… Revised Text, Part XI, Sec. XIV. Sexual Misconduct—Policy and Procedures
I. Introduction/Official Policy Statement
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the spirit of liberation and reconciliation.The livesof its members (Clergy, Staff, appointed or elected officers and volunteers are to be a testament of wholeness inthe midst of brokenness; of hospitality in the midst of discrimination; and of respect in themidst of oppression. Contrary to the nurturing, liberatingand reconciling community, sexual misconduct creates improper, coercive, and abusive conditions wherever it occurs in society. Sexual Misconduct within the Church, or by representatives of the Church, is a betrayal of a sacred trust, and a sinful abuse of power forwhich consequences are necessary and appropriate. Sexual misconduct perverts God’s goodgift of human sexuality causing brokenness in relationships and is the opposite of God’s intention for us in the human community. As a people who have historically been subjected tosinful abuses of power fromoutside the gathered community, we find it especially important that no such abuses of power be encouraged, tolerated, or allowed within the AfricanMethodist Episcopal Church. Sexual misconduct is never permissible. It is a violationof the principles set forth in Scripture aswell as of ministerial, pastoral, employment, and professional relationships. Sexual misconduct by a minister violates the Ordinationvows of the AME Church. To that end, we seek to: 1) prevent any and all sexual misconduct by clergy, staff, appointed or elected officers or volunteers of the A.M.E. Church; 2) provide a clear, reasonable, meaningful,and just response and resolution for complainants and alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct; and 3) ensure that each party is provided with the kind oflove and respect afforded us by the liberating and reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ.
This Policy defines sexual misconduct by clergy,staff,appointed or elected officers and voluntees within the African Methodist Episcopal Church and describes the procedures for reporting, responding to and investigating complaints of sexual misconduct within African Methodist Episcopal Church (hereinafter referred to as “AME Church” or “the Church.)”
SINGLE CLERGY ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS: A single clergy person engaging in a romantic relationship with a single person with whom he/she has a clergy relationship does not necessarily commit sexual misconduct pursuant to this policy. The clergy person, however, must be aware of the inherent problems associated with such a relationship and assumes full responsibility for the related potential for harm. A clergy person entering into such a relationship bears the burden of demonstrating that the relationship is without exploitation regarding all relevant factors, including the personal history and emotional status of the subject of his/her romantic interest and the potential for an adverse impact on this person and on others.
A. Policy: Policy is the term usedhereafter to refer tothis section of the 2000 DoctrineandDisciplineofthe African Methodist Episcopal Church titled “Sexual Misconduct—Policiesand Procedures” generally.
B. Accuser: The “accuser” (complainant) is the person(s) making the allegations against the “accused.”
C. Accused: The “accused” (alleged perpetrator) is the person(s) against whom the accuser has made allegations of sexual misconduct.
D. Appointed or Elected Officers: The term“appointed or elected officers” applies topersons who hold official positions within the local or connectional structure of theAME Church.
E. Clergy: The term“clergy” applies to personsOrdained as either Local or Itinerant Deacons or Elders within the AME Church; or persons seeking Ordination within the AME Church.
F. Employee: The term“employee” applies toany person(s) who is employed by any local or connectional structure of the AME Church.
G. Volunteer: The term“volunteer” applies to any person(s) who provides non- compensated services toany local or connectional structure of the AME Church.
H. Sexual Contact: This termincludes but is not limited to any sexual touching, copulation,coitus, or sodomy with the intent to arouse and gratify sexual desire.
I. Sexual Misconduct: The term“sexual misconduct” is the comprehensive term usedin this policy to include: sexual abuse of children with or with out consent, oradults, rape or sexual assault, and sexual harassment. It may be committed by eithermale or female persons and may involve same sex or opposite sex encounters.Sexual misconduct is an abuse of authority and power. It breaches Christian ethical principles by misusing a relationship oftrust to gain advantage overanother for personal gratification inan abusive, exploitative and unjust manner.
