Yesterday I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter regarding the problem of pastors dealing with parishioners who become infatuated with them. She was interested in what seminaries do to help train divinity students to handle such a problem. The impetus is a situation where a woman was killed in her church allegedly by another woman who thought that the murder victim was trying to steal the pastor away. All allegations thus far. **Update 4/8/08: Here’s the reporter’s article. You’ll see that I’m not the most eloquent interviewee.**
I’m not the clearest or most formal speaker when it comes to interviews (I talked about warm fuzzies instead of attraction). But, I tried to convey this.
1. Lots of folks feel warm and attracted to their pastors because their pastors listen, care, pray for, and encourage them. That’s pretty normal.
2. Some people (a small minority I believe) mistake these “warm fuzzies” for romantic feelings based on prior history.
3. An even smaller subset are willing to act on their sexual attractions.
4. Finally, the smallest subset become or were already delusional about the reciprocity.
What do pastors need to do? Build solid, clear boundaries. When boundaries are violated, they need to address those violations and involve other leaders or appropriate people–including the legal system should the person persist (stalk?) the pastor.
In reality, we spend far more time making sure that pastors understand their power and do not abuse it. We don’t spend a whole lot of time helping them protect themselves. But, we do try to help them normalize #1-2 above without freaking out or assuming the parishioner will move to #3-4.