Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    United Methodist Survey:  1/3 to 1/2 of UM laypeople are victims of sexual harassment or misconduct

    United Methodist Survey:  1/3 to 1/2 of UM laypeople are victims of sexual harassment or misconduct

    According to M. Garlinda Burton, the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the status and Role of Women (in the current issue of Church Executive Magazine), the UM church has made some strides in the area of sexuality, but still has a very long way to go.

    A survey of some 6,000 United Methodists shows some startling results:

    1. Half of all laywomen and one-third of laymen witness or are victims of some degree of sexual harassment or misconduct in their congregations, from inappropriate comments by the pastor or laity in leadership to physical assault and stalking.
    2. 77 percent of United Methodist clergywomen and 50 percent of clergymen say laity have violated their boundaries through unwanted sexual behavior or comment.
    3. Half the people who make sexual misconduct complaints at the local church level say the pastor or laity in leadership routinely “trivialize” their concern

    According to Burton, the good news is that the church as a whole is becoming more aware, more vigilant and better equipped to “prevent, address and bring justice in cases of misconduct and malfeasance of a sexual nature.”

    You can read the whole article here at Church Executive.

    On result #1:  This is pretty sad.  50% of women, according to their survey, have described some type of sexual misconduct?  And 33% of MEN?  That's horribly high, isn't it?

    On result #2:  Well, this seems to maybe help back up #1, huh?  77% of women UM pastors admit they have violated their boundaries?  (Yes the percent in number one is lower?)  Why are the percentages higher for women pastors?  I, for one, would have expected the mail pastor's percentage to be higher in the sexual area.

    On result #3:  This I totally believe.  I think many in church leadership are not equipped to handle any type of conflict... ESPECIALLY sexual misconduct.  Trivialization and ignoring the problem would run fairly high in churches, I would guess.

    So... what's your take on this survey.  Have these percentages seemed to be about right in the churches/denominations that you've been involved with?  Why or why not?


    Like this story? Get MMI in your Inbox Every Monday Morning!


    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. Peter Hamm on Wed, February 02, 2011

      This is rather shocking. I don’t think we’ve ever ever seen this at the church I’m in now. not even ONE instance…

      No, I haven’t seen this at all.

    2. Spica on Wed, February 02, 2011

      I’m not sure about your interpretation of result #2. I may be mistaken (since I’m not a native english speaker), but I understood that 77% of women clergy had been victim of unwanted sexual behavior or comments, not admitted to doing it themselves.

    3. rbud on Wed, February 02, 2011

      There’s not enough info in the report to give it much credence. For example, who are these 6,000 respondents? Are they randomly polled, or selected because of related events, which would skew the results? Item #2 provides little explanation, to say that 77%/50% “say” laity violated their boundaries. “Say” on what basis? What boundaries? Are multiple reports reporting on the same occurance?

      This “study” leaves all the doors open to any kind of interpretation, including misinterpretation. 

      #3 is credible given the wide-open qualifications of the first 2 statements. Perhaps half the complaints were trivial in reality.

      I don’t doubt that these misconduct events occur, although in 50 years I’ve never witnessed them, but using numbers in this way renders the report so incredible as to diminish the importance of the matter, perhaps even reduce the issue to ridicule.

      I’d view this as irresponsible journalism.

    4. Daniel on Wed, February 02, 2011

      I concur with Spica.  I believe your comment on #2 was misread.

    5. Kim Aliczi on Wed, February 02, 2011

      I agree with Spica and Daniel. 

      As a woman worship leader, I was (and still am) subject to quite a bit of inappropriate behavior - nothing anyone could be arrested for, of course, and when I complained I was ignored.  I’m at the “why bother” point in my life now, just ignoring it, knowing nothing will ever be done so long as the good-old-boys are running the church.

      With regards to Methodist clergy, I was sexually abused at age 16 by a Methodist music minister.  That was 1980.  He was finally arrested THIS YEAR for inappropriate sexual advances with a 15 year old in another Methodist parish in another town.  This list of his victims is now coming to the surface.

      I’m not saying this is a Methodist church exclusive problem.  I believe it exists in all denominations.

    6. Page 1 of 1 pages

      Post a Comment

    7. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?

    Get MMI in your Inbox Every Monday!