Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Clergy sexual misconduct three times as frequent in black churches

Diana Garland of Baylor University’s School of Social Work has been featured often for what some call a “groundbreaking” study of clergy sexual misconduct. She rightly calls this an abuse of power offense and admantly refuses to allow it to be euphemized as a consensual “affair” between a minister and a congregant. The study found that that more than 3% of women who regular attend houses of worship have been victims of clergy misconduct.

Do the math for your church.

Her opinion piece in ABP earlier this year: Opinion: Don't call it an affair. Call it abuse of power

I join her in condemning this and in calling it serious clergy misconduct and an abuse of power.

But at the recent Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting in June she added a not insignificant detail. Emphasis is mine:

Garland and Baylor’s study, funded by the Ford Foundation, surveyed 3,559 respondents in 17 Christian and Jewish congregations. She found statistical consistency in abuse across the board. The one anomaly that surfaced – which she had never published until speaking at this meeting – was that the incidence of clergy abuse appeared to be three times as frequent in black congregations. She didn’t publish that information for fear it would become the focal point in coverage of her findings, or that other congregations and denominations would excuse themselves by comparison.

I give her the benefit of the doubt that the researcher’s judgment might find sufficient reasons not to publish information that was discovered by the study; however, were I a member of a black congregation I would certainly want some focus on why this “anomaly” exists and would desire that it be publicized widely. That women in black churches are abused by clergy at three times the rate of women in other churches is appalling.

She offers speculation as to why this is so:

She offered as possible explanation that black churches typically have smaller staffs who have heavier loads; a higher proportion of members are female and there are fewer eligible men in the church.

Exactly how is it that “smaller staffs” make a difference? More opportunity for unsupervised counseling and liason?

Garland now appears to be tiptoeing into these racial waters. It would certainly be groundbreaking to pursue this.

For the record: the stories most of us white pastors have heard for years about our predecessors, collegues, and other clergy are not to be ignored or excused.


foxofbama said...

What you say is fair enough but all need to be careful of not getting wound too tight in self righteousness cause in their gut every preacher knows on any given occasion he coulda yielded to temptation.
While it does not excuse sin, Hal Crowther has an excellent piece in the current issue of Oxford American Magazine founded by Baptist John Grisham. Crowther for me makes the case as tawdry and nauseating as the adultery of John Edwards took him, there is strong case to be made he doesn't have the blood on his hands the Baptist Deacon Jesse Helms has with the Oscar Romero assassination in El Salvador.
Nor as Stewart Newman alluded WA Criswell had the blood of many Civil Rights Martyrs on his Hand complicitly with his 56 speech in SC.
Frank Harrington was one of the greatest Preachers state of Georgia ever heard. Far as I know he, like Carlyle Marney, was lifelong faithful to his wife; not the point.
Point is he preached a powerful sermon about David being a man after God's Own Heart.
Where infidelity does occur, in the calculus of things, black, brown,yellow or white church by no means is it the full measure of a man or woman's devotion to Christ; nor in good causes like yours and Dianna Garland's should it become such an obsession it embraces Pharasaism and the church honors Jesse Helms and WA Criswell, more than Martin Luther King, Jr.; or DAvid for that matter.

William Thornton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Thornton said...

Fox, you of all people probably shouldn't lecture anyone about obsessions.

Prominent academic researcher Garland decides it is legitimate to offer for discussion the fact that black clergy abuse is astonishingly higher than other traditions. All such is condemned. Why should one in ten black women in church be dealing with clergy abuse?

foxofbama said...

Dr. Thornton:
You and Dianna are both good people. I didn't mean to lecture, just took a shot at inflecting the discussion with Helms, Martin and David; all three stories you already knew well.
And to point to a great sermon I once heard Harrington Preach.
Hope things otherwise are well.
It will be interesting to see how Alice Walker addresses this matter if it comes to her attention.