Ethics: New Church and a Pastor’s Affair

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What would you do Wednesday!

The scenario for this dilemma takes place with the reader just moving to a new town and visiting a new church. The situation involving the church and its pastor is, sadly, based on a true story.

Upon taking a recent promotion your company moves you to a part of the country that you’ve never even driven through. Not only have you never visited this new town, but no one you know is familiar with it either. Your biggest concern is finding a new church home.

An internet search for a church prior to moving turns up very little. Once moved in you check the local phone book only to find out that there really aren’t too many churches in the area. On the recommendation of a new neighbor you begin by visiting the closest church to your neighborhood which happens to be two miles away. After visiting for a month you start to recognize several of your neighbors.

Due to getting you life settled the past month you finally have time and an opportunity to have lunch with a neighbor after corporate worship. During lunch you inquire about the area, the church and pastor, etc.

You’re neighbor gives an answer you did not expect stating:

I suppose it’s only right that you know the background of the church and her pastor. The church was planted only eight months ago. Before the church plant the pastor was leading a church about two hours away. Lots of people would attend to hear him preach including a big crowd from this area. Then, he got caught having an affair with his married secretary. He ended up leaving his wife and kids. The secretary divorced her husband. The two then married each other.

Eight months later he felt called back to the pastorate to plant a new church…the church we attended today. A lot of people in our neighborhood like the guy. He’s also on the home owners association board so many people just think it best to forgive and move on.

What would you do?

  •  Immediately find another church?
  • Meet with the pastor out of concern and verification?
  • Start a blog about why this pastor should step down? 😉
  • Or…
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The above article was posted on September 7, 2011 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonathan Hunt September 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

Simple. Check that the facts are right, and leave.

2 Joseph Louthan September 7, 2011 at 10:47 am

Upon receiving such information, I would probably response with this:

“Those are very serious charges. If what you say is true, then out of conscience for me and leading my family, there would not be a way for me to attend a church who is lead by an unrepentant pastor.

Would it be possible to speak to the pastor about this?”

3 Joseph Louthan September 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

It what happens when I don’t edit myself. Sorry for all the grammar/spelling mistakes.

4 Will Adair September 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

Was there any sign of genuine repentance on the offending parties? How long had he been out of the pastorate before planting the new church? Does he have accountability in place now? What did his kids/ex think?

5 Chris Roberts September 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

New church.

6 Mark September 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

Will, the time frame is that this church was planted eight months after the affair was discovered. It was within this time period that the new “couple” married. Let’s say the church has been planted and functioning for one year now.

There is not much information on what his ex-wife thinks, but she has custody of the kids.

7 Mark September 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

Jonathan and Joseph, I would most likely check the facts and then leave. I’m not sure how churches like this continue to exist.

8 Will Adair September 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

Mark, thanks for the clarification. God can change a heart in a single moment yet it sounds to me that the brother and sister that cheated and got remarried have not gone through a season of purification or repentance. I couldn’t in good conscious attend that church. To be above reproach also for me would mean his now ex wife and kids were okay with his new wife and family. Barring a miracle, which can happen, that just doesn’t seem likely.

The pastor being beyond reproach is big for me. I can’t see how that church as a body wouldn’t be leaning towards doctrinal compromise if it leaned towards holiness compromise so readily.

9 brig September 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

Should any of the facts bear out, repentant or not, restoration to the office of pastor is not on the table. He should find a new line of work.

10 Ripcurl November 27, 2011 at 12:57 am

Hmmmm – King David did what this pastor did and let’s add murder to his list of sins to boot. God not only forgave David – a man after His own heart – but continued to use him to communicate His word. Think of all the Psalms we would not have, if God put David on a shelf after he sinned against the Lord. In grace God also blessed David with a son between he and Bathsheba – the line of Christ. David was also scourged by the Lord and his sin had consequences which God did not remove, however God gave David the grace to endure those consequences. I think it’s important to keep in mind that all of us, including pastors, are fallible men, sinners by nature and practice and there is none righteous no not one except our blessed Savior. I’d say, look to the cross and work on the log in your own eye – if the Word is being preached by that pastor, God’s forgiven him and forgotten about it – so apply Phil. 3:13. BTW, gossiping about it is a sin as well. Let it go . . .

