Pastoral Misconduct

In light of the recent resurfacings of disgraced ex-pastor Ted Haggard on Oprah and Larry King last week I thought that these were very interesting polls. The rate of sexual misconduct among pastors is very alarming.. what is even more alarming is the percentage of people who think that it is a good idea to rehabilitate these guys and put them back in the pulpit.

A few months ago I was having breakfast with an old friend and the name of our one-time married pastor who ran off to Florida in 1993 with his girlfriend came up. My friend's response was so refreshing.. he said that the ex-pastor should just keep his mouth shut. I began to laugh as I realized the wisdom of that off-the-cuff response to my saying that I had gotten an email from the ex-pastor.

In 1997 my wife and I began attending another church and a few years later was faced with the firing of another senior pastor by the elders of the church. After moving to our new house in 2003 we began attending a church that was close to us - that senior pastor was removed by the leadership in 2005. There seemed to be a common thread in all three of these situations - no accountability to the church leadership and no humility when they were confronted.

In retrospect I hate the way that I allowed myself (yes, idealistic Bob did it to himself) to be convinced that "restoration" was the ultimate goal and responsibility that the church had in dealing with these professional (yes, they were all paid very well) pastors. Sadly, all of these men eventually returned to ministry without ever having to deal with their pride and their other issues.

The folks who voted with the 41% are really part of the problem. They create a sense of entitlement for pastors and a very unhealthy atmosphere in the church. I voted with the 21% (guess I am still too hopeful) but could be convinced to go with the 22%.

How would you have voted?


  1. I think every effort should be made to reach out to the one who fell into sin but the New Testament
    should be our guide as to whether or not a person should be allowed to be pastor again. Maybe they should consider something other than leading a church like starting a Bible Study or evangelistic outreach....A senior pastor is supposed to be a role model everyone can trust. As a mother of small children when this happened in a former church of ours I did not want the children sitting under a pastor or teacher that had fallen, even if they had repented....I thought pastors were to maintain a high standard especially those who taught us we were serving a holy, sinless Saviour without spot or blemish.

  2. I wouldn't answer such a poll myself because I would never want to be making a judgment on another person like that. I do look at the "fruit" of a person but I sincerely try not to judge. God will judge us all!!!!

  3. You know, I struggle with this. Could I say... "maybe". I think it depends on the person, the sin, and the restoration process. I think it depends if a truly repentant spirit exists within that person. I think it depends on how their family is doing and what they think.

    I also believe that the pastor shouldn't be restored to the particular church they were fired from or resigned from. That would be awkward for everybody.

    I believe with some of these guys who were involved in misconduct shouldn't have been in vocational ministry to begin with. I agree that their needs to be accountability for pastors. I think part of the problem is that when a pastor is struggling there isn't an environment of transparency and grace - so they can share their struggles that lead up to a fall like this.

    With Ted Haggard - I think he removed any possibility for restoration in pastoral ministry due to his ending the restoration process early and his media circus. I have not sensed a repentant spirit, but excuses instead.

  4. No one seems to take responsibility for their own actions. Its always someone elses fault. I have been through that with 2 pastors and there needs to be counsuling but I don't think they belong back in the pulpit. You are right about the leadership not being strong too.

  5. There was once a time when I would have been in the 41%. As time goes on, I find myself moving into the 21% and probably headed toward the 22%. As much as I believe in forgiveness, a position of leadership isn't about whether we forgive or not, it's about disqualification. It's about the influence that leader has.

    In my personal (and admittedly limited) experience, I've never seen it work out to benefit a church and glorify God. It almost always has led to further regrets.

    That being said, I do acknowledge that there are various factors that must be taken into consideration in each case. That alone keeps me out of the "never" group.

  6. I'm a recovering Idealist. I like being ideaistic but reality keeps slapping me to hard in the face, sooner or later I am going to wake up.

    side note - the same pastor who told me that any Christian who listened to rock and roll music was not really saved, well he ended having an affair and being ousted from the church a few years later.

