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United Methodist agency distributes sex harassment survey

 


United Methodist agency distributes sex harassment survey

March 3, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

A sexual harassment survey is being sent to women involved in various areas of the United Methodist Church.

Mailing of the survey, through the denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, was to be completed by early March, according to Elaine Moy, COSROW staff executive. The deadline for returning the survey is the end of March.

The sampling of 6,300 women includes all female employees of the church’s general agencies, female employees of annual (regional) conferences, and 1,000 clergywomen. Copies for distribution to other women were sent to bishops, district superintendents, seminaries and 1,000 chairpersons of staff-parish committees at local churches.

The last survey on sexual harassment—mandated by the 1988 General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body—was conducted by the General Council on Ministries. That agency was disbanded in 2004 and its preparations for the current survey forwarded to COSROW.

The 1990 survey, which involved 1,600 women, defined sexual harassment as any sexual-related behavior that is unwelcome or offensive or fails to respect the rights of others.

Of respondents to the 1990 survey, 51 percent of clergy, 20 percent of laity, 48 percent of students and 37 percent of employees reported having a sexual harassment experience in a setting related to the United Methodist Church.

Since then, General Conference has passed a resolution on "Eradication of Sexual Harassment in The United Methodist Church and Society" and included a section on sexual harassment in the denomination’s Social Principles. That section defines 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."

In her cover letter for the new survey, M. Garlinda Burton, COSROW’s chief executive, said sexual harassment violates the covenant of love and charity among church members.

"As society’s awareness of these issues has increased in recent years, so has our denomination’s diligence in instituting policies for the church at all levels and training clergy and laity in leadership to understand appropriate personal boundaries and ways to care for all persons with whom we live, work and do ministry," she wrote.

The new survey includes demographic information about respondents and asks whether sexual harassment incidents occurred at a local church, a work place setting or a seminary "to see where occurrences do happen," Moy said. All responses will remain anonymous and will be reported in summary form only.

COSROW hopes to have the survey’s findings by its annual meeting in September. "We’re going to compare this data to 1990 and see if there have been any changes," she said.

The information will be shared with the larger church, particularly with the denomination’s Council of Bishops.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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