Sex Abuse in Churches and Ministries


Guest Blog by: Dr. Ronnie Shaw


As a certified counselor for almost 21 years, I have had the unpleasant task of counseling hundreds who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of those who should have been protectors—i.e. Pastors, Ministers, and Church Chaperones.


Although the Catholic Church has come under the microscope for this very act they are not the only guilty parties. Some of the Protestant churches in this nation, and around the world, are just as guilty.


Patriarchal Cover-Up


Catholic and Protestant churches do not have much in common, but one dark secret they both share is that of Patriarchal Cover-Up. Catholics do it to protect their Dioceses and the Vatican. Protestants do it to protect their local church image.


In Protestant circles it is falsely taught that the victim should be quiet and forgive. Although, I believe in forgiving, I also believe in consequences. Unfortunately, many of the sexual abuse cases are hard to prove without several witnesses and/or victims who are willing to come forward. This creates a dilemma for a Church that does not want its name drug through the mud during any impending trials. So, what recourse may a Christian victim exercise?


Should Christians Sue Other Christians?


According to the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 6, we should not sue another believer.


1 Corinthians 6:1-6 (GWT)

1  When one of you has a complaint against another, how dare you go to court to settle the matter in front of wicked people. Why don’t you settle it in front of God’s holy people?
2  Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? So if you’re going to judge the world, aren’t you capable of judging insignificant cases?
3  Don’t you know that we will judge angels, not to mention things in this life?
4  When you have cases dealing with this life, why do you allow people whom the church has a low opinion of to be your judges?
5  You should be ashamed of yourselves! Don’t you have at least one wise person who is able to settle disagreements between believers?
6  Instead, one believer goes to court against another believer, and this happens in front of unbelievers.


However, we are in a day where the Body of Christ will not judge itself and therefore must, in this matter, resort to the writings of Apostle Peter.


1 Pet. 4:17a (KJV)


17  For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. . .


The abused should have the right to pursue their case (if it is legitimate) in the courts of the land, if for no other reason, to force the guilty into ownership of their transgression. Notice, I said if it is legitimate. I have provided counsel in situations where the claims were not legitimate. For instance, I counseled one family because the daughter made false accusations that resulted in her father spending years in prison before she confessed that she had lied simply to punish her father for not allowing her to date a certain boy.


Sexual Abuse Reporting Policy


Every Church should have in its bylaws an explicit written policy that outlines the Church’s stance on reports of sexual abuse by any member or staff, and the reporting procedures that dictate how the abuse will be reported.


Although Pastors are bound to Priest/Penitent privilege, care must be taken to ensure the protection of the victims.


A Church with a valid Sexual Abuse Reporting Policy could easily save itself thousands of dollars in insurance premiums.


How We Can Help


Chitwood & Chitwood is the nation’s premier Church Management Expert. Our 79 years of experience has taught us to be proactive in Church matters by detailing everything within legally written bylaws.


Let us help you get your Church bylaws in legal order. To do so, you may call 800-344-0076. This topic is also taught in our Church Management and Tax Seminars across the USA. To register for one near you visit us at or call the above number.