Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pastoral Visits – the Changing Landscape of Ministry (Part 2)

Dahlia of the day: Markie Re.

Before going forward with the topic of Pastoral Visits I must cover some background material.

I have been an ordained pastor in the PCUSA since 1986. In that time I have never met a pastor who went into the ministry with the intention of using their position for sexual gain. Does it happen? I’m sure that it does. I believe that almost all pastors enter into the ministry of Word and Sacrament with good intentions.

No pastor is immune from temptation.

A pastor in Alaska Presbytery became involved with a parishioner/staff member while I was the Chaplain at Sheldon Jackson College. I am confident that the pastor did not “plan” on that type of situation occurring when he entered the ministry. Yet, it did!

No pastor is immune from temptation.

I moved to the Presbytery of Olympia in 1996. All pastors of the Presbytery were required to attend a class on the prevention of clergy sexual misconduct. The policy has since been changed and all pastors must go through the class every four or five years (I am not sure which). I had to take the class this past year—it was basically the same as when I took it in 1996 (the same video was even used). One thing had changed, though; there were different presenters. That’s no big deal—except, one of the presenters from 1996 is no longer in the PCUSA ministry due to having a sexual relationship with a person from his church. I do not know the details (par for the course in the PCUSA). But this I do know—that pastor was sexually involved with a person that was not his spouse.

No pastor is immune from temptation.

I will forever be indebted to The Rev. Dr. Harry Hassell. Harry was the Executive Pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in the 1990s when I had a fifteen-month internship at HPPC. He was the overseer of the intern program. He trained us on how to minimize the possibility of crossing the line with a person from our church. My office door will always have a window that is never covered. If at all possible, my office will always have a back door—a way to get out of the office if necessary.

No pastor is immune from temptation.

Pastors deal with people’s emotions, their struggles in life, and their life situations. This type of closeness can be misinterpreted. Many women have said, “My husband never shares his feeling with me.” Other women have said, “My husband is never there for me emotionally.” Along comes the pastor—someone who deals with emotions, compassion and empathy.

No pastor is immune from temptation.

The world has changed (or maybe it hasn’t changed). Clergy sexual misconduct is regularly in the news. Every pastor owes it to Christ, their family and their church to minimize the possibility of clergy sexual misconduct.

No pastor is immune from temptation.


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