Protestant Ministers Face Own Sex Scandals; Counselors Involved in misconduct.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The evangelical newsmagazine World responded to the sexual-abuse crisis among Catholic clergy with a recent cover story advising "parental discretion" and warning readers of "offensive material."

But Catholic priests were not the subject.

"The Protestant church has a severe problem of its own: some pastoral counselors having sex with counselees," World reported.

Reports suggest that while most Catholic cases involve homosexual priests latching onto young boys, Protestant cases tend to be ministers preying on women.

"What's striking about this is that Catholics are not alone," said the Rev. John Lundin, a Lutheran pastor and chairman of the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute. "It's not just children, it's also adults."

The World article detailed the cases of three ministers - independent, Nazarene and Baptist - who pleaded that their sex with women seeking counseling was "consensual." Ministers serve a range of Protestant churches that lack a male celibate priesthood and hierarchy.

Twenty states make sexual contact by counselors with clients a potential crime. In general, counseling and social-work associations declare that sex with clients is unethical.Clergy misbehave sexually no more than the general population, and probably less, researchers agree, but receive scrutiny because of their positions of trust - and accompanying power.

"The prevalence of the problem is something most denominations have no way of tracking," said Ian Evison of the Alban Institute in Bethesda, which advises mostly Protestant churches.

If statistics on Catholic cases are sketchy, they are nebulous for Protestants and usually come to light only because of church or court hearings.

Mr. Lundin said research on Protestant clergy shows a growing problem with Internet pornography and that Christian leaders reared with "a sinful emphasis" on sex can become more obsessed with its temptations.

"They've not understood that it is God's gift" for marriage, he said.

With a more local and lay-governed system of hiring and dismissing clergy, the exact nature of misbehavior may not come to light because of a "culture of secrecy," he said. …