Conference Policy on Sexual Ethics

A policy relating to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment for the Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

I.  Statement of Expectations and Standards of Conduct

  1.  Sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse are not acceptable behaviors.  The Kentucky Annual Conference of the Untied Methodist Church will intervene in allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse according to the procedures set forth in The Book of Discipline, 2008 and the Kentucky Annual Conference Complaint Procedures Policy.  
  2. The annual conference is committed to providing a church environment where parishioners can expect opportunities for worship, access to God, and a clergy/parishioner relationship free of sexualized behavior.
  3. Cases of suspected child abuse or neglect are not protected under clergy confidentiality and must be reported as required by civil law. ( ¶ 341.5 Book of Discipline, 2008)

II.  Purpose of This Policy 

    This policy serves to guide and instruct persons in matters related to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.  Persons who are related to the Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (hereto referred to as KAC) and its constituent churches and ministries fall under the guidance of this policy.  Those persons include clergy (ordained and licensed), diaconal ministers, lay employees, and laity.  Guidance is given in this policy for all persons variously affected by sexual harassment or sexual abuse.  Incidents of this nature cast people into various roles.  These roles include persons who are victims, persons who are called on to help bring resolution and healing.  This policy addresses each of these roles of persons.

      The following policy is intended to complement and supplement the provisions of The Book of Discipline, 2008 and KAC policies related to complaint procedures.  Nothing in the policy may contradict the provisions of the Discipline in matters of clergy/lay conduct and grievance resolution (See Discipline, 2008 ¶ 362 and 2701).  In addition to complementing the disciplinary provisions, the policy is meant to provide practical guidance that is not addressed in The Book of Discipline to all parties involved in such cases.  

     The objective of this policy in combination withe the complaint procedures policy is to provide the kinds of practical guidance that is effective to reach a just resolution as well as the reconciliation and healing of all parties.  Even in cases of formal complaint, reasonable efforts will be made to bring healing to the various parties.

     Church officials of the Kentucky Annual Conference will be expected to use this policy.  Failure to do so may jeopardize the due process of the persons involved.  Two fundamental principles are assumed throughout this policy: (1) All allegations and claims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse warrant appropriate response and investigation; and (2) the presumption of innocence shall be maintained until such time as the respondent is determined to be guilty or admits guilt.

III.  Theological Reflections 

    A.   One of the ongoing tasks of the Christian community is to understand our life theologically.  Like other areas of human relationships, human sexuality has potential for expressing love and commitment to God and other persons, and has potential for abuse.

GOVERNANCE - Standing Rules   

   B.   We affirm that:

  1. God creates persons in the divine image, male and female.
  2. Women and men are equal in the eyes of God.
  3. The human body is a good and special part of the divine creation. It is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells and a place where the Word is made flesh.
  4. Human sexuality is an integral part of our humanity.  While profoundly personal, it has social dimensions as well.  Its physical, emotional, and spiritual expressions in relation to others ought to be based on a loving commitment and accountability to God and the other person.
  5. God calls persons to wholeness through Jesus Christ and to participate in the Body of Christ, the community of faith whose central quality is redemptive love.
  6. The whole Church receives and accepts the call of God to embody and carry forth Christ's ministry in the world.  There are persons within the church community whose gifts, graces, and promises of future usefulness are observable to the community, who respond to God's call and offer themselves in leadership (¶  301) for specific ministries.  In this role, persons are entrusted with responsibility to care for those they serve or supervise and not to misuse this role to the detriment of any.
  7. Sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse are violations of the integrity of the Body of Christ. Scripture specifically states that we are one connected body in Christ, created equally.  When one part of the body is injured, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, the entire body is rendered less than God's intended potential wholeness.  Violation of the pastoral relationship by sexual contact is a sin against God, the victim, and the redemptive community.
  8. We believe in justice for all persons.  Sexual misconduct, harassment, and/or abuse are dehumanizing by lack of respect and the unjust use of status and power and are sinful behaviors which violate the teachings of the Church.
  9. Because of God's grace and forgiveness, healing can occur for the victim, the perpetrator, and the community of faith.

IV.  Definition of Terms 

    Sexual Misconduct is an abuse of power.  It is defined as "behavior of a sexualized nature that betrays sacred trust, violates the ministerial role, and exploits those who are vulnerable in that relationship.  It is absent of meaningful consent."
Meaningful consent assumes that both parties have equal power in the relationship.  In a pastoral/counselor relationship, the power is always imbalanced on the side of the pastor/counselor.  Therefore, the pastor/counselor is always responsible for keeping the relationship free from sex or sexual innuendo since the difference in roles makes meaningful consent impossible.

     Sexual Abuse occurs when a person within a ministerial role of leadership (lay or clergy, pastor, educator, counselor, youth leader, or other position of leadership) "engages in sexual contact or sexualized behavior with a congregant, client, employee, staff member, coworker, or volunteer." (2004 Book of Resolutions, p. 150-151)

     Sexualized Behavior is that which "communicates sexual interest and/or content.  Examples include, but are not limited to displaying sexually suggestive visual materials; making sexual comments or innuendo about one's own or another person's body; touching another person's body, hair, or clothing; touching or rubbing oneself in the presence of another person; kissing; and sexual intercourse." (2004 Book of Resolutions, p. 151

     Sexual Harassment is defined as "any behavior that intimidates, demeans, humiliates, or coerces. These behaviors range from the subtle forms that can accumulate into a hostile working, learning, or worshipping environment to the most severe forms of stalking, assault, or rape." (2004 Book of Resolutions, p. 151)


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines deal clearly with sexual harassment:
     "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such an individual;
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."

V.  If You Are Experiencing Sexual Harassment: 

 A.   Inform the person.

  1. Tell the person clearly at the time(s) of the harassment that you do not want the behavior.  This action, in many cases, will resolve the issue.
  2. Keep copies of all written materials you complete in reference to the harassment.  If you receive any written letters, cards, or memos of a suggestive nature from the person, keep them.  Note the date received and how received (mailed to your home, left on your desk, etc.)  Have someone initial and date the document.

 B.  Report the behavior to your immediate supervisor, unless the person is your supervisor.  Then go to the person's supervisor.

 C.  If the alleged harassment is unresolved, and a formal complaint is filed:

  1. Clergy:  Grievance and complainant processes follow The Book of Discipline and the "Complaint Procedures Policy" of the Kentucky Annual Conference.  Investigations, trials, and appeals processes follow The Book of Discipline.
  2. Diaconal Minister:   The behavior will be reported to the Board of Ordained Ministry which will follow The Book of Discipline.
  3. Laity:  Supervisor will take the complaint to the appropriate conference or local church personnel committee. Procedures to follow are in ¶ 2701ff based on chargeable offenses in ¶ 2702.

VI.  Complaint Procedures 

    Complaints of sexual misconduct will be dealt with in accordance to the 2008 Book of Discipline, ¶ 361, ¶ 362, ¶ 363.  Anyone who has experienced clergy sexual misconduct is advised/encouraged to call the Advocates Access Line 1-887-852-5250, a confidential phone line.