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REAL + ISSUES ::: Pastoral Infidelity - Redemptive Resposes For Fallen Pastors

This is a sad reality. We get to hear scandals of pastors sleeping with their members and the news isn't always a pleasant one. It happens everywhere, Nigeria, UK, US etc. so obviously its not a one region affair. It also happens amongst members, gospel artistes, etc but today we want to look at that of pastors.

It is sad that these members allow themselves fall into sexual sin with their pastors and it is even more sad for the pastors because they put a lot at stake. We strongly recommend that church members and pastors avoid such sin.

Do not believe in a pastor so much that he tells you what goes against God's will and you oblige. Jesus Christ is the standard not pastors. Avoid any situation that will put you in such an unpleasant experience.

Below is a post we recommend for pastors who take the fall in this area.

Fallen pastors: redemptive responses

Miroslav Kis
Sexual involvement with parishioners is a breach of the pastoral code of ethics, an injury to the good name of Christian ministry, a blow to the power of the gospel, a scandal when it comes to those who submit to temptation, and a pro found injury to many innocent people. Such a quagmire can ensue that it intimidates even the most experienced of veterans in church life. Our reflexes seek the easiest ways out, yet there is no such alternative. Consider these shortcuts.
1. The blame game. Here, the main concern is simply to adjudicate the appropriate penalty. If this alone is accomplished, no one touches the pain, the fear, the shame, the guilt. While this may seem to be the least disturbing path for the church, it is the most painful for the fallen and injured, and thus, almost certainly, for the Lord Himself.
2. The ostrich game. Urged to hide, to mask, to cover up, we move the pastor to another place of work. But the problem does not disappear. On moral issues, indecision is always a decision. To do nothing about consequences, little about reoccurrence of abuse; to gloss over the causes of infidelity; or to forget the victims emboldens the perpetrators and punishes further the innocent.
In her book Is Nothing Sacred? Marie Fortune shows why it took over four years and the downfall of several women to halt Pastor Donovan's "sexploits."1 She has much to say about the church's myopia2 and the keeping of "church family" secrets.3
3. The double standard game has a theological mask. In reaction to the "blame game," we soften the demands of the gospel and act, in fact, from expediency. Biblical and theological content becomes God's remote "ideal," and is, as such, irrelevant to "real" issues. Lifestyle and administrative procedures are divorced from the truth we profess. Here the question cries out for a truthful answer: Is theology for real, or is it just a remote "ideal"? A minister's infidelity requires healing, and healing love is a painful love, and always a principled one.
4. The "first stone" game. In John 8:7, Jesus challenges the accusers of the woman caught in adultery: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (RSV). In this game, the questions are posed with this slant: Now, since adultery easily assails our minds too, how dare we correct others? When the question is simply asked this way, many tend to hold back when true discipline needs to be administered.
Yet to his church, the Master gives a basic assignment: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22, 23, RSV). There is no way out of this duty.The church's authority is based on her Master's command and His standard, not the church's; His unfailing care, not the church's fallible ways; His Spirit's power to heal, not the church's eagerness to correct.
5. The it's-personal-and-private game. Why not bring reconciliation and forgiveness through a confrontation (Matt. 18)? Crenz and Bell offer some cautions. First, in this passage Jesus addresses personal, private matters. He "instructs us what we should do when we feel personally wronged by another believer.
"Clergy sexual misconduct, however, is never merely a private matter, even though it includes a personal dimen sion." Second, in Matthew 18, Jesus speaks of two members who share a peer relationship. But a minister is a powerful person, and the other woman is not.
Third, "requiring that a congregant confront her victimizer as the first step, can actually work against Jesus' desire that victims receive justice."4 Thus a female victim (and certainly a child) may have the most serious difficulty confronting the pastor alone or even in what may be deemed by some to be an appropriately private setting, that may in fact be arranged to "keep things quiet," or under the auspices of "handling the situation discreetly."
In Marie Fortune's book, Pastor Donovan used such confrontations or such settings to shift all the responsibility onto his victims.
Healing the wounded and shielding the vulnerable is foundational to the task facing the church nothing less. No responsible, loving Christian would say "just forgive, and go on with life." Even though forgiveness is part and parcel of God's and our relationship with any sinner, when a pastor commits adultery with a parishioner, such an act requires more than the ordinary, and forgiveness is but a part of healing. The commission given in John 20:23 locates the church's loving response to sin with in the perimeters of both forgiving and retaining.

