Upon invitation, The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) conducted sexual ethics training for the Council of Bishops (COB) in November 2017. The trainings included a boundaries training, “Sustaining Integrity in Ministry,” offered to the full Council of Bishops.
An additional training for resident bishops, “Responding Well: A Conversation about Response to Sexual Misconduct,” was held at a separate time. Information was received from the Council of Bishops’ Boundary Training Team led by Bishop Tracy Smith Malone. The trainings, designed to be educational and teach self-awareness, also encouraged dialogue among peers in small group settings.
To our knowledge there was no data which reflected bishops’ understanding and subsequent responses to concerns and complaints of sexual misconduct perpetrated by leadership within the Church. In consultation with the COB’s Boundary Training Team leadership, GCSRW recommended a short survey be given to each bishop. The survey was developed by GCSRW and administered to serve as a valuable first step in assessing what exists throughout our denomination in regard to sexual ethics policy in each episcopal area. Participation was voluntary.
Twenty-six out of 48 US bishops and 11 out of 22 CC bishops responded to the UMC Bishops sexual ethics survey. The survey includes thirteen multiple choice questions to measure the awareness and understanding of bishops about their conference’s implementation of a sexual ethics policy, including their knowledge of and experiences of responses to complaints of sexual misconduct. The questions and responses are included in this document. We worked to offer questions which could be applicable to all areas of the global United Methodist Church. We understand availability of resources such as technology and internet vary from place to place.
In summary, the results of this survey indicate clear inconsistencies regarding understanding of and policies addressing sexual misconduct within The United Methodist Church. We have been addressing sexual misconduct in the Church for 25 years and these inconsistencies reflect the great need for regular education through trainings, resources, and prioritized conversations for leadership.
We have an obligation to get this work right in every case and also in providing prevention resources. No longer can we afford for this subject to be optional or weighted with little priority. Survey Questions and Results:
Q1: Does your annual conference have a sexual ethics policy?
More than 45% of central conference respondents indicated their conference did not have a sexual ethics policy, nearly 40% more did not know, and 18% knew their annual conference does have a sexual ethics policy.
In the US, 73% of survey respondents know that their annual conference does have a sexual ethics policy, while 19% know that theirs does not.
Q2: Does this policy include steps for filing a formal complaint of sexual misconduct?
63% of the central conference bishops answered “No,” to this question, 27% of bishops did not know, and 9% answered, “Yes.”
69% US bishops answered, “Yes,” 23% answered “No,” and 7% of bishops answered, “Asked someone to find out.”
Q3: Is your annual conference policy on sexual ethics easily accessible on the conference website?
91% of central conference bishops responded “no.”
In the US, 53% of bishops said, “Yes,” 34% said, “No,” and 10% did not know.
Q4: Do you believe an affair to be a separate chargeable offense from sexual misconduct?
Responses from central conferences were divided equally between, “Yes,” and “No,” except one with, “I don’t know.”
In the US, 53% of respondents answered, “No”, 34% answered, “Yes,” and three individuals said, “I don’t know.”
Q5: How comfortable or confident are you explaining and carrying out the process of filing and/or responding to a charge of sexual misconduct?
45% of central conference respondents responded, “Comfortable.”
Nearly 77% of US respondents claimed they were “confident” about this task.
Q6: Have you received specific training on responding to a formal complaint of sexual misconduct?
27% of Central Conference bishops responded, “Yes.”
61% of US bishop responded, “Yes.”
Q7: Have you ever received training focused on accountability and healing for all parties?
In the central conferences, only 2 respondents had received this training while the other 72% of respondents had not. In the US, the responses were divided almost equally with 13 who had and 12 who had not.
One person from each the US bishops and the central conference bishops could not remember if they had received this type of training or not.
Q8: Does your annual conference have people trained to be support persons for the accused and the complainant?
36% of central conference bishops responded, “Yes,” while 64% responded, “No.”
69% of US bishops responded, “Yes,” while 31% responded, “No.”
Q9: Does your annual conference have and use a trained Response Team for congregational and/or staff healing?
In the central conferences, 72% answered, “No,” and 18% answered, “Yes”.
In the US, bishops were divided evenly between, “Yes,” and, “No.” One bishop from each the US and Central Conference responded, “I don’t know,” to this question.
Q10: Is healthy boundaries training mandatory in your annual conference for all clergy?
Central conference bishops with 54% responded, “No,” and 36% responded, “Yes.” One central conference bishop did not know the answer to this question.
US bishops responded with nearly 81% answering, “Yes,” and 19% answering, “No.”
Q11: Is healthy boundaries training mandatory in your annual conference for lay leadership?
54% of central conference bishops responded, “No,” and 36% responded, “Yes.” One central conference bishop did not know the answer to this question.
US Bishops responded 80% with, “No,” and 20% with, “Yes”.
Q12: Does your conference currently require boundaries/integrity in ministry training at least every four years?
63% of the central conference bishops responded, “No,” and 36% responded, “Yes.”
69% of the US bishops responded, “Yes,” and 19% responded, “No.” 3 of the US bishops did not know the answer to this question.
Q13: Is training, which includes the sexual ethics policy and response to sexual misconduct, required for SPRC (Staff Parish Relations Committee) members?
In the central conferences, responses were divided evenly between “Yes,” and, “No,” with one person who did not know.
In the US, 80% of bishops answered, “No,” and two of the US bishops did not know the answer to this question.