|New Web site expands audience for misconduct issues|
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 26, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
An updated sexual ethics Web site for The United Methodist Church will
offer resources for those accused of sexual misconduct in addition to
information for victims and church leaders.
The Rev. Darryl Stephens
The new site, at www.umsexualethics.org, will debut Nov. 2.
The accused and those who may be confused about what constitutes
inappropriate behavior are “a new intended audience” for the site,
explained the Rev. Darryl Stephens, an executive with the United
Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women in Chicago.
Resources will detail the rights of accused clergy and laity under
United Methodist Church law and offer information on how to get
“Although most of our work is with victims and church officials
adjudicating complaints, the commission also wants to ensure just and
fair processes for all parties,” added M. Garlinda Burton, top
Stephens said the commission hasn’t heard much from those who are
questioning whether their own behavior may be crossing the line into
misconduct. “One of the factors may be that we simply haven’t invited
them to call,” he said. “If we can begin to create an institutional
environment where people can talk about these issues, we’ll be
healthier for that.”
Betrayal of trust
The Web site is a ministry of the United Methodist Inter-agency Sexual
Ethics Task Force, which is convened by the commission. Task force
members represent eight different church bodies, including the Council
of Bishops, as well as annual conferences.
denomination considers sexual misconduct to be “a betrayal of sacred
trust” and defines it as “unwanted sexual or gender-directed behaviors
by either a lay or clergy person within a ministerial relationship.”
Such behaviors can range from child abuse and rape to sexual harassment
to stalking to the use of pornography.
Through the new Web site, the task force is continuing to reach out to
victims of such conduct and to educate and train conference leaders and
local churches on the issue.
The point was to reorganize the site in a more user-friendly way, both
streamlining and deepening the online resources. “Each of those
audiences has a menu tab with a number of pages under each,” Stephens
Conference leaders can find information on their roles and
responsibilities, how to use conference response teams, how to address
the issue of registered sex offenders “and how a church can be a place
of hospitality as well a place of sanctuary and protection for
‘Do No Harm’ training
An emerging concern, Stephens said, is the
re-integration of registered sex offenders into society.
“Congregations don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he added. “There are
guidelines and ways to write covenants of behavior and provide
appropriate limitations for registered sex offenders as they
participate in worship and in the congregation.”
The Web site will serve as a portal for conveying the latest news and
research, provide a network for trainers from around the annual
conferences “so they can share best practices and collaborate,” and
support response teams and churches involved in the denomination’s Safe
“The goal is to work toward justice and healing,” Stephens said. “That hasn’t changed.”
The sexual ethics task force has just announced it will sponsor a
second “Do No Harm” training event, scheduled for Jan. 26-29, 2011, in
Houston, to help the church prevent and respond to abuse, misconduct
and harassment of a sexual nature. The first training occurred in 2006.
During the event, lay and clergy conference representatives, including
those leading response and Safe Sanctuaries teams, will discuss
emerging issues related to sexual misconduct and explore how to work
more effectively together for the health and well-being of
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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