Categories of sexual misconduct are described below:
1. Sexual abuse occurs whenever a person in a position of trust engages in a sexual act or sexual contact with another personto whom he or she owes a professional responsibility,i.e. other members of the clergy, paidor volunteer staff, or appointedor elected officers. Such abuse shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
a) Sexual acts or sexual contact with a minor, with or without consent.
b) Sexual acts or sexual contact involving inducement, threat, coercion,force, violence, or intimidation of another person, whetherthe other person is clergy, employee, appointed or electedofficers or volunteers.
d) Indecent exposure
e) Promotion ofprostitution
f) Sexual acts or sexual contact with another person who is incapableof appraising the nature of the conduct or physically incapable ofdeclining participation in, or communicating unwillingness to engagein, that sexual act or sexual contact.
g) Sexual acts orsexual contact arising fromthe administration to anotherperson of a drug or intoxicant which substantially impairs the ability ofthat personto be aware of, or control the natureof the conduct.
h) Child pornography
2. Child sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to, any contact or interaction betweena child and an adult when the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the adult person or of a third person, including but not limited to involvement in child pornography. The behaviormayormaynotinvolve touching.Child sexual abuse between an adult and a child is always considered forcedwhether or not consented to by the child. Child sexual abuse is a crime in allstates and must be reported to civil authorities. Anyone who knows or has reasonto suspect that childabuse has occurred or isoccurring should be reported totheir civil authorities as required by law and to the church administrative authoritiesas designated.
3. Rape or sexual assault is a crime in every state, town, province or district and shouldbe reported as designated by the civil codes of the jurisdiction in which the actoccurred. It must also be simultaneously reported to the church administrative authoritiesas designated.
4. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors,and other verbal or non-verbalconduct of a sexually offensive nature when: a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term orcondition of an individual’s employment or their continued status in an institution; b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is the basisfor subsequent decisions affecting the promotion, transfer, assignment, appointment, appraisal, status, membership, or participation in any group or activity affecting that individual; or c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Sexual harassment can consistof a single instance where the act or the conduct is egregious or multiple persistentor pervasive acts.
Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to:
a)sexually oriented jokes or humor;
b)sexually demeaning comments;
c)verbal suggestions of sexual involvement or sexual activity;
d)questions or comments about sexual behavior;
e)unwelcome or inappropriate physical contact;
f)graphic or degrading comments about an individual’s physical appearance;
g)express or implied sexual advances or propositions;
h)display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures;
i)repeated requests for social engagements after an individual refuses.
j)Unsolicited letters, phone calls, or the transmission of other material of a sexualnature
k)Offers of the use of one’s influence in exchange for sexual favor
5. Clergy Sexual Misconduct may be committed by either male or female and may involvesame sex or opposite sex encounter(s). Clergy sexual misconduct is that conductwhich occurs whenever a clergy person initiates or allows any sexual contactor behavior with a person withwhomhe or she has a clergy relationship andis either abusive, harassing, and/or exploitive.
6. Clergy Sexual Relationship is a relationship between a clergy person and any otherperson when:
a. the accuser is a member of a congregation to which the accused was or isappointed or assigned;
b. the accuser is supervisedby, is a colleague of , or receives ministry from theaccused,who serves in any capacity for which he/she wasordained, licensed, hired or appointed by a bishop or a bishop’s designee;
c. the accused used the authority of a clerical office or role in establishing a relationship with the accuser; or
d. the accuser is a member of a community which recognizes the authority ofthe accused as a person in ministry, regardlessof the actual status of theaccused.
7. Sexual acts or contact between clergy and lay, within the same congregation, even whenconsensual, are strongly discouraged. There may exist an inherent imbalance of powerbetween the clergy and the lay person which may undermine the validity of consent.
8. Sexual acts or sexual contact between clergy to clergywhere a supervisory relationshipexistsisnotacceptable,where such acts may create a hostile environment or quid pro quo (this for that).
III.Responsibilities and Roles of African Methodist Episcopal Church in Policy Implementation
A. Education and Training
All clergy and candidates for ministerial orders, employees, appointed or elected officials,and volunteers of the AME church shall be required to attend a seminar by professional subjectmatter experts on the issues of sexual misconduct. The training content and trainer shall beselected and approved by the Bishop of the Episcopal District. Each participant will be required to sign a statement certifying that he/she has read, understood and been trained in the policy,or sign a statement of refusal to comply with this requirement. Failure to sign compliance statement will result in referral to the Ministerial Efficiency Committee or in case of nonclergy to the Steward Board for disciplinary action.
B. Liability and Insurance
The AME Church and all of its individual congregations shall ensure that their liability insurancepolicies covers sexual misconduct liability for its programs and activities. The Quarterly Conference shall be responsible for verifying that each local church has liability insurancecovering sexual misconduct.
C. Mitigation or Excuse:The following factors inno way excuse or mitigate clergy responsibilityfor acts of clergy sexual misconduct:
i) The accuser initiates the complained of behavior;
ii) The accuser consents to the complained of behavior; or
iii) The accusedis under extraordinary stress, vis-à-vis any number of circumstances.
