Sexual Ethics and Boundaries in Urban Pastoral Leadership

\"sex\"Article by Guest Blogger, Rich Denning |

It is imperative that one engaged in urban pastoral ministry be knowledgeable of sexual ethics and boundaries. Certainly, it would be wonderful if there was no such thing as pastoral sexual misconduct. However, due to sinful human nature sexual misconduct is a matter of great concern within the urban church. Pastors are often given power largely because of the positions they hold. When there is a lack of accountability the risk of abusing that power becomes great. The abuse of power for sexual fulfillment dates back to the time of King David being rebuked by Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11-12). Certainly, one faced with the temptation of sexual misconduct should not take of the path of King David’s sexual sin but rather flee from the temptation. If proper precautions are not taken a vulnerable pastor might fall into or at least be affected by a Potiphar’s wife trap (Genesis 39:6-20). Sexual harassment has at least three distinguishing criteria: (1) when a physical or verbal sexual encounter is not welcomed by both parties, (2) when an incident has a negative impact upon the victim, and (3) when there has been an abuse of power. By the very nature of ministry people seek out clergy for help and are often vulnerable to the abuse of power. For that reason there is a certain fiduciary relationship that is established. The one seeking help might be very trusting and believing that because he or she is seeking holy counsel that he or she will receive such. Sadly, not all clergy are holy. Because of this imbalance of power the one seeking help is at risk and therefore the clergy must adhere to “boundaries” in order to minister effectively and ethically. If clergy initiate and maintain boundaries in their fiduciary relationships it does not mean that the clergy are incapable of ministering with compassion. On the contrary, it demonstrates a desire to protect the one who is seeking ministry from the clergy. For the overall protection of everyone there should be policies in place among all religious groups to deal with sexual misconduct.

In regard to sexual ethics and boundaries, I would like to offer four significant safeguards for urban pastoral leadership. First, the issue of clergy sexual misconduct is primarily a spiritual issue. Sexual misconduct is in direct opposition to an endeavor to grow as a Christian and to become equipped as a “Good Minister of Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 4:6). Maintaining a close relationship with the Lord is vital when it comes to the temptation of sexual misconduct. Paul addressed the believers at Corinth who were dealing with sexual temptation on many fronts as sexual immorality had become so embraced. He taught, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV). When temptation for sexual misconduct comes, it is important to remember it is a spiritual issue.

Secondly, there is a certain amount of power entrusted to pastors by God Himself. This power can be easily abused. It is the pastor’s responsibility to see to it that he or she does not take advantage of the power bestowed upon him or her by the church or by nature of the Call upon his or her life.

Thirdly, boundaries are a necessity for pastoral ministry. In every area of pastoral ministry boundaries are important and they guard against becoming ineffective. However, if there is one area of ministry where boundaries are most important it is where there is the potential for sexual misconduct. Boundaries should be set in place before the onset of any temptation. If proper boundaries are in place and if they are adhered to, then they should guard against sexual misconduct.

Fourthly, the need for accountability is essential for pastoral ministry. If there arises or if there is the slightest possible temptation for sexual misconduct the pastor should share the details of the situation with an accountability partner. This is a safeguard to keep one’s relationships with others healthy and to keep one’s walk with the Lord one of integrity. Sharing information on a regular basis about any dealings with members of the opposite sex will make it easier to discuss in times when temptations do arise.

In Conclusion, sexual ethics and boundaries are very important and timely. The seriousness of sexual misconduct warrants our attention. It is my hope the above safeguards will be useful to other pastors. Remember, none of us are immune from temptation. We must adhere to a high level of integrity, a sincere quest for spiritual growth, and not misuse the power that has been given to us. We can and must do this by adhering to sexual ethics and boundaries.

Dr. Antipas L. Harris
Welcome to my blog

This blog site is where I share matters related to society, the church, and the academy. I hope my thoughts are meaningful to you. Theology

Read More »