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Multiple relationships among Presbyterian parish clergy: A national survey of pastors' attitudes and practices

26 July 1996


This study assessed the attitudes and practices of pastors, co-pastors and associate pastors within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A national, random sample of 1500 ministers was anonymously surveyed about 30 multiple relationship behaviors. Half of the sample was queried as to their opinions regarding the ethics of the behaviors; the other half was asked to indicate the frequency with which they had engaged in the behaviors during their ministries in the parish. Ratings from the 948 respondents revealed a wide diversity of attitudes toward most of the 30 behaviors with a narrower range among those having actually engaged in the behaviors. A factor analysis was performed on the attitudes form using an oblique rotation which yielded three factors: Pastoral Social Boundaries, Pastoral Care and Counseling, and Pastoral Boundaries. Thirteen demographic variables were then compared with the three factors and individual items on both forms for correlation. The ministers' length of time in parish ministry, gender, and their sense of social isolation had the greatest correlation with the 30 behaviors. In general, ministers who are male, socially isolated and who have been in parish ministry for a length of time are most likely to perceive multiple relationship behaviors as more often ethical and they are more likely to have engaged in those behaviors during the course of their ministries . Demographic variables were also compared with behavioral items related to sexual intimacies with church members. Implications for ministry and training in ethical behavior were provided as well as suggestions for further research.


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