All forms of sexual misbehavior by clergy and lay leaders with church members are unacceptable within the life of the church. The church should be a safe place where people can worship, learn, work, love and receive care in a manner that is free from sexual misconduct.
Any time a minister uses his or her position in the church for personal sexual gratification it is a misuse of the pastoral office and a betrayal of the nature of the pastoral relationship. Any sexual misconduct committed by a rostered church minister should be reported to the appropriate synod, including, but not limited to, any sexual contact between the rostered person and a congregant, counselee, employee or volunteer. It should be noted that the synod may not be able to assume primary responsibility for addressing all allegations of sexual misconduct. For example, law enforcement authorities would have responsibility for investigating and addressing criminal allegations, while congregations would have to deal with accusations of sexual harassment by the congregation’s employees. Nevertheless, the synod office should be notified of all cases of inappropriate sexual behavior in the congregation. Because the church is called to be a safe place, this synod intends to take whatever measures it can to help prevent sexual abuse and misconduct within the synod.
If you think someone is being hurt or is in danger, call 911 immediately.
Reporting child abuse
Report child abuse to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline receives calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This toll free number allows you to report abuse of any child or adult to the Oregon Department of Human Services. You can also report child abuse by calling a local police department, county sheriff, county juvenile department, or Oregon State Police.
What is misconduct?
Sexual misconduct: federal and state laws make distinctions among various types of sexual misconduct, such as “sexual harassment,” “sexual abuse,” and “sexual assault.” Similarly, the governing documents of the ELCA define what types of sexual misconduct can result in a pastor or deacon facing ecclesiastical discipline. These distinctions should not concern a person who is troubled about the sexual conduct of a pastor or deacon. This church is concerned about all types of sexual misconduct by these individuals, regardless of whether or how the misconduct is characterized by the law or by the governing documents of the ELCA.
Reporting sexual misconduct
Sexual misconduct committed by congregational employees should be reported to the pastor, council president, or other congregational officer. Congregations are encouraged to have policies in place for addressing allegations against church staff and to respond with compassion and care to anyone reporting abuse by clergy or lay leaders.
This synod has responsibility for addressing allegations of sexual abuse by rostered ministers (ordained clergy and deacons), administering appropriate discipline, and responding to those who have been harmed. Policies and procedures in place in this synod provides for compassionate and resolute response to those wounded by rostered minister sexual misconduct, and appropriate discipline for those who offend.
Where to report rostered minister (ordained clergy or deacon) sexual misconduct?
Report to the Oregon Synod if this synod is a) where the misconduct occurred; b) where the rostered minister (clergy or deacon) is currently located; or c) where the victim is currently located.
The following synod staff are available to receive reports:
Main Telephone | 503-413-4191
Email Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar
See the ELCA website at www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/Vocation-Become-a-Leader/Report-Misconduct for a drop down menu on who to contact in synods and congregations.
Additional contact: For further assistance within the ELCA, please call 800-638-3522, ext. 2699, or email.
ELCA & Synodical Resources
Sample Policy on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response: A Word Doc for congregations to use as a jumping off point in developing their own policy.
Sample Guidance on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response: A Word Doc for congregations to use in developing guidelines to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.
Sample Flyer for Reporting Misconduct: A Word Doc for congregations to edit and hang in their churches.
Sexual Misconduct Reporting Process in the Saint Paul Area Synod: To help congregations better understand the reporting process.
Flowchart for Receiving Reports of Sexual Misconduct: To help congregations navigate the reporting process.
Resources for Congregations for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response: A resource to assist congregations in developing a healthy climate in which sexual misconduct is not tolerated and policies to address sexual misconduct if it does occur.
Safe Connections: A resource to help parishioners understand and prevent clergy sexual abuse. Healthy relationships of trust and respect between laity and clergy are essential for carrying out the mission of the church. This resource can assist in creating and maintaining strong, creative and healthy relationships of integrity and safety, for the sake of our common ministry to the gospel of Christ Jesus and to the people of God.
Healing in congregations after clergy sexual abuse: A resource to assist synodical leaders and local congregations. This resource is offered to synodical bishops and their staffs, to other clergy and lay leaders, interims and “after pastors,” including those who will provide on-site leadership for a period of time in congregations after the incidence of clergy sexual abuse.
An ELCA Strategy for responding to sexual abuse in the church: A resource of shared learning of synods, seminaries, congregations, colleges, social ministry organizations and the churchwide expression.
Cherish All Children Cherish All Children is an ELCA ministry that equips congregations to prevent child sexual exploitation. The heart of this ministry lies in congregations, where staff, leaders, and members pray, educate, connect with others, and act on behalf of children within and outside their congregations. The Cherish All Children Congregational Manual has tips, practical examples and a suggested structure for developing a Cherish All Children team. The website also has resources for safe church policies, prayer booklets, books, and Internet resources.
Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church by Joy Thornburg Melton
This 80-page book provides guidance to help develop policies and procedures for reducing the risk of child abuse in the church. The book defines the scope of child abuse, outlines the different types of abuse, notes the indicators of abuse, discusses the legal requirements for reporting abuse, and provides guidelines for screening and hiring workers and volunteers. The book also outlines basic procedures of safe ministry with children and youth and outlines a congregational plan for responding to allegations of abuse. Sample forms included for screening workers, requiring background checks, doing reference checks and reporting suspected abuse. A suggested training session plan for people who work with children and youth is outlined, and a bibliography of suggested resources is included. This book can be purchased from Amazon.
Contact the Oregon Synod Office
2800 N Vancouver Ave #101
Portland, OR 97227
Contact ELCA Churchwide Office
Prevention of Sexual Misconduct
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631-4101
Phone: 800.638.3522, ext. 2699
Email: For general questions or comments, please email.