UMNS# 469-Agency forwards resolutions on pornography, sexual ethics
Agency forwards resolutions on pornography, sexual ethics
Sep. 25, 2007
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By Linda Bloom*
SAN FRANCISCO (UMNS) - Sexual harassment and misconduct remains aconcern of the church, according to the United Methodist Commission onthe Status and Role of Women.
As the denominational watchdog on issues of sexual ethics, the agency issubmitting updated legislation for the United Methodist GeneralConference to consider when it meets April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth,Texas. The legislation was approved by the agency's governingcommissioners at their Sept. 20-22 annual meeting.
COSROW also has prepared a resolution on what it has determined to be a"disturbing trend": use of Internet pornography by clergy, laity orvolunteers, often on church-owned computers.
"The use of pornography continues to increase as it becomes moreaccessible (via the Internet, for example) and allows more immediate,realistic and anonymous sexual contact and gratification," says theresolution on "Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church."
Such harmful and addictive behavior alters relationships and sexualperceptions, and the church needs to be aware of those dangers, thecommission says.
The resolution declares that "the use and abuse of pornography in churchprograms, on church premises and with church property by persons inministerial roles (lay and clergy) is a form of sexual misconduct, achargeable offense for laity and clergy in The United Methodist Church."
Suggested actions include sexual ethics training at various levels,training on issues of pornography, and strict oversight of church-ownedcomputers and technology.
The updated resolution on "Sexual Misconduct (formerly called SexualAbuse) Within Ministerial Relationships" lays out specific definitionsof various forms of sexual misconduct and characterizes such behavior as"an exploitation of power."
General Conference first committed to the elimination of sexualmisconduct in the denomination in 1988. Since then, 35 annualconferences have created oversight teams on harassment issues, and manyconferences require sexual misconduct awareness training. The Commissionon the Status and Role of Women also has provided support to bothvictims and church officials "in thousands of cases," according to theresolution.
Suggested action items included renewing the stand against sexualmisconduct in the church, with the commission continuing to coordinatean interagency group addressing prevention, education, intervention andhealing. Work also must be done through the church's episcopal areas,annual conferences and schools of theology.
The updated resolution on the eradication of sexual harassment reportsthat recent surveys show sexual harassment "remains a significantproblem" in the church despite a "relatively high awareness" of thedenominational policy.
Beyond the sexual misconduct issues, COSROW continues to advocate forfull participation of women within the denomination.
An updated resolution, "Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of AllWomen in Church and Society," celebrates that:
* One in four United Methodist pastors today are women, comparedto less than one in a hundred in 1972.* Sixteen of the 63 active United Methodist bishops worldwide arewomen.* Women account for half of all students enrolled in UnitedMethodist seminaries seeking ordination.* The Women's Division, United Methodist Board of GlobalMinistries, "is the largest and most prolific mission working entity" inthe denomination.
But, the resolution also points out, "there are still areas ofleadership, of professional ministry, of decision-making and areas ofdiscipleship for which the church will not trust, value, revere or allotresources to women to the same degree as their brothers in the faith."
Challenge to the church
COSROW is challenging the denomination to "listen anew to women, withnew emphasis on women of color." Other challenges include recruitingwomen leaders, championing economic parity and justice, adopting a "notolerance" posture on sexual violence, harassment and abuse, organizingwomen in theological exploration and teaching and creating a "reportcard" on overcoming sexism for each agency and annual conference.
The commission also is submitting a new version of "Being the ChurchAmid Disagreement," a resolution that encourages "a ministry ofmindfulness" and care in areas of discord.
For the denomination's book of law, the Book of Discipline, thecommission would like to see the word "gender" added to Paragraph 4, oninclusiveness of the church and Paragraph 16, on the powers and dutiesof General Conference.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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