American Baptist Churches General Secretary Releases Statement on Clergy Abuse

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American Baptist Churches General Secretary Releases Statement on Clergy Abuse

VALLEY FORGE, PA (6/10/22)—The American Baptist Churches General Secretary released a statement today in response to recent public awareness of allegations of sexual abuse in other Baptist traditions:

American Baptist Churches USA acknowledges and recognizes the great harm clergy abuse wreaks within victims, families, and congregations. This experienced harm unfolds for generations and can become a part of the silent or spoken legacy of any church related to it.

While all American Baptist congregations, regions, and national organizations are autonomous, regional organizations are encouraged to maintain a process for review of allegations of clergy misconduct and decisions made from such reviews are housed in a national database for regional access. American Baptist congregations are encouraged to adopt practices that seek to reduce clergy abuse; that deal with it justly and sensitively when it occurs, and to pray for the healing of those who have suffered harm.

Since their original conversations in 1991 with Marie Fortune (author of Is Nothing Sacred), American Baptist regional offices as well as other American Baptist entities have explored, developed, recommended, and adopted resources designed to prevent and process allegations of clergy misconduct. Such resources include a sample process for review of recognition of ordination, an American Baptist Ministers Council Code of Ethics, ethics and boundary training for clergy administered by regional offices, a database of clergy abuse decisions by regional offices nationwide, and a system for flagging the profiles of clergy persons subject to those decisions.

This database of clergy abuse decisions and the flagging of profiles of clergy persons is intended to prevent the unwitting relocation of persons found to have engaged in abusive conduct to other ministry settings.

In addition to the detriments that clergy abuse creates for victims, it violates the sacred trust held by clergy. The responsibility to maintain healthy boundaries always resides with the clergy person.

“I will strive for a disciplined life by tending to my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing in such ways as keeping hours of prayers, devotion and rest, endeavoring to maintain wholesome family relationships, sexual integrity, financial responsibility, constructive use of social media, and regularly engaging in educational and leisure activities for ministerial and personal development.” (American Baptist Ministers Council Covenant and Code of Ethics)

Dr. C. Jeff Woods
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.