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Pastors Who Prey — 35 Comments

  1. You have blessed me with a great mesage I have never come across, to figure out in mind.
    I see most of religious leader do csm.

    • Christopher CSM is more common than we want it to be, but there are many godly clergy who would never abuse their office. For their sake and for God's, we need to hold all clergy accountable.

  2. I thank God for inspiring you to speak up on a difficult subject. It is unfortunate that even the Adventist church has not yet implemented clear and uniform procedures for handling women and child sexual abuse.

    When two 11 year old girls reported that they were inappropriately touched by a church leader, they were labeled as 'naughty' and 'knowing too much'. These girls stopped attending church soon after they reported the incident. I still feel guilty about not handling this matter head on, even though i was an assistant to the Children's Ministries Director.

    We have been entrusted with a unique end-time message as the Adventists. However, ignoring the reality that child molesters are among our ranks is one of the cancers that are undermining our evangelistic efforts- slowly destroying the church's reputation.

    Haveng attended Children's ministries level 1 training, i nust say that child abuse is adressed and the need for screening of leaders and counsellors that handle children is emphasised. However, the policies and procedures were not customised to my country's context- thus rendering the information somehow vague and impracticable.The church has to do more to ensure that its child abuse guidelines are clear and implementable at local church level. God bless your work Jennifer

    • Khutsanga, thank you for your well thought-out comments. And your honest disclosure of how you could have done better. I have made mistakes as well. I understand what you're saying about how the materials must be adapted to the culture/society. It's really best to have a live person speak so that they can ask the congregation for details about the local laws. I wish our church would send a task force all over the world to educate members about CSM and how to handle allegations. Keep praying. We're far from that, but sometimes God opens the Red Sea.

      • Would it not be possible, using your forum, to allow people to express the needs and issues regarding csm in their cultures? this is an extremely important thing for those of us who work amidst other cultures.

  3. how can one take the complaint of a child being touched inappropriately by another child but who is slightly older.my child came back from the holiday complaining of pain on her private and after asking her well,she explained that that she was touched every night after confronting my in laws about the issue they were rather bitter and our relationship has been affected. i expected her to understand my pain as a mother she rather turned the whole issue against me saying all sorts of things against me,it has really put me in a difficult situation as these are my husbands parents,i have not told mine for fear of what the outcome may be but am still bitter about the whole thing,can you help me?

    • Jane that's so heart wrenching. But their resentment of you is unnecessary because children often do these things and you meant no attack on the other child. You may not be able to do much about it except pray right now. I'd also advise keeping your child away from the child who hurt her. In the end the sacrifice you're making--peace in the family--is what is often required to make these things right. If you kept the peace and said nothing, how would your child feel? She would ultimately blame you for not caring about her, wouldn't she? I think you did the right thing. Stand in God and HE will fight for you. It may take time, but He will use this in the end.

    • Hi Jane. I am also a volunteer for The Hope Of Survivors (like Jennifer). I'm so very sorry to hear about the situation that you find yourself in - I can only imagine how difficult it is for you as a mother! Having said that, I think that it is a blessing that your daughter felt that she could tell you about what has happened and that you believed her. Sadly, that isn't always the case. I don't know where you live in the world (I live in South Africa) but I would be happy to help you find appropriate help wherever you live. My email address can be found on The Hope Of Survivors website link referenced above in Jennifer's article - please email me.

  4. Jennifer, thank you for your fair-handling article on a complex, taboo subject. I am a male in my 5th decade of life, born and lived in the West Indies for almost 2 of those 5, lived in the US for the last 3. I've not always been a SDA, but from a child I have always been affiliated with the religious community. I am deeply concerned that even here in the US, congregations squirm at the mere mention of the word sex (heaven forbid it should be during the main worship service on a sabbath!). We act as if human sexuality, that figures so prominent in our arrival on the planet (and unfortunately sometimes our departure) and in the integrity of the family unit, isn't part of God's truth to us! Scripture has so much to say on the subject, I'm distressed His professed people say so little. While I understand that your article deals with a particular location on the spectrum of human (dysfunctional) sexuality, I am encouraged that a female has the courage to swim against the prevailing tide and address "victim responsibility"...kudos! It is my opinion that males and females exercise "power advantage" in differ ways (both physical and psychological). So while the clergy has been historically male and males have misused their physical and authority advantages to gratify ungodly sex desires, no doubt, females have practiced their own brand of predation.
    Considering that Jesus taught what was God's ideal for humanity (Mk 12: 29-31), both genders, who were made in the "image of God"(Gen 1:27) stand in need of an extreme make-over (Deut 30:6; 2 Pt 1:4)!