  7. Well, this question uncovers the greater issue: the church gives pastors a "Paid Position" and thinks it makes them untouchable. The bigger issue exists when millions of believers blindly follow the leader without investing mutual time, respect, accountability... We expect greatness from these men because they get paid to be great?!?!?

    People are going to sin. Hopefully we will be involved in each others' lives enough to bring quick accountablity and repentance before the road leads to devestation.

    When ministers do commit these sexual sins, we need to invest in their lives becuase we love them and God loves them. We don't need to invest in their lives because we NEED them as Chief Leaders.

    Perhaps in God's goodness there would be a place down the road for them to return into some kind of ministry, but our primary intrest is in their personal repentance, healing and care for their family.

    I think the fact that we DO pay these individuals makes the rest of us completely responsible for them and their families. So I'm calling all regular unpaid church attenders to step up the the plate. Get to know your pastor well. Dig deep into his heart. Plant yourself in his life as a confidant. Be willing to ask the tough questions and deal with the dirty stuff. Quit thinking that this is someone else's job. In 42% of churches, nobody took responsiblity for this and look what happened.

  8. I don't think they deserve anything more or less than what the lowest on the totem pole deserves.

    How many people walk away in disgrace or not even disgrace, just in pain and are never contacted again ....

    The whole system is flawed and sin has infiltrated for years. It is like a nosocomial infection.

    LOL Just try to eradicate it ... as long as pastors are raised up higher than Jesus and the rest of us, this will continue.

    Pastors are only ONE of the many gifts of the body as a whole. They cannot function for God without the rest which are equally as important.

    I was wondering what happened to Mork?

  9. Thx all for the comments!

    Part of the problem of what it means to be a paid pastor these days in America is that, unlike Paul or Peter, folks trained to be professional ministers have no trade or calling other than the pastoral one. So I think that well meaning people try to "help" them in ways that are not helpful.

    I like the idea that we should basically help them in ways that we would help anyone who sins (i.e. "the lowest on the totem pole").. really love them.. call them into account.. help them to be restored to the body of Christ (not the pulpit).. and help them to find a new means of supporting their families. It isn't easy but few eternal things are ever easy :)

  10. I never trust polls (joking).
    I really wonder how many ministers leave not becase of misconduct but because of getting burned out, personality conflict, etc. I wonder really how many churches that didn't like their preachers or ministers say he left becase of misconduct. Yes, Christians do behave that way. In ministry it has amazed me and other clergy friends just how bad ministers and ministers families are treated. No reason we are having ministers leave the ministry in leaps and bounds.
    God be with those in ministry.
    Let us as believes pray for them and their families daily.

  11. Where would the Apostle Peter have been if Christ Jesus had of been like you about this {John 21:15-22}? Yes, it could be argued that he was an exception to the rule, but unless you are personally told otherwise by our Heavenly Father, who are you to say that any of the currently disgraced ministers are not also?

    Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! {James 2:12-13 NIV}

    True repentance is the key, and that is for our Heavenly Father to judge. Be assured that all who are not truly in Him will not be getting away with a thing {2 Peter 1:20-2:3}.

    "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement." {John 7:24 NIV}

  12. An interesting response FishHawk.. I was not aware that Peter cheated on his wife.. perhaps you can provide the linkage to the post's topic of sexual misconduct and Peter?

    I do believe that true repentance is the issue but restoration is not a given (as many feel) when a man or woman betrays their spouse.

    I believe that these folks should be forgiven but also believe that, at least for a few years, they should find different employment.

