Tag Archives: infidelity

Restoring Pastors to Ministry After Affairs? Possible or Impossible?


In recent weeks there have been sad and public accounts of pastors removed from their positions after being caught having sex with someone not their spouse. These pastors (mostly men) are gifted speakers, writers, and leaders. They are good at what they do. It seems is a shame that they no longer use those gifts to lead God’s people. It is also a shame that God’s good name and the spouse/kids are dragged through the mud.

But can there be redemption? Could the pastor who loses integrity regain it and with it regain a pastoral position again? After all, we are all sinners and no pastor ever is without sin. Indeed, it seems God uses those who are moral and ethical disasters to lead his church. There’s David the rapist and murderer, S/Paul the terrorist, Abraham the liar, and Peter the wishy-washy, self-protective and impulsive “rock” of the church. Certainly, if God uses these people to write huge portions of Scripture and to build the church then why can’t a pastor who strays also be used by God?

No reason…any some possible reasons at the same time.

First, let’s call “affairs” with congregants what they are–pastoral sexual abuse. Now, not all sexual activity between a pastor and a congregant are the same. Having sex with a person you are counseling is not the same as developing a relationship with someone who is a bit more your equal. And yet, both would still not be an affair but an abuse of the position of pastor since the pastor has the obligation and moral responsibility to protect the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep.

Reason 1: The greater the misuse of power, the less likely a power holder should get that power back. An accountant who steals money is less able to return to being an accountant than a painter is returning to another painting job who happened upon some money on a desk and took it.

Stories of redemption in the Bible aren’t road maps for what should happen today. They tell us much about the amazing grace God bestows on sinners, but they don’t tell us what we should do when we encounter a fallen pastor. In fact, if we want to stack up the restored leaders in the Bible against the cursed leaders, I think our few positive examples of restoration would be vastly outnumbered by the stories of permanent removal. And on top of stories, we have some very serious warnings about bad shepherds (Jer 23, Ezek 34, 44, Matthew 23). The Ezekiel 44 passage denies false shepherds from ever speaking for God ever again but does show kindness in allowing them to help out with the sacrifices.

Reason 2: Human gifting does not necessarily lead to spiritual authority and leadership. Value to the kingdom continues even if “ministry” is only that of behind the scenes support services.

Finally, desire for the position is not always evidence of readiness. Recall in Acts 8 that there was a magician name Simon who wanted the ability to cast out demons like the apostles. He must already have had some capacity as he was famous. But he wanted more. He wanted the position of power. When confronted he begs for mercy and help.

Reason 3: Tears, passion, vision, and drive are not enough of a reason to place someone back into public ministry.

Now, none of these reasons are enough to always say no to return to pulpits after sexual infidelity. While a return may not be probable, it can be possible. Every situation is unique. That said, unless the disgraced pastor has evidenced many of the signs of repentance (taking full ownership, accepting consequences, giving up control over recovery process/submitting to the work of therapy, seeking accountability, pursuing utter transparency, and not placing demands to return to the position) for a long season, it is doubtful that a return to leadership is right. Frankly, one of the best signs of repentance is not being so worried about reputation and not seeking a return to a previous level of ministry.

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Filed under adultery, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastors and pastoring, Uncategorized

The duty to confront your friends


You’ve probably read about the recent resignation of David Petraeus as Director of the CIA. While we could chalk this up to another episode of “be sure your sins will find you out” and explore the features of his downfall from squeaky clean (by appearance) to cheater, there is another angle you might consider. In the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper included a sidebar to the story telling of several colleagues and friends who recognized a problem long before it came out. They saw some things that didn’t look right, that didn’t fit with his character. They saw him being too chummy and spending too much time with “the other woman.”

The big question: did they bother to confront him? The story doesn’t tell us this, but it surely is the question we ought to be asking, not only of them, but also of ourselves. When we see friends acting in ways that appear out of line, do we love them enough to tell them so? Do we love them enough to risk losing the relationship should they become angry with us? I, for one, have been guilty of not saying something when I saw a friend spending more time with a colleague than is wise. I have no idea if my friend engaged in inappropriate behavior. But even when someone doesn’t engage in sexual activity with someone other than their spouse, this does not mean the person isn’t putting their life, their marriage, their soul in grave danger. Emotional affairs have torn apart marriages just as physical affairs do.

We have a duty to not let our fear of man get in the way when we see things that signal to us a problem. We don’t need to become accusatory, but a few loving questions (and more than just one!) are in order.

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Filed under adultery, Relationships

Being the warden


I was sent a new book to review (which I am not planning to do). Since it has to do with pastoral ministry to couples involved in a particular sexual crisis I thought I’d give it the 5 minute skim. In doing so I got a great image: The warden in the relationship. This is the person who was wronged in some terrible way and is now the warden who determines the accountability of the offending party.

When one has broken trust and is now trying to regain that trust, they must become entirely transparent. Their can be no hint of deceit, no unaccountability in any area of life. Not only must the person allow for accountability but they must show evidence they actually desire it and do not chafe at their limitations in life. But what of the other partner? The author says this:

It is not OK for one, considered to be the initial perpetrator, to live totally accountable in his life of genuine repentance, while the other partner never moves off being the warden of the relationship.

How does one fall into this position? The author says “just going with the flow of feelings about the injustice and harmfulness of things is all that is necessary to become the warden, and to never really forgive.” This, I must say, is in the larger context where he also says forgiveness does not require trusting the other or repatriating the other.

In much of Christian counseling, wardens get a raw deal. It is so obvious that they are demanding of a standard of perfectionism, judgmental, unwilling to be vulnerable, etc. It is easy to see this and to go after the hardness of heart that is evident in the warden while accepting the “repentance” of the offender at face value.

It is true that the warden must relinquish the position of judge if the relationship is going to survive long-term in any healthy manner. This does not mean the person stops taking stock of the offender’s actions and attitudes. Nor does it mean that they can forego self-examination.

Here’s my questions:

  1. How do you know the line between careful evaluation of the fact and warden mentality?
  2. What helps might be most helpful to let go of the warden mentality?
  3. How could the church be more supportive of the warden?

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Filed under adultery, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling skills

Infidelity: personality or opportunity?


On the way to work today I heard a radio personality muse about the rampant sexual infidelity among politicians and sports figures. They talked about how people (i.e., men as the stereotype goes)  in power have much more opportunity for sexual acting out because they have more women offering themselves to them. Probably true…

But, is it that they have more opportunity (and thus more chance to give in to temptation) or is it because they have a personality that sets themselves up for infidelity? And would  you have a different answer if we were talking about bribe taking or other financial temptations instead of sexual indiscretion?

I think they are the same AND I think every has opportunity (some more than others). What matters is one’s perceptions of self and others. While personality plays a part of our self awareness, the drive to win, be the best, to get the prize, listening only to one’s fans, the sense that you are better than others also is formed from self-talk. Thus, opportunity makes it possible but failure to be self-critical is the key feature that makes opportunity become reality.

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Filed under Cognitive biases, ethics, personality, Psychology, Sex