In the January Evangelical Leaders Survey, 91 percent of evangelical leaders reported that their organization offers a confidential way to report sexual misconduct by staff or volunteers. The survey was conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals prior to a report from the Houston Chronicle on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
“Ministry organizations recognize the threat and reality of real and potential sexual misconduct. It’s impressive that so many have set up systems to report,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “Confidential reporting systems are good but only part of what needs to be done. How reports are handled is really important. Many organizations need outside help to do this well.”
One denominational leader said that while the denomination has a way for people to report misconduct, the process needs to be reinforced and clarified to everyone in the denomination. Another leader noted his denomination has annual mandatory sexual harassment prevention training for all supervisors.
Anderson said, “Training to prevent sexual harassment should be required for all employees. Leaders should make reporting and properly managing reports a high priority. Learning from other organizations and ministries should be a standard practice.”
Some respondents expressed the practical difficulties of maintaining confidentiality while also being fair to the accused. One said, “It is hard to follow up on reports of sexual misconduct if the person reporting is unwilling to identify…. We have some churches who have had challenges with volunteers who have reportedly done inappropriate things, but the person wasn’t willing to share the situation beyond the pastor.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.