Most Pastors Agree Abuse Should Ban Them from Ministry

Light of Truth

As Christian groups and denominations debate the proper response to clergy sexual misconduct, most pastors believe those who commit such crimes should withdraw from public ministry permanently.
At the recent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, the topic of pastoral sexual abuse and assault dominated much of the conversation and business, including passing a resolution that “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.”
A study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research revealed a significant majority of US Protestant pastors share that opinion whether the victim is a child or an adult.
More than 4 in 5 Protestant pastors (83%) say if a pastor commits child sexual abuse, that person should permanently withdraw from public ministry. For 2 percent the time away should be at least 10 years, while 3 percent say at least five years and 3 percent say at least two years.
Few point to a shorter time frame as appropriate—1 percent say at least 1 year, and fewer than 1 percent say either six months or three months. Another 7 percent say they aren’t sure how long the time frame should be.
While majorities of every demographic group of pastors support a permanent exit from public ministry for child sexual abuse, some are less supportive than others. Pentecostal pastors (60%), African American pastors (67%), pastors with no college degree (69%), and pastors 65 and older (76%) are among those least likely to support permanent withdrawal.
The US Sentencing Commi-ssion reported that 98.8 percent of sexual abuse offenders were sentenced to prison and their average sentence was almost 16 years.
“The five years or less time frame, that 7 percent of pastors suggest is appropriate, does not even cover the length of the ty-pical prison sentence for offend-ers convicted of sexual abuse,” said McConnell. “In contrast, more than 10 times that number of pastors do not hesitate to say the disqualification from ministry should be permanent for a pastor who commits child sexual abuse.”

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