are celebrated and sit at the heart of many Pagan religions. So, when someone says that the leaders of our faith need to be careful with their sexual behavior it almost goes against the grain
of what has come to be the norm in Neopagan religion.
As a leader you are held to a higher standard and within Western culture sexual relationships between Clergy and the members of their congregations are largely frowned upon, if not viewed
as downright criminal. This is the world we live in today and, while societal norms are often in conflict with the norms of our faith in several big ways, this is probably not one that we should
Now we are not talking about having absolutely no sexual relationships at all within your faith group. We are discussing the ethics of being a good leader, protecting your membership, and
preventing yourself from ending up in jail or causing yourself, your Grove, or ADF to be sued for sexual misconduct.
If you are not particularly worried about societal norms and the legal ramifications of your sexual relationships, consider this, I can not even begin to count how many Groves and Protogroves have failed due to, in part or in whole, the sexual relationships of its members. This,in combination with fiduciary issues and burnout, is one of the single most common reasons I have heard from former members of ADF Groves that have failed.
If you are looked upon as a spiritual leader you should be especially concerned. Clergypersons of many different faith groups, albeit mostly Christian ones, have been sued or jailed for inappropriate sexual relationships. An inappropriate relationship has the potential to exist any time a leader serves in the capacity of both leader and at least one other role with the same Grove
Most commonly the secondary relationship is a social one, but sometimes it can be a professional, financial, sexual, or romantic. While professional and financial relationships with other Grove members have their own pitfalls to watch out for, none of these has as much potential for damage as the sexual or romantic relationship does.
The power differential between a leader and a client has the potential for exploitation and harm. When a professional in a position of power carries on more than one type of relationship with
another individual, this is often called a dual relationship.
Dual relationships can erode and warp the professional relationship, they can create conflicts of interest that can compromise the professional judgment of the leader, and they can create situations where the leader is faced with putting his or her own personal needs above the needs and welfare of the Grove member and the Grove itself (Pope and Vasquez 193-195).
Now, not all dual roles are unavoidable. Given the small Neopagan populations in many areas and even smaller Grove sizes, it is understandable that your dating pool is probably somewhat
limited. In small communities, such as ours, dual relationships are really unavoidable and are not necessarily considered inherently unethical. (Brownlee 497-503; Schank and Skovolt 44-49).
However, as a leader it is your responsibility to take some steps to minimize the harm that can be caused to yourself, your potential sweetheart, your Grove, and ADF if you should choose to undertake a romantic relationship with someone in your Grove or the Neopagan community.
Gottleib’s ethical decision making model (41-48), which is based on three dimensions; power, duration, and termination could be useful here.
1. Assess the current relationship in relation to power, duration, and termination.
2. Assess future relationship in relation to power, duration, and termination.
3. Evaluate the role incompatibility of these relationships.
4. Seek professional consultation, from a colleague or a supervisor.
5. Discuss the possible ramifications before embarking on a romantic or sexual relationship.
Step 1. Assess the current relationship. Look at the relationship from your potential sweetheart’s perspective. How great is the power differential, how long has the existing relationship been in
effect, and is it still in effect? If the current relationship falls in the high power, high duration, indefinite termination range, the potential for harm is very high.
Step 2. Asses the potential relationship. Again, examine the relationship you are contemplating in the same way. If it would result in a high power, high duration, indefinite termination range
relationship, the potential for harm is again very high. This is why ongoing sexual and romantic relationships can be of particular concern, they almost always fall into the “high” category.
Step 3. Examine both relationships for incompatibility. Role incompatibility increases when there are great differences in expectations between multiple roles. The greater the divergence
between these expectations of these roles: the greater chances of harm to yourself, your potential sweetheart, your Grove, and ADF.
Step 4. Obtain consultation from a colleague or supervisor. You may not be in a position to be very objective in this situation, consulting with an unbiased colleague or supervisor could be
very helpful in this case. In fact, it should be routine because we are not always aware of our own biases in our decision making process especially when it comes to love or sex.
Step 5. Discuss the potential relationship openly with your potential sweetheart. If you have decided to pursue a relationship with this person, discuss openly the potential risks involved.
Talk about how to minimize conflicts of interest and ways to prevent your judgment from being affected in situations involving them within the Grove.
You may also want to discuss these things openly with your Grove. It is highly likely that members of your Grove will be apprehensive about your relationship and how it will affect the group as a whole.
You may choose to make policies to prevent individuals who are in a romantic or sexual relationship from holding office simultaneously or assign an impartial Members Advocate to handle issues where your judgment may be impaired. Providing these protections will help make your Grove members feel more secure about the choice you are making so they can celebrate your happiness with you.
Brownlee, Keith. “Ethics in community mental health care: The ethics of non-sexual dual relationships: A dilemma for the rural mental health profession.” Community Mental Health
Journal, 32. 5 (1996) 497-503. Print.
Gottlieb, Michael C. “Avoiding Exploitive Dual Relationships: A Decision-Making Model.” The journal Psychotherapy 30. 1 (1993). 41-48. Print.
Pope, Kenneth S. & Vasquez, Melba J.T. Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998. Print.
Schank, Janet A. & Skovholt, Thomas M. “Dual-relationship dilemmas of rural and small community psychologists.” Professional Psychology: Research & Practice 28. 1 (1997). 44-