Painful love

1. Emergency response of friends. When sexual infidelity happens, the tragedy might not show. The heart bleeds, the lungs scream, but fear, embarrassment, and bewilderment muffle the unsightly tears, the contorted face of hurt and shame. The "May I be of help?" will too often be met with a "No, thanks." But if you are a friend, be available (Prov. 17:17).

a. First, PRAY as never before. Every step, move, and gesture counts now.
b. Close cooperation between the local church and the conference or the corporate church administrative body at this early stage is essential. Everyone involved or affected by a pastor's infidelity is a part of both the church and the conference. Both entities need to minister to all, because both entities will ultimately administer discipline, and true love does not wait until discipline is meted out.
c. Assess the damage and needs. This takes real courage. No two cases of adultery are identical. Every person will react in their unique way, and the immediate needs will vary. Respond to actual, personal needs.

e. Care for chores and daily needs. Children need play and laughter, they must eat, hear a bedtime story, go to school. Moreover, the lawn may need attention, laundry done . . .

f. Keep on caring tor as long as needed. Years perhaps. All this must happen in complete confidentiality.
2. Comments on Preliminary Process5
a. A Designated Officer, charged to initiate the full preliminary hearing procedure, may want to be accompanied by a person(s) of the other gender to facilitate conversations with the accuser and the accused, to preclude intimidation or charges of bias.
b. Hearing the accuser. If the accuser is the "other woman," it is advisable to remember that "her chief concerns are simple: Am I being heard? Do they believe me? Do they blame me? Will they side with their pastor?" The interviewer(s), regardless of how shocked they may be at the accusations, must refrain from "shooting the messenger."6
Assess both, complaint and complainant: "Could the allegations be true? Can we believe this person? Is she emotionally stable? Does she have a problem with her own sexuality?"7 Is she a predator, a wanderer, or a victim?
c. Hearing the pastor. The same person(s) that heard the woman must informally hear the pastor. Spiritual and emotional readiness is of essence here. The pastor, if guilty, has had time to pre pare his response. "If the minister is a sexual predator he may use all the means in his power to deflect or deny the charges and intimidate, delay or even harass those who dare question his integrity."8
If a wanderer, he may immediately admit, plead for forgiveness, and promise never to do it again. In the exhilaration of the moment, a temptation may arise to end the proceedings on the spot. "To do so, however, is to fail to do justice or correctly handle mercy."9
d. Hearing the whistle blower. In the case where the allegations do not come from principal actors, whistle blowers should be heard alone, and the evidence examined. If the data are believable, the informal confrontation with the other woman first, and with the pastor separately, may be in order. All information from the accuser, the accused, and the whistle blower should be written out and given to the Designated Officer.
If the evidence yields no grounds for allegations, the church should take steps against malicious gossip. It will also examine the relationship between the pastor and the other woman to make sure that nothing in their conduct creates the rumors.
After preliminary hearings, the "Designated Officer shall immediately begin the process of selecting the five member Sexual Ethics Committee (SEC)," thus initiating the Investigative Process.10
3. Comments on Investigative Process.The emergency response in place, and the preliminary hearing completed, with written documents in hand, the SEC "shall investigate fully the allegations and documentation from the accuser, the accused, and other appropriate sources."11
a. Suspension. A potentially credible allegation of pastoral adultery is a serious charge. Inquiry about a minister's integrity raises the question of his position. An immediate leave of absence from pastoral duties will ease the minister's stress until the issue is resolved. The conference will handle the details of such a suspension.
b. Engaging a consultant. Because of the complexity and seriousness of the issues, the church might do well to engage a consultant(s) who has good professional knowledge of sexual issues and legal implications, and at the same time is familiar with the life of the church.12

