Where to report sexual misconduct by a rostered minister* serving in the Rocky Mountain Synod:

Bishop Jim Gonia 303-777-6700 or jgonia@rmselca.org
OR Barbara Keller 773-380-2568 or email

(* Rostered ministers are pastors and deacons on the official rosters of the ELCA, other denominations may use the terms minister, pastor, deacon, priest or clergy)


Called to be a safe place

All forms of sexual misbehavior within the life of the church by clergy and leaders are unacceptable. The church should be a safe place where people can worship, learn, work, love and receive care in a manner that is free from sexual misconduct. Allegations will be responded to in a prompt and comprehensive manner; including support and care for the one bringing allegations forward; a thorough investigation; and concrete disciplinary actions where appropriate.


Reporting child abuse

The States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Texas all require allegations of abuse against a minor to be reported immediately to state authorities. You can call local law enforcement or these specific numbers:

  • Colorado Abuse and Neglect Hotline 844-264-5437
  • New Mexico #SAFE (#7233) from a cell phone or 1-855-333-SAFE
  • Utah 1-855-323-3237
  • Wyoming  CONTACT YOUR LOCAL DFS OFFICE (Family Services) or 307-777-7564
  • Texas 1-800-252-5400


What is sexual misconduct?

Any time a person in a position of power (pastor, deacon, youth minister, youth sponsor, supervisor etc.) communicates, elicits, or simply takes what is intimate from someone in a position of lesser power (church member, youth, employee etc.), the person in a position of lesser power has been trespassed and is a subject of misconduct. This can happen through words, gestures or touch. While it may not immediately feel like misconduct to the one with lesser power-- and may even feel like welcome attention-- these actions by the one with power are an exploitation of vulnerability that will inevitably lead to psychological, emotional, spiritual and possibly physical harm.

While blatant forms of sexual misconduct include sexual assault and sexual abuse, misconduct can also take place when a person's behavior compromises another person's ability to retain a sense of self-agency in the relationship. Such behavior compromises the safety and well-being of the other person because one's identity as an embodied and sexual being has been highlighted and targeted. Misconduct, therefore, includes sexual harassment, which denigrates the other person based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Sexual misconduct includes any behavior that contains sexual, sensual or emotionally laden messages intended to manipulate the other person. Because sexual misconduct includes a power differential, it can often be identified when a person in a position of lesser power feels discomfort, confusion and a loss of control.

The responsibility of healthy interactions and relationships when there is a power imbalance lies entirely with the rostered minister or other ministry leader. Inappropriately seeking to fulfill needs for affection and esteem that comes at the expense of the other is in opposition to the gospel. Reporting misconduct allows for intervention and possible correction, reparation and prevention of further harm to others.

For more information about definitions and the process of discipline, see the Sexual Misconduct Policy for the Rocky Mountain synod here.


Reporting sexual misconduct in the Rocky Mountain Synod/ ELCA

Sexual misconduct committed by rostered ministers of this synod should be reported to the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod, Bishop Jim Gonia 303-777-6700 or jgonia@rmselca.org, an Assistant to the Bishop, or the ELCA contact person: Barbara Keller at 773-380-2568 or email. The Synod and the Synod Bishop usually have responsibility for addressing allegations of rostered leader sexual misconduct, administering appropriate discipline, and responding to those who have been harmed. Procedures for The Rocky Mountain Synod Process can be found here.

Sexual misconduct by non-rostered congregational employees should be reported to the pastor, council president, or other congregational officer. Congregations are encouraged to have policies in place for addressing allegations against church staff that include robust support of anyone reporting abuse by clergy or lay leaders.


ELCA resources (www.elca.org)

Safe Connections: What parishioners can do to understand and prevent clergy sexual abuse.

Healthy relationships of trust and respect between laity and clergy are essential for carrying out the mission of the church. This resource can assist in creating and maintaining strong, creative and healthy relationships of integrity and safety, for the sake of our common ministry to the gospel of Christ Jesus and to the people of God. 

Healing in Congregations after clergy sexual abuse: A resource to assist synod leaders and local congregations.

This resource is offered to synod bishops and their staffs, to other clergy and lay leaders, interims and “after pastors,” including those who will provide onsite leadership for a period of time in congregations after the incidence of clergy sexual abuse.

An ELCA Strategy for responding to sexual abuse in the church: A resource of shared learning of synods, seminaries, congregations, colleges, social ministry organizations and the churchwide expression.