11 Mark November 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Ripcurl,

What does Scripture say about the qualifications of pastors? How does the description of David’s life and God working in it transfer in light of the pastoral qualification prescriptions God gives for pastors in Scripture?

12 Ripcurl November 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Great question Mark! 1 Timothy 3:1-10 is the key passage. It clearly states the pastor is to be the husband of one wife yet we cannot ignore the initial consideration, “if any man aspires” or “desires to do the work”. For the sake of argument, I believe from a comparison of Scripture with Scripture that the “overseer” in this passage is a reference to the pastor of a church, i.e. flock. A seminary professor of mine kept asking me when I was going to get married and I always responded, “When the Lord provides”. When I asked him why he kept on asking me this question, he stated, “Because 1 Tm. 3 states you must be married to be a pastor”. Yes, there are many who hold to that view, but for those who do, no single man should be allowed to be ordained (no exceptions). Looking back to the Apostle Paul and a few of the disciples, who were single with the exception of Peter [side note – Paul may have been married which was a requirement of the Sanhedrin], I would say the argument is crazy. Therefore, I interpret the 1 Tm. 3 passage as “if he is married, then he is to be . . .” otherwise no single man should ever be ordained. Then we have the clauses “if any man aspires . . . or desires . . .” I really think this indicates a man prior to ordination into the ministry. Sooooo – it does not deal with the issue of succumbing to temptation after a man has been ordained.

Romans 11:29 clearly reveals that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Therefore, if a man is called and the gift given him by God is pastor (Eph. 4:11 cf.1 Cor. 12:11), then he retains that gift regardless of his stumbling. Once a son, always a son, once a pastor, always a pastor (Lk. 16:11-32). The pastor as a son cannot fulfill what he is gifted to do when he is in a foreign country (not where God desires him to be), doing what his father wants him to be doing (squandering the gift – inheritance- God has given him via ‘loose living’) – yet when he returns via confession of sin to the father, he is perfectly restored regardless of what the self righteous brother thinks. [This is all applied from Lk. 16:11-32]. The crux of this entire issue lies with self righteous brothers. If the man has confessed his sin to the Lord, he is forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9) and the sin is between him and the Lord who paid for it. That is not fair, it is grace. I don’t know all the particulars in this pastors case, only God does and therefore He alone forgives when people do not and continue to remind him of past sin. The issue, from my perspective, is between him and our Savior. Now the box of worms titled, “church discipline” is open 🙂 Anyway, I’m always to consider that I may be wrong as iron sharpens iron.

13 Survivor Girl007 October 18, 2012 at 7:48 am

I have no idea if anyone is reading this any longer, given how long ago it was first published, but here goes: The term “affair” between a pastor and his congregant and/or church staff member is a misnomer: It is ABUSE. Clergy sexual abuse occurs when the pastor violates his spiritual authority to sexualize a relationship. He has a sacred trust to look out for his parishioners’ and/or staff members’ best interests, no matter what. The victim cannot give true consent, given the power differential, so it is very much like doctor-patient abuse and therapist-client abuse in that vein. Whether or not these two are now married is pretty much irrelevant. His new wife was abused by him while she was the church secretary, plain and simple. If this pastor is unwilling to admit to this, then R-U-N. CSA is rampant among all faiths. According to a study by Diana Garland, Dean of the School of Social Work at Baylor (www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct/), 1 in 33 women who attends church is a victim of clergy sexual abuse. Many more have left the church, so the actual number is much higher. Having done about 2 years’ worth of research into CSA, I can tell you that this type of abuse results in suicide, spiritual apathy, and high divorce rates, mainly because it’s not discussed. Educating people in the pews is key. For more information, go to http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org, http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com, and http://www.tamarsvoice.org.

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