Healing love

From this point on, the findings of the SEC may lead in many directions. In the case of a lesser offense, like sexual harassment, the pastor must submit to a program of supervision and discipline. His repentance, his willingness to amend his ways and mend his relation ships at any cost, may bring hope for healing. However, no one is to take for granted the pastor's wife and the other woman's husband.
When the charge of adultery is confirmed, both the local church board and the discipline committee of the conference will follow biblical teachings on the matter. But healing love is nothing like romantic permissiveness or cold condemnation. It is one of the most difficult experiences under the sun, the most demanding form of therapy. It may take the form of a most exacting gentleness. Beyond the act alone, it endeavors to equip the sinner to take hold of God's grace, to manage consequences responsibly, to overcome habits, and to become a "safe male."13

Withdrawal of ordination

In the case of adultery, the commit tee has few options but to recommend the withdrawal of ordination and the removal of the pastor from his position. In fact, moved by deep repentance, the pastor himself may request as much. Several reasons explain such a course of action.
1. Hit-and-run behavior is a crime. True peace comes from a quiet con science, born of awareness that all is done, all in time and energies, to repair the damage left behind. An honest person can do no less. The damage and pain are his consequences, and he must invest himself to restore the injured.
2. Rebuilding of the pastor's marriage innocence is another monumental task. His wife trusted him implicitly, sacrificed for him, took on more than her share of duties so that he could do the work to which he had been called, and all this, so she has now discovered, while he was in alliance with another woman and with the enemy of his soul and marriage. He will have to regain his wife's trust and her heart. Adultery is a sin in action, not in words. It will require action to bring healing; words have their place but are insufficient here.
3. Distress due to change of identity. The pastor is not just a public official like David was. As seen in the first essay of this series (see Ministry, January 2004), the pastor's identity encapsulates several biblical images. All his roles as shepherd, priest, teacher, and prophet, are now gambled away, and his new identity as "lover" is sham and mockery. For a while he lived in a fantasyland, but now his eyes must adjust to the grim reality of the loss of personal and professional innocence. Those who have not experienced the identity changing power of sexual infidelity must beware of treating it lightly. Paul commands, "Flee immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18, NASB).
4. The pastor needs time to mend his home, time to restore his children's trust in him, in themselves, and in God. "Do not say it is impossible for you to over come. Do not say, 'it is my nature to do thus and so, and I cannot do otherwise. I have inherited weaknesses that make me powerless before temptation.' We know you cannot overcome in your own strength; but help has been laid upon the One who is mighty to save."14
5. The pastor needs time, courage, and divine wisdom to help save the other woman's marriage. The other husband may need to hear from his mouth a heartfelt apology and the assumption of the major part of responsibility for what happened due to his position of power, though any attempt to do so should be carefully and prayerfully considered before it is attempted.
6. The other woman needs restoration. An apology in the presence of the other woman's husband may be the first important step. She should be assured that, by God's grace, nothing will hap pen again between them.
7. Then there is yet another woman, the virgin bride of Jesus Christ, whom He entrusted into the hands of His undershepherds. She is wounded, shamed in public. Forgetting his dis grace, the pastor will do whatever is needed to bring healing and to restore her reputation in the eyes of the watching world. The church is Cod's dearest object on earth, 15 and her soon coming Lord must find her "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle" (Eph. 5:27, RSV).
A delicate question still lingers: Should a fallen pastor be reinstated to ministry? We must face this issue in a forthcoming article.

