Healthy Pastoral Boundaries

From the Mennonite Central Committee's Abuse Response and Prevention website: "Boundaries are the limits that allow for a safe connection in the clergy-congregant (counsellor-client etc.) relationship based on the parishioner’s needs. A boundary violation occurs when a pastor (counsellor) places his/her needs above those of the congregant (client).

A basic professional expectation is that clergy are always responsible for monitoring boundaries and need to be aware of the early danger signs. Blame can never be placed on a congregant for a professional violation.

Identifying a boundary violation is difficult because the violation usually involves a process of many interactions rather than a single event. Often many subtle boundary violations occur before a church leader engages in sexual misconduct. Even the appearance of mutual consent does not address the power imbalance within the situation. This is not “meaningful consent.”

Pastors and other professionals need to continually remind themselves and their peers to hold to the highest ethical standards, particularly sexual ethics. Clergy have a moral responsibility to prevent injurious behaviours while maintaining the integrity of their professional relationships formed over the course of their career."

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