Book explores sexual abuse by clergyLatest News Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom
A book focused on the prevention of the sexual abuse of women by clergy in all cultures was launched during the May 17-25 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica.
“When Priests and Pastors Prey,” published by the World Student Christian Federation, includes stories from women survivors of clergy sexual abuse, research from pioneering experts and theologians, calls for action, reflections from different regions around the world, and examples of best practices in churches and religious groups.
The Rev. Darryl Stephens, sexual ethics coordinator for the denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, said the book provides a way to move discussion of the issue beyond the United States.
He said the book includes a range of contributions by people around the world that adds legitimacy to the commission’s ministries.
“Recent research indicates that more than 95 percent of victims of clergy sexual exploitation are women,” writes Valli Batchelor, book project coordinator, in the introduction. “These victims are often so trapped in confusion, guilt, shame and self-blame that they are unable to see themselves as victims.”
Christians need to face honestly the reality of abuse, she says. Sexual abuse is not just “an affair” between a clergyman and female parishioner; it is an abuse of power.
Batchelor was one of 13 men and women honored as “Movers for Gender Just Peace” by the World Council of Churches. Part of the strategy for action through the council’s 2001-10 Decade to Overcome Violence, the “movers” have raised awareness and trained others for “a movement of gender justice and the building of just communities of women and men.”
United Methodist contributors
Articles from four United Methodists are part of the book, including one by Stephens, who helped recruit writers after receiving the call for papers. He also assisted Batchelor with attaining copyright permission.
Other United Methodist contributors include M. Garlinda Burton, top executive of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women; the Rev. Sally Dolch of the denomination’s Peninsula-Delaware Annual (regional) Conference, a member of the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force, and the Rev. Susan Jamieson of the Susquehanna Annual Conference, who has written for the commission on the ministry of sexual-ethics response teams.
Stephens believes the book will help the commission deal more effectively with sexual ethics issues in the United Methodist central conferences in Africa, the Philippines and Europe.
With two annual conference-related commissions on the status and role of women in Africa, the denomination has had some success in that regard, he noted.
An African church leader who attended the agency’s “Do No Harm” training event in Houston in January led two seminars on clergy boundaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month, drawing more than 300 clergy participants.
Doing justice work outside the United States can sometimes be difficult for fear of imposing U.S. values or social norms on a culture. “What this book is saying is this issue transcends cultural differences,” Stephens said. “Sexual misconduct by clergy is something we deem unacceptable across cultures.”
Batchelor pointed out that the World Student Christian Federation’s status as an independent organization “gives it a unique capacity to be the leader for change.” The federation is connected with more than 100 affiliated student Christian national movements in Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North America.
“Most of the work of justice and advocacy is raising awareness,” Stephens said. “If this book can help raise awareness, it will help us create a more just church and help us name the sins and help us address these issues we’ve swept under the rug for far too long.”
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.