    • Thanks for your comments, Lynrol. Yes, women can be predators, too. There's even such things as clergy sexual misconduct perpetrated by women clergy. It's not the gender so much as the power advantage and greater responsibility of clergy that make sexual affiliation constitute abuse. Most clergy happen to be male, but this is a secondary issue.

  5. Thank you Jennifer Schwirzer for this rich and thoughtful guide. It is really an inspiration from God. As teachers, leaders and clergy, we ought to always pray that our breath amid interaction with the learners/ students, subordinates and congregants is filled the Holy Spirit. Our daily prayer for that matter should stem from Psalm 19:14.

  6. Thank you Jennifer for sharing. A few decades ago, there was a preacher who was always preaching behind the pulpit about people in our church who were sleeping around. One Sabbath after church, while having lunch with a group of friends, one of my friends asked, "The pastor is always talking about people sleeping around in the church. So who is sleeping around? I don't know of anybody." Well, a couple decades later, I met this pastor's daughter and she shared some horror stories about her home life during that time, and she answered my friend's question from decades prior. You guessed it. The pastor was the one sleeping around! I definitely appreciate leaders who can talk about sex openly, but when they become obsessed with it almost like a hobby horse, would you say that is a red flag and to watch out for them?

  7. Jennifer I appreciate you taking a stand for victims of abuse. A few years ago, I got a call at my church office. It was a prison ministries leader, telling me about some women who were getting out of prison and moving to my area. He wanted me to invite them to my church. I asked him what they were in for. Annoyed, he said, "What difference does it make!" I said, well if they have harmed children in any way we will want to make sure they are not involved in children's ministries. He became very defiant and yelled, yes yelled, "They are women!" I calmly told him, our church does not want men or women harming our children. It annoyed the prison ministries leader, but when I shared the phone call, several fathers and mothers thanked me. More mothers than fathers actually, as I believe mothers are more aware of what the wrong kind of women are capable of. I am sorry standing up for the weak offended the prison ministries leader, but we have to look out for the weak even if it makes us look mean. Thank you Jennifer for your ministry.

  8. Thank you Jennifer for exploring the subject we scarcely venture. I can't just wait to share this inspirational presentation with friends.

  9. Thank you for writing on the issue of CSM, I didn't know it existed between pastors and congregants. I have witnessed instances where pastors of SDA churches have been found guilty of CSM but the women involved were always non-congregants.

    I even had spoken to one such perpetrators and he said, "it is a weakness, one of those things that remain in the 'old man'but I have always prayed not to fall to my church members. "

    Another I managed to interview was emphatic, "never sleep with your church member, that could mess up your job, and destroy your family happiness. "

    So, from my experience, I have concluded on two points: 1. CSM is a sin problem, no matter where it occurs, 2. CSM victim is not limited to the other person in the affair, the wife and family of the minister and also direct victims.

    CSM should be treated as a sin problem that the church must pray against, and pastors must make conscious efforts in making sure that that "the old man" never resurfaces, since the effects thereof can be far-reaching.

    As a minister, we know ourselves, we are all fallen sons of Adam, and we come to ministry, not as angels of light, but humans born in the nature of sin, dependant on the Marvellous Grace of Jesus that Justifies us. As such, when we recognize our weakness, we must seek counsel of some professional, get help from other ministers, pray and take actions that will help us resist the particular temptation.

    For instance, if a minister has a problem with temperament, let him do anger control therapy, pray, and avoid situations or events that would spark up an angry response. In the same way, the minister with a fault in his sexual conduct can be helped.

    Finally, I don't see any minister as a predator, but equally a victim of sin, and Satan, the ancient dragon, accuser of the brethren, and roaring lion, seeking to devour our souls. Should a minister falls into sexual sin, he defames the name of God, and the institutions of the church and marriage. This is Satan's design, but thank God for the Cross, the devil is defeated.

    May the Cross of Christ restore the image of all of God's people,including the pastors who are being singled out as "Predators" in this CSM busines. In Jesus' Almighty Name.

    • Martinus you make a great point that the victims of CSA extend beyond the one sexually violated--who can be a congregant or not. The family suffers, and in particular the wife.

