, I have lots of experience in this area... I knew the youth pastor in my church for seven years before he was dismissed for sexual misconduct, along with several other youth ministers in our town. It's sick, and yes we need to discuss it and deal with it.

Pressed » 3 December, 2004 3:30 PM

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