Sexual Ethics: Statements from the 2008 Discipline

Statements from the 2008 United Methodist Book of Discipline

The Social Principles are prayerful and thoughtful efforts on the part of the church through the elected General Conference to speak to issues of the contemporary world from our biblical and theological heritage. The context of the statement on “Sexual Harassment” is found under “The Nurturing Community.” For the complete context of the “Nurturing Community” section, see

¶161.I. Sexual Harassment

We believe human sexuality is God’s good gift. One abuse of this good gift is sexual harassment. We define sexual harassment as any unwanted sexual comment, advance or demand, either verbal or physical, that is reasonably perceived by the recipient as demeaning, intimidating, or coercive. Sexual harassment must be understood as an exploitation of a power relationship rather than as an exclusively sexual issue. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the creation of a hostile or abusive working environment resulting from discrimination on the basis of gender. 

Contrary to the nurturing community, sexual harassment creates improper, coercive, and abusive conditions wherever it occurs in society. Sexual harassment undermines the social goal of equal opportunity and the climate of mutual respect between men and women. Unwanted sexual attention is wrong and discriminatory. Sexual harassment interferes with the moral mission of the Church.

¶ 361  Ordination and membership in an annual conference in The United Methodist Church is a sacred trust. The qualifications and duties of local pastors, associate members, probationary members, and full members are set forth in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, and we believe they flow from the gospel as taught by Jesus the Christ and proclaimed by his apostles. Whenever a person in any of the above categories, including those on leaves of all types, honorable or administrative location, or retirement, is accused of violating this trust, the membership of his or her ministerial office shall be subject to review. This review shall have as its primary purpose a just resolution of any violations of this sacred trust, in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the body of Christ.

¶2702.1 Chargeable Offenses and the Statute of Limitations – A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶369), local pastor, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may choose a trial when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in ¶2702.4)* with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage;** (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings; including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or preforming same-sex wedding ceremonies;** (c) crime; (d) failure to perform the work of the ministry; (e) disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church; (f) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of the doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (g) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (h) child abuse;*** (i) sexual abuse; (j) sexual misconduct*** or (k) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or (l) racial or gender discrimination.

* The statute of limitations went into effect as law on a prospective basis starting on January 1, 1993. All alleged offenses that occurred prior to this date are time barred. See Judicial Council Decisions 691, 704, and 723.

** The language beginning “including but not limited to…” first appeared in the 2004 Book of Discipline, effective January 1, 2005.

*** This offense was first listed as a separate chargeable offense in the 1996 Book of Discipline effective April 27, 1996. See Judicial Council Decision 691. 

¶2702.4  Statute of Limitations — No judicial complaint or charge shall be considered for any alleged occurrence that shall not have been committed within six years immediately preceding the filing of the original complaint, except in the case of sexual or child abuse and in the case of immorality or crime, when the alleged occurrence(s) include allegations of sexual abuse of child abuse, there shall be no limitation (2704.1a).

Time spent on leave of absence shall not be considered as part of the six years.

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