As an expression of its life in the gospel of Jesus Christ, this church embraces disciplinary processes of counseling, admonition, and correction, with the objective of forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. Simultaneously, out of deep concern for effective extension of the gospel, this church remains alert to the high calling of discipleship in Jesus Christ. The rostered ministers of this church, as persons charged with special responsibility for the proclamation of the gospel, are to seek to reflect the new life in Christ, avoiding that which would make them stumbling blocks to others. To that end, this church recognizes that there is behavior that is deemed to be incompatible with ordained ministry and that calls for disciplinary action.
Public ministry is a position of trust and responsibility.
Reporting an Allegation of Behavior that is Incompatible with Ordained Ministry
Allegations of behavior that is incompatible with ordained ministry by rostered persons should be reported to the office of the bishop. The initial contact shall be made either by telephoning, emailing, writing, a zoom meeting, or speaking in person with the bishop. In all cases the bishop will schedule a formal meeting, where a full written or recorded report can be made, at a time that is mutually convenient with the complainant, the Advocate, the Advisor and with the bishop. If the complaint is made by a person whose primary language is other than English, it is advisable for him/her/them to make it in the language they prefer and it will be translated for the bishop.
The bishop, with the assistance of the Advisor, will hear the complainant’s allegations. The bishop shall listen to the complainant with sensitivity and care. More than one meeting with the complainant and Advocate may be necessary to establish the degree of trust and rapport necessary for the complainant to understand and agree to cooperate with the procedures described in this document and with the ELCA disciplinary process.
Reporting child abuse
In the United States, most states require allegations of abuse against a minor to be reported immediately to state authorities. The ELCA encourages immediately reporting to the civil authorities all instances of child abuse regardless of personal confidentiality issues. Each state has a different mandatory reporting process. You should call local law enforcement authorities or go to your state government website and find the appropriate office for reporting child abuse.
Reporting sexual misconduct in the ELCA
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.
Synods of this church usually have responsibility for addressing allegations of clergy sexual abuse, administering appropriate discipline, and responding to those who have been harmed. Procedures and policies in place in the synods of this church provide for compassionate and resolute response to those wounded by clergy sexual misconduct, and appropriate discipline for those who offend.
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 other rostered person facing ecclesiastical discipline. These distinctions should not concern a person who is troubled about the sexual conduct of a pastor or rostered layperson. 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.
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 leader 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 appropriate synod office should be notified of all cases of inappropriate sexual behavior in the congregation.
Any suspected sexual contact with a minor must be reported to the appropriate governmental agency as required by state laws concerning reporting child abuse.
You can find more resources here.
Click here to read the Policy Procedure for the Sierra Pacific Synod's Discipline of a Rostered Minister When a Complaint is Reported