  10. This is an article that should have been written long ago and should be placed in a forum like the Review. Our homes and churches are suffering from the immorality, not only of some leaders, but members in the pews. It is not only ministers who prey, females prey upon them as well. We must be careful not to deny females agency in sexual matters. We have had experiences where females target "attractive" pastors and the church has had to intervene to build barriers around the innocent ministers. On Sabbath mornings as he took to the pulpit, women with bared bosoms and embarrassingly short skirts sat in the front of the church, and they never left him alone. It was the vigilance of the church officers and the spiritual integrity of the pastor that kept him. We added a new row in the front and placed the deacons and deaconesses to sit there. The prayer ministry covered him and his family with prayer. Thank God he left with his integrity in tact. When he left, these women found another congregation. This is just one instance, there are too many to list, but the point is clear.

    This sexual sin problem if not addressed will compromise the integrity of the SDA Church. When a conference high official (not in the U.S) impregnates a young woman and is then secretly rebaptized and is elected to another office, it sends a signal to the church, not of God's grace, but that God's name, his church, and his work can be trifled with. I have been saying to my brethren in church that we have a sexual sin problem and we need to bring it into focus.
    We should not wait until we have a situation like what the Catholic church is facing before we remove from the pulpit and from positions of authority men and women who engage in sexual immorality. We cannot just move pastors, which we have., from one church to the next or allow him to move to another conference when it is clear that he has a problem with sexual purity.

    Jesus was clear that if anyone causes one of these little ones to sin it would be better for them to have millstones cast around their necks and they be drowned in the midst of the sea. Woe to those who destroy the lives, and they do destroy them, of the vulnerable among us.

    • Grace, what a story in your first paragraph. I don't doubt the potential of women in being perpetrators of seduction. Women and men are equally sinful, but sometimes in different ways. While I believe you fully and affirm the point you made, most of the sexual misconduct involving clergy I've observed has been perpetrated by the clergy. The victim has not been actively seductive. Most often when I ask the victim what ownership they can take (there's almost always some ownership, unless it's forcible rape), it ends up being that she trusted the pastor like a father, that they thought him incapable of sexual perpetration, that they were naive, that they were afraid of what he'd do in retaliation. I have not encountered situations where victims were actually attracted to the perpetrator. I know it happens, yes. I know we're all sinners. But the majority of CSM cases are pastors using their power to manipulate congregants into sexual sin. We need much more of Jesus, who never saw people as sexual objects but as his brothers and sisters and children for whom He would die.

    • I'd like to add that the amount of provocation (like provocative clothing) is no excuse for a pastor to be sexually involved with either lay members of his own church or with Bible students. A pastor's life and actions are to be above reproach.

      Your comments suggest that the pastor was targeted specifically because he was a pastor. And, specifically because he was/is a pastor, he has greater responsibility in this regard. If he were to succumb to such provocation, he would still be a "preying pastor" because of his position of influence and power - no matter what the provocation.

      I feel compelled to mention this because too often the victim is blamed for provocation even when none was intended. (Members do NOT want to believe that the pastor is to blame!) Sexual misconduct of pastors unfits them for the pastoral ministry, even if there was 'provocation.' After all, the world is full of provocation to sin, and it's no excuse for anyone and certainly not for pastors.

  11. This is an excellent article on CSM. It is good that awareness of this bane to our church is highlighted. However, I strongly disagree on with the author "Take action" (2) that victims who are reporting an alleged crime should remain anonymous. In some cases, very manipulative women who can't have their way with a married/unmarried minister, makes anonymous allegations that assassinates a person's character without the alleged perpetrator being able to make a timely defence himself against these allegations. Many times, these incidents are not handled properly and by the time justice has prevailed a person's reputation has been ruined. The correct procedure for dealing with CSM cases is for the victim to promptly submit a written account of the incident/s with copies of any recordings to the Ministerial Secretary of their local conference. The Ministerial Secretary is the pastor for all pastors. He is responsible for dealing with pastoral misconduct. Reporting such issues to your local elders/church board with only make the situation worse. If the ministerial secretary is giving you a run around, take it to the president of the local conference. If they are still dragging their feet, take it to your local union. The point is, these are serious matters that should be handled in the proper channels. If they are not dealt with in the proper manner, it creates stumbling blocks to members and exposes us as a church to ridicule by the world. If our leaders are allowed to deal with sin in our church in the appropriate manner, it will bring honour to God and justice to the victims.