  13. Agreed - Peter's denial was not the public sin of a spiritual leader. He wasn't even officially a leader yet.
    David's sin was the public sin of a spiritual leader (2 Sam. 11) and he paid dearly for it (12:9-12). Even though he repented and was forgiven, the consequences of his sin affected members of his family for many years to come.
    I'm sure there were many in Jerusalem who committed adultry that night but did not sufer the consequences that David did. To whom much is given, much is required.
    True, we have a better covenant with better promises and a better sacrifice (Hebrews), but the hard lesson for believers, especially spiritual leaders is - there are consequences to sin. Pastors like Ted Haggard can indeed be forgiven, but there needs to be some semblence of true humility and repentance before God. I'm not sure that taking your case to the public through media opportunities is the proper way to go.

  14. Bob,
    I hate to seem like a yes man, but I agree with you .
    I can relate to this in a slightly different way. I see it through a lens of one who has been forgiven of a very hurtful, destructive sin in their own life.
    Mine was not a sexual sin and I am not in a pastoral position in a body of believers.
    But the consequences have to fit the crime. I accept that my life is changed because of the CHOICE I made to commit a serious crime. I am forgiven and surrounded with love and I know that God has forgiven me for it. I have even grown, emotionally, mentally & spiritually because of this event in my life.
    But, that doesn't undo the result of my sin.
    I believe that if this person who is supposed to be a leader and example to a congregation commits these types of sins, he should never expect to be restored to that role.
    I know, because I have committed a violent crime; neither the state or federal government will ever trust me to own or carry a fire arm. That is one consequence of my crime. I think the same goes for these pastors. They should be loved they should know grace and acceptance but why put an alcoholic running your liquor store or a junkie running your pharmacy? Just my opinion.

  15. Great thoughts Shaun! Thx so much for your transparency.

    Reminded me of an inmate who came to our bible study in prison that had been a youth pastor who got involved with a teen girl. He never had the expectation that he would be "restored to ministry".. he was just happy that his family and church had forgiven him. He was a changed man.. he seemed to have learned the lesson of humility.

  16. Pastoral misconduct seems to be increasing...or maybe it's just being exposed for what it is. I do remember in David Wilkerson's early 70's book"The Vision" that he prophesied that pastors and their families were going to be subjected to intense Satanic persecution, especially sexual temptation. I know of a recent "defocking" a married pastor who was shorn of his pastorate when it came to light that he had become sexually involved with an underaged girl and that the affair had lasted for several years. He made the excuse that the affair happened because he was an active alcoholic at the time.......and really didn't show much remorse for the harm he'd caused. Unfortunately it caused a major rift in the congregation and I still don't know if it's been sorted out yet. :(

  17. What a sad story CR.. the egos on these guys are a big part of the problem.. they seem to feel above the law and have a hard time dealing with the devastation that they have brought upon their congregations.

    I have dealt with three of these guys (up close and personal) and there does not seem to be a genuine care for the suffering that their actions have caused.. very sad commentary on the narcissistic nature that "ministry" has taken on.

  18. Having walked out years of recovery with my addictions to alcohol, pornagraphy, people, food, escapism (movies), et al; I can truthfully say that this journey has been the hardest and best part of my life.
    Anyone in active ministry who is running from their unresolved issues, will only harm themselves and others. I understand well, the avoidance of it all - it's too painfull.
    Until you allow our Lord into those "secret" places, you don't even know that He can help you there. Most of our wounds have come through people, so if you allow yourself to think about bringing your stuff into the presence a ministry group, pastor, counselor, etc, a good deal of anxiety and fear can arise.
    For those who gone through this healing journey, one thing becomes so much more tangibly real - the Cross.
    Personally, I trust people that have been, in some way, broken before the Lord. They came to end of themselves in some area, and had to totally depend on Jesus and His body to get through.
    Is there enough awareness in the church culture right now to assist pastors, elders, and members in the arena of brokenness? Probably not.
    Can a pastor be restored to ministry? Well, yes. But those unredeemed places in his life are like wild horses - they don't take kindly to tamming! When he's finally humbled and ready, he'll submit to whatever help the Lord has provided.
    Doesn't the Lord like to redeem areas of our life?
    Only He knows each individual and how long the process will take for each one(assuming they submit at all).


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