Saturday, February 03, 2007

What Happens When Pastors Are Wrongfully Accused

Greg Hazelrig on the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by a UMC pastor in Minnesota:

I was over at Out the Door and read John B's post about a pastor in MN who has been accused of sexual misconduct. The man may be guilty as can be. But lets assume for a moment that he's actually innocent until proven guilty. I know, what a concept!

How does this affect him and the rest of the United Methodist denomination?


A couple years ago we had to attend an ethical training seminar to be reappointed in our Conference. It was because of all the news stories that were going around at that time in and out of our Conference. I think it was more of a way to reduce the liability to the Conference, but that could be another story. I asked the question in that meeting about how many pastors were falsely accused. There was a UM attorney there answering some of the questions. She said that about half of the accusations against clergy are true.

Of course that means that half are not, which means that half of these pastor's ministry's have been altered for no reason at all. For as long as a pastor has been accused, there will always be doubt about him/her...even when they are supposedly proven innocent.

It scares me to death what one mad and unbalanced person can do to my ministry. And so I pray that I and that my colleagues and friends in ministry first never fall into this temptation, and second are never falsely accused. Both could be devastating.

When I am leading my church's youth group, I get one layperson volunteer to watch. The sole job of this person is to keep his/her eyes glued on me the whole time. This is for my protection, and I'm not the least bit ashamed about it or think that I'm displaying a lack of faith in God. As one seminary professor has told me "God works easiest with those who are prepared." Or as the wise Theresa Coleman said "Better draconic rules than even a hint, a breath of impropriety." So as long as such precautions do not paralyze or impair ministry, they be in place. I've seen what false accusations can do to a person, and it ain't a pretty sight.


Patti said...

When I taught 5th grade, one of my students told his mother that I took him into the hallway and beat the shit out of him. Not only were kids and adults walking by, there was a security camera. So the allegations were very easy to disprove. Now, I make sure I am NEVER alone with a student.

Our pastor's office has windows on every wall, so if the pastor is counseling someone alone, what's happening inside is in full view of witnesses. Yes, loss of privacy-but we designed the office to protect the pastor.

truevyne said...

Sounds very much like the Ladies in Waiting for the Virgin Queen.
Seriously, I think you are a wise man. When I worked in ministry, we exercised the Billy Graham rule. Know that one?

John said...

I am familiar with the Billy Graham rule, and follow it.

Pastor Fred said...

This is exactly why I never spend more than 30-45 minutes alone with female parishioners. And no mroe than 3-4 times a week counseling with any individual female. Any more than that and somebody might think something is going on between us.