From Cosby to clergy, men must be held accountable

Be they entertainers, athletes, business leaders, elected officials, or regular Joes, men have often taken advantage of physical and/or social power differences in victimizing women. Sadly, clergymen are well represented among these predators. As in the case of Cosby’s victims, victims of clergy sexual misconduct are often disbelieved and dismissed.

But God has always been concerned about victims of abuse, all of whom He has created in His image. So we must be concerned and speak up for these survivors. Proverbs 31:8-9 (NLT) says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Like many people my age, I grew up admiring Bill Cosby. I enjoyed “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and I got a kick out of his Jell-O pudding commercials. His old comedy albums were so clean I didn’t have to sneak to listen to them.

I was a teenager when “The Cosby Show” made its debut in 1984. I found it to be groundbreaking because of its positive portrayal of a well-to-do African-American family. Once known as “America’s Dad” and for his philanthropy, Cosby is now one of the newest inductees into the public hall of shame.

His place there seems to have been cemented since old court documents were unsealed. In a deposition, Cosby, who has been an out-spoken moralist, admitted to getting Quaaludes to give to women so that he could have sex with them. No matter how others may see it, in my book, that’s an admission to rape.Watch The Channel (2016) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

One Internet source reported that, as of July 8, 2015, 45 women have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault of any kind. To believe in Cosby’s innocence is to believe that, in addition to all of these women lying, he lied during the aforementioned deposition. I certainly cannot believe that. Sexual violence against women, however subtle, should never be tolerated, period.

This scandalous situation provides us with an excellent opportunity to discuss sexual misconduct by men in power. To be sure, the abuse of power for the purpose of control and sexual exploitation is a problem that goes back to the days of King

David who misused his power to have sex with Bathsheba. Additionally, I am reminded of David’s son, Amnon, who forcibly raped his sister, Tamar.

Be they entertainers, athletes, business leaders, elected officials, or regular Joes, men have often taken advantage of physical and/or social power differences in victimizing women. Sadly, clergymen are well represented among these predators. As in the case of Cosby’s victims, victims of clergy sexual misconduct are often disbelieved and dismissed.

But God has always been concerned about victims of abuse, all of whom He has created in His image. So we must be concerned and speak up for these survivors. Proverbs 31:8-9 (NLT) says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Clergy sexual misconduct has long been one of those sick secrets in the Church that we have not addressed, honestly and proactively. A disturbing example involves the late Rev. C. L. Franklin, father of “the Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. To this day, many preachers emulate his unique preaching style and remarkable oratory. In fact, recordings of his legendary sermons are still hot sellers in some circles, more than 30 years after his death.

As a pastor in his mid-20s, Franklin impregnated a 12-year-old girl in the congregation. Shortly after turning 13, she gave birth to a daughter. What is especially sickening to me is that several accounts of this horrendous episode refer to Franklin’s relationship with this young lady as an “affair.” That’s ludicrous! This wasn’t an affair, but an obvious case of statutory rape and child sexual abuse.

In addressing this sinful and sometimes criminal behavior, we must first define clergy sexual misconduct. In 2008, the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University conducted a study on the topic. As both a pastor and licensed clinical social worker, I served as a consultant on the study. Within the context of the study, clergy sexual misconduct was defined as “a religious leader’s sexual overture, proposition, or relationship with a congregant who is not his or her spouse or significant other.”

Of the 3,559 respondents surveyed by Baylor, in 2008:

• More than 3 percent of women who had attended a congregation in the past month reported that they had been the object of clergy sexual misconduct at some time in their adult lives;

• 92 percent of these sexual advances had been made in secret, not in open dating relationships; and

• 67 percent of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance.

• In the average American congregation of 400 persons, with women representing, on average, 60 percent of the congregation, there are, on average of seven women who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct.

• Of the entire sample, 8 percent report having known about clergy sexual misconduct occurring in a congregation they have attended. Therefore, in the average American congregation of 400 congregants, there are, on average, 32 persons who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct in their community of faith.

Whenever clergy sexual misconduct occurs, it is an abuse of power on the part of the minister. This is the case even if the congregant is, legally, of the age of consent. There is a clear power differential between a pastor and a regular church member or attendee. When ministers of the Gospel engage in sexual activity with a member of their congregation, it is not only sinful on the minister’s part, but it is a serious violation of professional and ministerial boundaries.

The minister must be held accountable for such egregious activity. After all, men in other vocations are. In the case of doctors or therapists, they could lose their license to practice, if allegations of misconduct were substantiated. Whether forced or “consensual,” clergy sexual misconduct is evil. It is a serious offense for which God will hold Christian leaders and local churches accountable.

In order to fix this problem within our churches, we must face it. We mustn’t bury our heads in the sand, and thereby, pretend that clergy sexual misconduct is not going on. Ignoring the “elephant in the room” will not make it go away.

The call to ministry is noble, indeed. God takes this call very seriously. In 1 Timothy 3:2, the Apostle Paul says that one who desires to be a pastor must be “blameless.” Countless persons have been victimized by preying preachers. As a result, many survivors of clergy sexual misconduct have either turned away from the Christian faith, or rejected it, altogether. Let us reach out to these persons with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, let us pray that the offenders are brought to justice and provided with needed psychological treatment.

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