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 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (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 persons, 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 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 church.
Any suspected sexual contact with a minor must be reported to the appropriate governmental agency as required by state laws concerning reporting of child abuse.