You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren't alone.” Jeanne McElvaney link
Tullian Tchividjian link
As information is emerging on Tullian Tchividjian and his sexual relationships with women he met through his ministry, a Twitter disagreement arose this past weekend on what is involved in such a relationship. On one side were those who claimed that a sexual relationship between a pastor and a congregant is simply two consenting adults engaging in an affair.
On the other side, there were those who asserted that such a relationship is far move complex that a consenting a relationship between two adults. In fact, a pastor initiating such a sexual encounter is guilty of clergy sex abuse.
I am in the latter camp. A pastor holds a position of power in the relationship and is misusing the power differential to gratify himself at the expense of a parishioner who comes to him for spiritual advice or counseling.
Here is what the American Counseling Association has to say about the ethics of a sexual relationship between a counselor and a client. Surely the church should agree with such ethics.
The 2005 ACA Code of Ethics continues to recognize the harm that can be impacted upon clients when they are sexually intimate with their counselor. The counseling relationship is one based on trust, so we must respect the power differential inherent in any counseling relationship regardless of the counselor’s theoretical orientation or perspective. Engaging in any type of sexual or intimate relationship with a current client is abuse of power. Clients come into counseling emotionally and psychologically vulnerable and in need of assistance, so a counselor trying to engage in such relationships would be trying to take advantage of that client and their vulnerabilities to meet their own needs. Relational/cultural theory frames this as striving for a “power with” instead of a “power over” relationship.
Have you heard about the Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Campaign? I hadn't until @kimrung2 posted, on Twitter, the video at the end of this post. Hope for Survivors an organization dedicated to helping the victims of clergy sex abuse. By this, I mean adults who have been coerced into a sexual relationship with their pastors. They have many resources along with videos by those who have been harmed by pastors.
Here is a video of a brave woman who describes her sexual relationship with her pastor. I think she does a good job of demonstrating why this is a coercive relationship between a pastor and a vulnerable church member.