ICare: Sexual Misconduct Response

I-Care Team, Co-Chairs

ICARE: Intervention Care Advocacy Resolution Education

The ICARE Team responds upon request to situations involving sexual misconduct related to congregations and/or clergy of The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.

We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift…2008 Book of Discipline ¶161.F

As with all the good gifts of God, sexuality can be distorted, misused, and abused. And in some cases, within the brokenness of the human condition, God’s good gift of sexuality can be so exploited so as to be used as a weapon of power and oppression.

The purpose of the ICARE Team is to provide pastoral care for the complainant and family, for the accused and family, and for the congregation, agency, or institution.  Investigation of complaints is handled by other channels appropriate to each situation when a betrayal occurs in the stewardship of God’s good gift of sexuality.

There are a variety of ways a betrayal may occur:

Sexual Harassment

  • Behavior that is unwelcome and/or unwanted. Any attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship is harassment.
  • Behavior that is sexual in nature or gender related. Harassment may involve a wide range of behaviors from verbal innuendo and subtle suggestions to unwelcome touch, overt demands, and physical abuse.
  • Behavior that interferes with one’s ability to do a job, to do ministry, and/or to receive an edacation. Harassment exists when the work, church, or education environment is charged with sexist bias. Gender harassment may include the belittling or discrediting of people thorugh humor, remarks, or other activities, which create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive climate. This environment is also viewed a sexual discrimination. 2009 Journal – Eastern PA Conference, Vol II, pg 214.

The following definitions were complied by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women of the United Methodist Church and published in the BOM Handbook; Sexual Ethics, pg 3-4.

Sexual Exploitation

  • Refers to unethical (and in some states unlawful) behavior by a therapist or counselor through sexual contact with a client. Any sexual contact with a client is considered an exploitation of the professional role and the counselor’s/therapist’s responsibility to his or her client. Consent by the client is not a legal defense for sexual exploitation.

Clergy/Ministerial Misconduct

  • Is a violation of the sacred trust and the fiduciary responsibility of an ordained minister, local pastor, or lay minister. When this violation involves sexual contact or ‘sexualized behavior,’ it may be called clergy misconduct of a sexual nature. Some relationships between the so called consenting adults within the context of the church may be clergy/ministerial misconduct.

Sexual Abuse

  • Is a sexual invasion of the body by force. Sexual abuse may be: rape, sexual assault, incest, indecent exposure, statutory rape, involuntary or voluntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, promotion of prostitution, pornography with children, indecent assault, and aggravated indecent assault. Sexual abuse is also an internal assault, a deliberate violation of emotional integrity; a hostile, degrading act of violence.

Sexual Misconduct

  • Includes sexual exploitation, clergy/ministerial misconduct, any form of criminal sexual conduct, and some aspects of sexual harassment.

If you believe you are a victim of, or have been accused of harassment, exploitation, misconduct, or abuse, please see below step by step instructions of what you need to do.

Reporting Sexual Misconduct

While the ICARE Team works within a Covenant of Confidentiality, it is important to note that all ICARE Team members are Mandated Reporters. That is, if a Team member receives a report involving someone under the age of 18, there is NO discretion. It MUST be report within 24 hours.

In addition, it is important to note that within the Covenant of Confidentiality, should a report be received describing a situation so egregious as to put the reporting individual, another individual, and/or the congregation at risk, the ICARE Team member will disclose: To whom it needs to be disclosed (Normally Bishop and/or District Superintendent); To the level it needs to be disclosed; When it needs to be disclosed.

For further information about reporting Sexual Misconduct, please see the Sexual Harrassment: Policies Report – Sexual Ethics and Conduct Policies and Procedures