Petition 80279

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Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church (80279-MH-R9999)

Add new resolution as follows:
“We recognize that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons.  ...We reject all sexual expressions that damage or destroy the humanity God has given us as birthright.”  (The Social Principles, 161G)
  
For nearly two decades, the global people called United Methodist have strengthened our understanding and practice of sexual ethics. We have adopted policies and procedures to guide behavior and address brokenness. We have trained, educated, and surveyed lay and clergy leaders of our denomination, conferences and our congregations. We have spent significant resources in addressing the brokenness from sexual misconduct, from healing individuals and congregations to holding the Church accountable through legal proceedings.
  
As a resource to the Church, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women takes very seriously its role to alert our leaders, conferences and congregations of developments in our societies that call us to intensified concern and action. One such concern today is the expansion of the use of pornography, and its appearance in church programs, through the use of church computers and technology, or on church property.
  
Definition of Pornography
While definitions may vary, the 2004 Book of Resolutions offers the following:
“Pornography is sexually explicit material that portrays violence, abuse, coercion, domination, humiliation, or degradation for the purpose of arousal.  Any sexually explicit  
material that depicts children is pornographic.”  
(Book of Resolutions 2004, “Pornography and Sexual Violence,” p.166.)
  
The global expansion of wireless internet and telecommunications provides limitless availability to pornography.  Schools, businesses, and governments are struggling with the use of pornography by employees or students with the organization’s equipment.
The research group Top Ten REVIEWS published in 2007 these troubling indicators:
Every second, 28,258 users are viewing pornography;
Every day there are 266 new pornographic sites on the internet;
Sale of pornography generates more revenue than all sports in the U.S.;
Revenue from pornography in the U.S. reached a record $2.84 billion in 2006.
  
The use of pornography continues to increase as it becomes more accessible (via the internet, for example), and allows more immediate, realistic and anonymous sexual contact and gratification (through chat rooms, real-time videos). Research shows it is not an “innocent activity.” It is harmful and is generally addictive. Persons who are addicted to pornography are physiologically altered, as is their perspective, relationships with  
parishioners and family, and their perceptions of girls and women. Persons who are addicted to pornography must be held accountable for the impact of their behavior, yet they also need prayer, care and therapy. Those laity and clergy in ministerial roles within our  churches, conferences and agencies are just as susceptible to pornography addiction as anyone else.

In the Harmfulness of Pornography, Robert Brannon shares the following, now confirmed in social science research:
A majority of people in the U.S. believe that some “pornography” (such as eroticized rape scenes) influences some men toward real-life sexual aggression;
Young male viewers of pornography become more likely to believe “all women want to be raped;”
Women are portrayed as stereotypical bodies and sex objects.
  
Pornography in the Church
A disturbing trend in the Church is the use of pornography by clergy and lay employees and volunteers, even using computers and other equipment owned by or housed within churches and church-related organizations. We are aware of reports of adults sharing pornographic materials with children and youth during church activities, camps or programs. But beyond being saddened, shocked and dismayed by these reports, how do we raise awareness among congregational, conference, agency, school or cabinet leaders, and what do we do to identify, stop, heal and prevent recurrence in our communities of faith?
  
The United Methodist Church declares that the use of pornography in church programs, on church premises or with church property by persons in ministerial roles (lay and clergy) is a form of sexual misconduct, a chargeable offense for laity and clergy in The United Methodist Church.

The General Conference recommends and urges the following actions:
1.    That Cabinets and Boards of Ordained Ministry include these issues and ministry concerns in sexual ethics training for candidates, appointed pastors, local and retired pastors.  
2.     That laity in positions of leadership in conferences, congregations, agencies and schools should receive updated training on issues of sexual ethics, including current trends and ways to help persons addicted to pornography.  
3.    That Bishops, Cabinets and Chancellors should lead in updating the sexual ethics policies and procedures of conferences and congregations to include use of pornography as a form of sexual misconduct.
4.    That seminaries and Boards of Ordained Ministries should provide training to help clergy and lay professionals-in-training avoid addictive or harmful behaviors and to minister effectively with persons addicted to pornography.
5.    That congregational, annual conference and agency leaders should receive training on the issues of pornography, especially internet pornography, and should enact strict oversight of church-owned computers and technology, including periodic technology audits.
6.    That seminaries should include issues of sexual misconduct, including pornography, in ethics and ministries courses and training for all students.
  Resources: The Social Principles, par. 161G and H; United Methodist website on sexual ethics, www.umsexualethics.org; Resolution on “Pornography and Sexual Violence,” Book of Resolutions 2004, and Resolutions on “Pornography” and “Sexual Misconduct Within Ministerial Relationships” proposed for the Book of Resolutions 2008.

Rationale

This new resolution alerts and informs the Church of a disturbing development – increasing reports of use of pornography by those in ministerial roles, in church programs or with church property. Guidance and resources are recommended; use of pornography by persons in ministerial roles is named as sexual misconduct.