News Revelations

Dallas evangelical seminary requires sex abuse awareness training

The Dallas Theological Seminary campus. Photo courtesy of Dallas Theological Seminary

(RNS) At Dallas Theological Seminary, it’s now a graduation requirement that students intending to become ministers take a short training class in sexual abuse awareness.

“This is not exhaustive, and there is more work that needs to be done by all of us as a culture,” Mark Yarbrough, the school’s vice president for academic affairs, told The Dallas Morning News. “But this is a way we can help students become informed so that when they are leaders, they are better equipped on how to help establish appropriate parameters in working with children.”

The one-hour “Ministry Safe” class is described as “entry-level certificate training” by the seminary. In the spring semester, the school plans to offer a fuller course on the subject, with more than 40 hours of instruction on abuse prevention in ministry settings.

Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, said the offerings are unique, especially for an evangelical school.

“This is the first I know of an evangelical seminary with a free-standing requirement for graduation to participate in this kind of discrete training,” he told RNS. “There are other seminaries where sexual boundary, sexual abuse issues are part of another course or class. But it would not be a free-standing event, as Dallas is doing.”

In the wake of the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis, many Catholic as well as Protestant seminaries began offering training on abuse prevention as part of ministry ethics, pastoral care or personal formation classes. And seminaries work with denominations on this kind of clergy training.

But Aleshire said the nondenominational seminary in Dallas is offering opportunities for clergy candidates who may not be affiliated with a denomination and may lead nondenominational congregations.

“That’s them being good stewards of the constituency they serve,” he said.

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About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

5 Comments

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  • It wouldn’t hurt to do a thorough background check and a psychological profile on those to be ordained and working with youth.

  • Some denominations have done that for years. The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has required extensive mental health and background checks on candidates for ordination for more than 20 years. Courses on various types of abuse are that old too. Child, spouse, elder abuse- mental, physical, financial, etc.

    I believe other mainline denominations have similar requirements. The mainlines have been far ahead of the evangelicals on these issues for a very long time. Although this article does not mention any denominational affiliation for DTS, it does call it an evangelical sem. That would explain why it’s just getting around to addressing these crucial issues.

  • Hear, hear! For too long the evangelical branches of Christianity (read “Baptist” and “Pentecostal”) have been fearful of interfering with what they consider the work of the Spirit, by scrutinizing anyone’s “calling” to a religious vocation. Evidently they fear the fragility of such an impulse within the individual. Not so with the Episcopal Church and ELCA, who feel that such a call should be durable enough to withstand some scrutiny by those of their own mental health communities.

    An hour-long course is not enough to do justice to the topic. It smacks of the “short course” in business ethics that we joke about in MBA programs.

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