Dating a pastor

It was even harder for the people around me to understand why particular pastor’s behavior was improper, because the classic gender roles were reversed: I’m a man, and the minister is a woman.Nonetheless, she was trained in seminary not to make advances at parishioners, and denominational officials and various outside organizations all eventually said that she had violated the basic rules and ethics of ministry.Think about titles: “Reverend” (from “revere”), “Monsignor” (“my lord”), or, in the Episcopal Church, “Father” or “Mother” (do I need to explain that one? For a while I was dating someone whom convention would have me refer to as “Mother Strickland”.

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So I’m writing this document to explain to my friends and family -- and the general public— these rules are in place, and why, increasingly, observers of religion and sexual abuse awareness organizations say that pastor-parishioner relationships should be forbidden.

One more quick point: I’m not the kind of person who frequently tells people how they should behave in their sex lives.

But pastors can turn all that knowledge around very quickly to get you to feel you’re falling in love.

They show compassion, worming their way deep into your inner life.

If you fight with your pastor, you’re going to start hating your church. If being part of a stable religious community is at all something that matters to you, then you don’t want to get on an emotional roller-coaster every time you walk down the aisle.

This is particularly a problem if there’s only one church you can go to in your town—or, in my case, the was basically the only English-speaking Protestant congregation in Paris, and the theater of the misconduct. No matter what you do, your pastor is going to have at least some charismatic power over you. Ministers are, by definition, experts on God-related stuff.

Unlike, perhaps, some of the readers of this article, I actively support full LGBTQ equality, and I do not believe that the only province of sexuality should be the marital relationship. But you, and I, and everyone, universally agree that some classes of sexual behavior are simply acceptable, like child molestation, or sexual assault.

And pastors dating their parishioners—although seemingly more benign at first—actually fits into that category. When you belong to a church, the ministers consult each other about what’s going on in your life—and this can create conflicts of interest if you’re dating one of them In my case, when I grew increasingly frazzled by my relationship with my pastor, I couldn’t go to one of the other ministers and talk about it. This would be like dating your manager, and then going to the CEO of the company for relationship advice.

If they combine that intimacy with sexual language and touching, it can seem as if you’ve met the person you’re going to marry.

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