Majority of U.S. pastors believe Christian leaders responsible for sexual abuse should step down

A study by Lifeway Research reveals that a significant majority of American Protestant pastors believe that a pastor responsible for sexual abuse should permanently withdraw from the ministry whether the victim is a child or an adult.

Lifeway Research, based in Nashville, is a company that "assists and provides information and advice to church leaders to improve the health and effectiveness of the church" that regularly produces studies related to the life of the church.

While many Christian congregations around the world the Catholics like at home the protestants, try to find solutions for end sexual abuse in churches and find appropriate responses, Lifeway Research published, Tuesday, June 22, a study who is interested in the perspective of pastors on sexual abuse by Christian leaders. A study conducted from September to October 2020 with the contribution of 1 American Protestant pastors.

She reveals that a large majority of pastors believe that a pastor responsible for sexual abuse or assault should resign. "Most current pastors believe that being a pastor is incompatible with sexually assaulting another person," said the executive director of Lifeway Research, Scott McConnell.

He adds, however, that "this does not mean that they believe that these behaviors are beyond the forgiveness of God", but that they think that "the sexual abuse is a permanent disqualification from the direction of the ministry".

Thus, more than 4 in 5 Protestant pastors, or 83% of them, declare that if a pastor commits sexual abuse of children, this person should permanently withdraw from the public ministry.. For 2%, the time away should be at least ten years, while 3% believe that five years would be enough, and the remaining 3% think that the time away should be only two years.

With regard to sexual assaults perpetrated on adults, a considerable majority of pastors, 74% of them, are also in favor of a permanent withdrawal from the prosecution service. One in 20 say the absence should be at least ten years (5%), at least five years (5%) and at least two years (5%).

The result of this investigation echoes a new resolution adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention at their recent annual meeting on June 15. It provides that "anyone who has committed sexual abuse is definitely unfit to exercise the office of pastor."

“We want to do everything in our power to serve Southern Baptists to make churches safe for survivors and free from abuse,” said Daniel Patterson, Acting Chair of the Ethics Commission and the religious freedom of the Southern Baptist Convention, to Christianity Today.

For Scott McConnel, sexual assault is both "a violent sin and a crime". “It is the opposite of love, care and respect for others that the Bible teaches,” he says. He adds that “the role of the pastor has incredibly high standards in the Bible,” including the fact that leaders must be “above reproach”.

Camille Westphal Perrier

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