The AME Church and all of its individual connectional conferences will include in every employee’s personnel file, including clergy, theapplication for employment, any employment questionnaires,reference responses, and other documents relatedto this Policyincluding a copy ofthe documents referenced in Part IV (A) above.
IV.Procedures for Reporting a Complaint of Sexual Misconduct
The African Methodist Episcopal Church does not tolerate sexual abuse of any child with or without consent under any circumstances. Incidents of sexual abuse of a minor is a crime in all states, towns, provinces and districts and must be reported immediately to civil authorities. Anyone who knows or has reason to suspect that child abuse has occurred or is occurring should bereported to civil authorities as required by law and to the church administrative authorities.
Rape or sexual assault is a crime in all states, towns, provinces and districts, and must be reported to civil authorities. Anyone who knows or has reason to suspect that child abuse has occurredor is occurring should be reported to civil authorities as required by law and to the church administrative authorities as designated.
Allegations of sexual misconduct shall be reported promptly, taken seriously, and thoroughly investigated.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church encourages reporting of all concerns relating to sexualmisconduct through thefollowing means:
1. If the accused serves at a local church, in any legally constituted capacity, then theperson in supervisory authority is the Pastorof the church where the accused serves.
2. If the accused is the Pastor, then the person in supervisory authority is the PresidingElder
3. If the accused is the Presiding Elder,then the person in supervisory authority is theBishop
4. If the accused is the Bishop, then the person insupervisoryauthority is the Presidentof the Council of Bishops
5. If the accused is the President of the Council of Bishops, then the person in supervisoryauthority is the Senior Bishop of the AMEC, Inc.
A person who believes that sexual misconduct has occurred may report such misconduct to anyperson in the accused’s supervisory line of authority, as mentioned above.
A. Reporting a Complaint
1. The accuser may make a verbal complaint to the person in supervisory authority. At the time the verbal complaint is made, the person receiving the complaint must make a writtenrecord of the reported incident not later than forty-eight (48) hours fromhis/her receiptof the complaint. The accuser has seven (7) days to submit a written and signed statement of the alleged misconduct to the supervisor to whom the verbal complaint was made. The supervisor shall immediately informthe accuser in writing that the complaint wasreceived and refer the accused to this Section Of the Doctrine and Discipline of the AMEC.
2. The accuser must prepare a written record of what happened.The written record should include:a) your name, address, telephone number and local church; b) the name, position,and local church (if any) ofthe person you believe has committed Clergy Sexual Misconduct;and c) a detailed description of theact(s) and/or incident(s) that are the basis foryour complaint. It must be sworn underpenalty of perjury. At the end of the document you must state “I declare these things to be trueunderpenalty of perjury under thelaws of the State, Town, Province or District of which the complaint is brought, and thereaftersign your name. This writtenrecord is your official complaint.
3. The Accuser must send the completed complaint via certified mail, return receipt requested,to all three of the following persons:
a) The person in supervisory capacity
b) The Chairperson of the Ministerial Efficiency Committee for the Conference withinwhich the incident(s) underlying the allegations occurred
c) The General Counsel of the AME Church and the Episcopal District Attorney
d) The Chairperson of the Steward Board ofthe Local Church (For non clergy only)
6. Required Procedures for Responding to Complaints of Sexual Misconduct by clergy.
A. Roles and Responsibilities of the Ministerial Efficiency Committee
When matters relating to Sexual Misconduct by a member of the clergy are at issue, the Ministerial Efficiency Committee (hereinafter referred to as MEC) must include two women. Each member serving on the MEC must have completed the education and training under
PartIV (A). The MEC is strongly encouragedto consult withan attorney and other subject matter experts in the matters of sexual misconduct and in preparation for the hearing. Confidentiality is mandatory in matters relating to all complaints of sexual misconduct. Disclosure ofthe receipt ofa complaint or any matter or detail related thereto is restricted solely to the process and individuals identified within this Policy.
Any person making any unauthorized disclosure of any matter pertaining to any allegation or hearing of same pursuant to the provisions described and particularized herein is a breach of theDoctrine and Discipline and order of the A.M.E. church and shall be charged and tried pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal church.