    • O.J. I truly appreciate you weighing in on this. I don't mean to present my steps as foolproof. I am simply sharing what has worked and helped when I have been involved in such situations, and giving steps so that someone has a sense of knowing where to begin because often we do nothing because we don't know what to do!

      On hiding the victim's name--that's a tough one. I leave it up to them. They have already been forced and pressured by a stronger person, and really in a sense exposed. For me to then add pressure and expose them would be to retraumatize them. However, if they are willing, I will encourage them to disclose their identity.

      As far as going directly to the conference--in my scenarios I'm talking to local church people who have already heard the allegations. Then, as I said, we must inform church administration. I agree that the ministerial secretary needs to know about something that so fully exposes a moral lapse in one of his "flock." What I do personally--and this is on the advice of my lawyer--is to write a letter with the allegation to the conference president, copied to ministerial secretary and union president.

      In response to your point about some lying to take down a man and ruin his reputation, I must say those people are committing a terrible crime, as they are not only accusing an innocent man, but ruining the work of God and ultimately discrediting real victims. Those situations happen, but at least in my world they are rare.

      Again, thank you for your thoughts. We may do things a bit differently but we're on the same page and fighting for the same cause.

    • O.J. worse than "dragging their feet" they can actually turn on the abuse victim for reporting the pastor and the victim is raped all over again by his loyal supporters. If someone is being abused I suggest calling the police!

      • And this is why I hesitate to tell victims to tell authority figures directly. It can retraumatize the victim particularly when they aren't believed. Happens often.

      • I agree with William. If it is a case of sexual harassment (inappropriate touching, remarks with sexual innuendo, etc) and especially if it a case of unwanted sexual involvement (whether or not actual sexual penetration has occurred), it should be reported to all appropriate authorities, including the police.

        Unfortunately church administrators, including those in the Seventh-day Adventist church, have a history of blaming the victim and/or moving the perpetrator to another district, which makes congregants in that district vulnerable.

        I believe that the local church board is also an appropriate "authority," because it is the governing authority carrying out the wishes of the church community. They *should* be notified.

  12. The world and Christianity are trending to perversion and depravity. People have 7000 waking minutes each week to be influenced and more of that time is spent on secular and sexual input due to media , including entertainment media which is getting more corrupt each day. Genuine Christianity actually countered the barbarian habits 2000 years ago, yet because of the lawless, superficial approach of modern Christianity, the barbarian traits have come back. 99% of Christianity is already deceived and even the remnant church is taking hard hits. Idolatry and immorality are at pandemic levels.
    What practical advice can be offered? Use 1 JN 4:5 to detect suspect church leaders.

    • Jim Bob, this is an interesting comment. I have also found that people whose minds run in a perverse channel often act out eventually. Just look at the story of Baal-Peor. Israel surrounded by pagan tribes and idolatrous towns whose very names evoked perverted imagery ended up accepting some very wicked behavior!

  13. Thank you Jennifer, you have brought up a subject that is not only a very important subject among our people and among all people but is hitting at the heart of the sin problem that we have. That is that we have no power to overcome sin in and of ourselves.

    We can make it look like we are clean and OK, but, naturally, we are full of rottenness inside. It will destroy us if something doesn't happen. The only way I have found for the something to happen is that we would die to self and let God resurrect us in His Righteousness His way.

    These sins you write about in this article begin in the thought processes in the secrecy of our minds. When dwelt upon these thoughts and feelings turn to action in our lives. We don't think that we would do such a thing. It just happens if we don't die first and let the mind of Christ be motivated in us by the work of His Spirit--with our permission.

    If we don't choose to die to self and we act on our thoughts and feelings and we get away with it once, we will be emboldened to do it again and again until we have not only destroyed ourselves but many other people with us.

    • Don,

      So true--all you said. I would expand by saying that some clergy who abuse are decent men who lapsed into sin. But there are others who have cultivated--some for years, and with the knowledge of church members and even leaders--the habit of exploiting the weak of the flock. This pattern can become so entrenched that the perpetrator begins to believe his or her own lies. It's frightening. But we can do something about it, for these conditions develop in a certain accommodating environment.

  14. Many thanks Jennifer for the no nonsense approach yet delicate handling of a sensitive and embarrassing topic.Your website is also very empowering and uplifting


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