LifeWay Survey Finds Nearly 10 Percent of Protestant Churchgoers Stopped Going to Church Over Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct and Believe More Pastors Are Guilty of Child Sex Abuse Than Have Been Exposed

New research from LifeWay reveals that Protestant churchgoers have mixed feelings about their church’s ability to handle sexual misconduct when it happens within their congregations.

The data also show that approximately 10% of churchgoers stopped going to church because they either felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously or because they did not feel safe from sexual misconduct.

Released Tuesday, the 2019 Sexual Misconduct and Churchgoers Study was conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. The research consisted of online questionnaires of 1,815 Americans starting in late February and concluding April 8. Respondents were screened to include adults whose religious preference is some kind of Protestant denomination — Southern Baptists were heavily sampled — and who attend services at least once per month. None were asked if they had personally experience child sexual abuse or sexual assault due to legal obligations surrounding such inquiries.

The study found that nearly one-third of Protestant churchgoers believe many more Protestant pastors have sexually abused children or teenagers than have already been exposed. 37 percent disagree with that conclusion; another 31 percent indicated that they did not know.

Similarly, 29 percent of respondents said that many more undiscovered instances of Protestant pastors sexually assaulting adults exist, whereas 41 percent disagreed and 30 percent said they did not know.

The 2019 results mirror those from surveys in previous years.

“Among people who are currently attending church, few said they stopped attending because of issues related to sexual misconduct,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, in a statement.

“This does not measure, however, any who left due to these problems and have returned to any church since.”

Just under half of all Protestant churchgoers surveyed said they were victims of unwanted sexual joking, unsolicited sexual messages, unwanted compliments, and inappropriate glances. Twelve percent of such respondents said they endured those unwanted things while at church.

A strong majority of churchgoers think their churches are equipped to handle sexual abuse issues and trust their congregations to respond appropriately if confronted with misconduct.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter

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