Reinstatement? Recommendations:

1. Preventing a pastor's sexual infidelity must begin during premarital counseling. The choice of a pastor's wife cannot be taken lightly. Any significant dysfunctions discovered in the families both the pastor's and that of his wife-to-be and in themselves need to be noticed and treated.
2. An intentional program aimed at making our church a "Safe Church" is long overdue. Our churches must become places where adulteries and fornications have no opportunity to grow.
3. Reduce long trips and absences from home that separate spouses. Not every couple can afford this, no matter how needed their service may be, but sensitivity to such issues is important.
4. Choose safe venues for retreats and meetings. Places like Las Vegas and Reno may offer cheap convention facilities, but in addition, they have expensive moral temptations and consequences.
5. Programs that can be called "Safe Male" and "Safe Female" should be a part of the mandatory continuing education program for pastors and the church at large.
6. Consider the composition of the disciplinary committee dealing with the sexual infidelity of pastors. The majority of its members should be predominantly from outside of the pastor's conference. Experience shows that closeness to a colleague interferes with objectivity and fairness where loving discipline is in order.
7. Transfers of the pastors must not become a means of disseminating trouble. A conference that receives an individual needing a "second chance" after a minor offense must be fully apprised of the pastor's past.
8. Establish an office of "moral integrity" in ministry at as many levels of our church organization as possible. Moral issues should include, but are not limited to, sexual issues.

From colleague to colleague

We ministers of the gospel must become closer friends. If we do not watch out and care for each other, who will? Who will intercede for our safety? God needs men and women whom He can send to me "if there be any wicked way in me ..." so God may "lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 1 39:24, RSV).
But what can we do? How can we cooperate with God so that He can lead us out of a potentially illicit relationship?
1. Stop cold turkey, while friends and colleagues fast and pray.
2. "Once the decision has been made to end the affair, there must be a final goodbye. No more discussions about what went wrong, no more attempts to be 'just friends,' no more brief phone calls for just a little advice. No more contacts."16
3. If a pastor works with someone who might be a temptation to him or her, that is the time to "flee immorality." Either the pastor or the "other person" must find another workplace. This is the proper time for a transfer.

What can a pastor do to get out of an actual illicit relationship?
1. Take a hard look at yourself. You are a slave. A stranger in your home, in your bedroom. Consider the web of excuses and lies you are probably already telling yourself. Come to your self (Luke 15:17).
2. Take a hard look at your situation. See the slippery slope. See how many are sliding, and how many try unsuccessfully to climb back. Only the way to our Father is not slippery (Luke 15:18, 19).
3. Your "lover" holds your future, the future of your innocent family, the future of your ministry in her hands. Is that good? Has she been tested in any fire of life, or only in the fire of passion and romance? Give your life to God. 

Come to your Father and say in repentance and humility: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Luke 15:21, RSV).
Read aloud Psalm 51, a psalm of David's repentance. Yearn for peace, for purity, for innocence.
4. Then, as God provides His grace, face your wife. Tell her the truth. She, who stood by you; she, the mother of your children; she, the wife of your youth, is she not more trustworthy than your lover? Tested and tried with you in real-life hardships, she might be ready to stand by you even now. This is an other action that needs to be entered into prayerfully and thoughtfully.
5. Be ready to give up anything job, reputation, projects, and plans to put your life back in order. Chances are that, this way, you may contain the damage and facilitate healing.
6. Consider seriously with your wife a visit to one of many retreat centers for specialized, professional treatment. By God's help you will recapture the dream of your first love.
If you take resolute steps to flee immorality, don't be surprised:
  • If you start off strong, but your resolve weakens quickly.
  • If fear becomes a constant companion. Consider alternatives. Consider also your Father's, and your wife's, embrace (Luke 15:20-24).
  • If you need to, act out of sheer obedience. Act as if you have a victory. "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11, RSV, emphasis mine).
  • If temptations intensify (James 1:13-15) and opportunities for sin increase, flee!
"None of these things will prevent immorality [only God's grace can]. They may encourage you, however, to stay on the right path. They will be strong, positive influences. God does use His people in the lives of others to help change them. Be open to Him to provide support through others, and also through His Word, His Spirit and the written words of other believers."17

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