Following the posts on pastors who fall, (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I was contacted by a pastor who has begun to minister in a congregation where the previous pastor fell into sexual sin. He said there was a real shortage of resources, but recommended a book, Restoring the Soul of a Church: Healing Congregations Wounded by Clergy Sexual Misconduct. Although the authors come from what seems to be a largely Episcopal background, and therefore accept bishops, women priests, etc., there’s much extremely helpful material in it.
It’s heart-rending to read the impact of pastoral abuse of power on people’s lives even decades after the offenses. Margo Maris has compiled a list of victims’ needs from her work with them over the years (p.26).
1. To be believed by the Church
2. To hear stated that it is not the victim’s fault. For officials to believe that it is the behavior of the perpetrator that is wrong, not the fact that the victim reported the behavior.
3. To hear that others won’t be hurt by the perpetrator and that other victims will get help.
4. To hear an apology. Most victims will accept it whenever it comes.
5. To be advised that they should not go to congregational meetings in which the exploitation will be disclosed.
6. To have justice for themselves, to know that what happened was wrong.
7. To be considered courageous, not troublemakers.
8. To heal.
9. To be accepted within the community and know they are loved by God.
Regarding #2 and #6, the books’ introduction insists that “the apparent consent of a victim to a sexual or romantic relationship seldom determines whether there has been sexual exploitation because the imbalance of power between the church worker and the person in a pastoral relationship may undermine the validity of such consent” (Introduction, x). Maris maintains that the wounded person needs to be told that sexual involvement with one’s pastor is wrong and that it is always the pastor’s job to maintain the boundaries (p.10).
Does anyone know of any other resources that can help congregations through this?