I sat today with a small group of local clergy and domestic violence workers, and we wondered together about how to address clergy sexual abuse in non-denominational churches.
Here's the problem: A woman from a local nondenominational church approached the Church Council last year with a sad story. She had been lovers with her pastor, a single man, for some months. Their relationship included many promises of marriage. When the relationship ended, she discovered that a) he had presented himself in the same manner to several women in the congregation, and b) her relationship of trust with the pastor and the church itself was deeply injured. She sought help to bring accountability to the pastor and safety to any other women who might also potentially be abused. She was unaware that sexual relations with a congregant by a pastor -- single or married -- is a breach of trust and an unethical act.
In a denominational church, the clergyperson would be accountable to the denominational hierarchy. In a non-denominational, only the lay leaders within the church would have any ability to hold an abusive pastor accountable. This accountability would depend on the congregation's knowledge of sexual abuse guidelines and philosophy, something which is woefully lacking even in denominational congregations.
So, the question is: how do we approach that? Any ideas out there?