1. If the accused is a member of the Clergy, the Ministerial Efficiency Committee must:
a. Within seven (7) days of receipt of the official complaint, notify the accused that a complaint has been filed and provide him/her with a copy ofthe official complaint. The accused may provide a written response to the accusations by forwarding his/her written response within fourteen (14) days to the chairperson of the MEC.
b. No later than thirty (30) days from the date on which the complaint was received,the MEC shall in writing, via certified mail, return receipt requested, notify the accuser and the accused: 1) of the date, time and place of the hearing; 2) the necessity of their presence and participation in the hearing; 3) the right to present witnesses and/or other evidence at the hearing;4) the right to have an advocate present; 5) and the results of failure to appear, testify, and respondto legitimate inquiries ofthe committee at the hearing.
c. Within sixty (60) days from the date on which the complaint was received, theMEC must hold a hearingontheallegations.
d. The hearing shall be conducted by the Ministerial Efficiency Committee, which shall include at least two women as members when matters pursuant to clergy sexual conduct are at issue. Both the accused and the accuser shall have the right to be accompanied by another person of his/her choice and to speak on his/her behalf. Whether or not the accompanying person speaks, the accused and the accuser shall be required to speak regarding the allegations and shall berequired to respond to the legitimate inquiriesof the Committee. All testimony shall be rendered under oath. The refusal of either party to attend the hearing shall not be cause for the hearing not to proceed. The Ministerial Efficiency Committee shall select fromits members a presiding officer and a secretary who shall record the proceedings with or without the aid of a mechanical device or professional reporter. Any expense associated with such a hearing shall be borne by the prevailing party.
e. Within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the hearing, the MEC shall provide the accuser and the accused with a written decision including the basis for the decision(s) made by the committee. This notice shall be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested.
f. Within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the hearing, the MEC shall submit a written report ofthe proceedings, a copy ofany verbatim transcript taken during the proceedings; the findings of the committee including whether the complaint was sustained, unsustained, or neither sustained nor unsustained; and a recordof any previous complaints of sexualmisconduct that have been sustained against the accused. This written record (with attachments) shall be sent vial certified mail, to: 1) the person in supervisory capacity over the accused; 2) the General Counselfor the AME Church; and 3)the Bishop of the District within which the complaint arose.
2. If the accused is not a member of the Clergy, the complaint will be processed according toSection 11 Trial of Lay Persons pp. 336 -337 of the 2000 Doctrine and Discipline of the A.M.E. Church.
a. The same time lines for processing the complaint as stated insection VI (1)(a-f)
B. Roles and Responsibilities of Supervising Bishop or President of Council of Bishops
1. Once the written report of the MEC is received by the Bishop of the District withinwhich the MEC was convened, (or if the accused is the Bishop, the Presidentof the Council ofBishops) the Bishop shall take the following steps:
i. If the complaint is either “unsustained” or “neither sustained nor unsustained”the Bishop (or President of the Council of Bishops) neednot take any further action.
ii. Within seven (7) days of receiving notice that a complaint has beensustained against a clergy person the Bishop (or President of theCouncil of Bishops) shall enforce the findings of the committee asfollows:
In the cases of criminal conviction or the sustaining of the complaint for child sexual abuse and rape or sexual assault, the clergy person must immediately and permanently surrender the ministerial office duties, responsibilities and credentials.
First Offense: Immediate surrender of ministerial office, duties, responsibilities and credentials and receive appropriate counseling for a periodof not less than six (6) months nor more than twenty-four (24) months, the duration to be determined by the circumstances and severity of the offense.
Second Offense: Immediate surrender of ministerial office, duties, responsibilities, and credentials andreceive appropriate counseling for a periodof not less than two (2) years, or more than five (5) years, the durationto be determined by the circumstance and severity of the offense.
Third Offense: Immediate and permanent surrender of ministerial office duties, responsibilities and credentials and appropriate counseling. The filing of an appeal shall not alter the timeline for enforcement.
C. Roles and Responsibilities of General Counsel for the AME Church
1. Upon receipt of an official complaint as described above, General Counsel for the AMEChurchmust:
a. Comply with any mandated reporting requirements;
b. Notify the Bishop under whomthe accused serves; or if the accused is a Bishop,notify the president of the Council of Bishops, that a complaint has been received; and
c. Maintain a copy of the Complaint, any Response from the accused, and the record provided by the MEC for a period of not less than four (4) years from the date the last document is received; and
d. In the event legal action has been commenced at the time of receipt of theComplaint, General Counsel shall notify the appropriate liability insurance representatives.
VII. Statute of Limitations
You must comply with the procedures below within one hundred eighty (180) days from thedate of the last act of misconduct, or in accordance with applicable federal, state and local law, whichever is longer in time.
A person against who a complaint of Clergy Sexual Misconduct has been sustained shall have the right of appeal. A formal notice of appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of receipt of the written notice of decision from the MEC. The notice shall be provided according to section XII Appeals, pp 237-340 ofthe 2000 Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Filing an appeal will not stay enforcement of required action under this Policy. Each party retains all rights and privileges granted by local, state, federal and international law.