UMC Steps Up Sexual Misconduct Policy to Halt 'Disturbing Trend'
A United Methodist watchdog introduced new resolutions to counter a "disturbing trend" of sexual misconduct in the denomination.
"Theuse of pornography continues to increase as it becomes more accessibleand allows more immediate, realistic and anonymous sexual contact andgratification," stated the United Methodist Commission on the Statusand Role of Women in a resolution.
The resolution, presented lastweek at the commission's annual meeting, will be submitted to theUnited Methodist General Conference – the highest legislative body inthe United Methodist Church – when it convenes next year in April forits quadrennial meeting.
According to the commission, sexualharassment and misconduct, including the use of Internet pornography byclergy, laity or volunteers, often on church-owned computers, remains aconcern of the church body. Such harmful and addictive behavior altersrelationships and sexual perceptions, and the Church needs to be awareof those dangers, the commission said, according to the UnitedMethodist News Service.
In 1996, the General Conference of theUMC adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child sexualabuse in the denomination. As a result, each annual (regional)conference and local church has been required to adopt a sexualharassment policy.
The Rev. Gail Murphy-Geiss, a clergywoman whoprepared the results of a 2007 local church survey for the UnitedMethodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, said morechurches have complied.
"The very smallest churches continue tohave the longest way to go toward the goal of 100 percent, but in everyother category, at least six out of 10 churches are in compliance, andin the largest churches, that number is almost nine out of 10," shestated.
Despite a "relatively high awareness" of thedenominational policy, sexual harassment "remains a significantproblem," according to the updated resolution to be considered nextyear.
The new resolution defines various forms of sexual misconduct and characterizes such behavior as "an exploitation of power."
"Theuse and abuse of pornography in church programs, on church premises andwith church property by persons in ministerial roles (lay and clergy)is a form of sexual misconduct, a chargeable offense for laity andclergy in The United Methodist Church," the resolution states.
Thecommission has suggested such actions as sexual ethics training atvarious levels, training on issues of pornography, and strict oversightof church-owned computers and technology.
Also advocating for thefull participation of women within the denomination, the UnitedMethodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women presented itslatest survey findings, revealing that 7 percent of United Methodistpastors are women, up from 5 percent in 2003; 16 of the 63 activeUnited Methodist bishops worldwide are women; and women account forhalf of all enrolled students seeking ordination in United Methodistseminaries.
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