Can / Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?

split off from the George MacDonald thread...

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jay C. wrote:

@Alex,

If a man cheats on his wife is he still 'blameless'?

Seeing that accompanying this question was a quote of my earlier post that answered it where I identified the case of a serial adulterer or fornicator (which means when he is identified in such a context he is being blamed for such, otherwise he would not be identified as such).
Alex Guggenheim wrote:
But let's take the case of the serial adulterer or fornicator.

My suspicion is that your interest is not whether I understand that when a man is found in the context of a fault he can be blamed for that fault but rather, how long does this context of failure and blame persist? I could be wrong and if so please redirect me.

Ron Bean's picture

Proverbs 6:32-33

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

jimcarwest's picture

Local churches have the authority, owing to their autonomy, to decide matters of discipline and restoration, but they exercise that authority only under the guidance of Scripture as they understand it and only relating to their own activity. Such matters do not reside under the authority of a denomination or council of churches, which are extra-biblical organizations. So a local church may be able to restore a pastor to ministry if it decides to do so, but the decision of a local church cannot be imposed upon other local churches or bodies of believers, which would be a violation of their own autonomy. So much for the "can."

As for the "should," this is where the discussion really takes place. Churches should do what the Scriptures command or model for leadership. Apostles were restored to apostleship after displays of unfaithfulness (Thomas, Peter). These were not moral, but theological failures. Such were failures stemming from faulty thinking, not from immoral behavior. One results from a wrong interpretation of truth; the other from a deliberate decision to do wrong, which reveals a character flaw. Pastoral leadership rests upon both doctrinal integrity and moral character. A pastor who errs in doctrine may be brought back to the truth. It is not hard to understand how such a man could be restored and go on to exercise a ministry of integrity, following recognition of his error. When a pastor has failed, however, to the extent of losing his reputation as a moral leader, he may regain his testimony as a believer, but can he possess again the requirement of blamelessness? The Apostle Paul seemed to believe that there were some things that might cause him to be disapproved, i.e. "put on the shelf" by God. This motivated him to "buffet his body" and to exercise personal discipline to avoid such failure.

Once churches begin to lower the standard for ministry leadership, it is not long until loss of moral integrity spreads to the membership. In my church, a leader ran off with a young lady in the congregation, abandoning his wife and family for two or three weeks while he cavorted in a motel with his new lover, thus scandalizing many people, producing shame to the young lady's missionary parents, and wrecking his testimony with the youth to whom he had been ministering. He returned to his wife and confessed his sin before his church. A few months later, the local church had the audacity to appoint him for missionary service, recommending him to a mission board as a man of integrity. The mission board, after being informed of the situation, decided to appoint him for ministry, recommending him to churches without any notation of his moral failure. Fortunately, the man was not able to raise his support and decided this was evidence that the Lord did not want him in this ministry. Should he have been restored to some place of ministry as a member of his local church? I think the Scripture would support that position. Should his desire to exercise leadership in missionary ministry be sufficient to warrant his appointment to such a position? I think not. One's desire for ministry must be tempered by meeting certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3).

Too often, men who have fallen into public sin, are restored for sentimental reasons: "he is such a good preacher"; "he has built such a large ministry"; "he doesn't know how to do anything else"; "his wife has forgiven him," etc. The major reasons that should guide our thinking are these: a recognition of the high position of pastoral leadership in Scripture, and a sensitivity in society to the moral integrity that corresponds to the pastoral ministry.

We tend to think only of marital infidelity as it relates to this question, but there are other moral questions, such as sexual abuse of children, that pertain to ministry leadership. One only has to consider the general criticism that is being leveled against the Roman Catholic Church in our time because of the failure of priests and the tendency of the hierarchy to excuse such behavior. A convicted sexual abuser carries a stigma in society for life. Surely, no church would allow such a person to work with children. It is clear that the secular world sometimes has a higher standard for the ministry than the professing Christian church. Something like that happened in Corinth, as recorded in First Corinthians 5. Another example is the recent scandalous behavior of Ted Haggard and the general criticism of the public of his "restoration" to pastoral ministry.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

jimcarwest wrote:
Local churches have the authority, owing to their autonomy, to decide matters of discipline and restoration, but they exercise that authority only under the guidance of Scripture as they understand it and only relating to their own activity. Such matters do not reside under the authority of a denomination or council of churches, which are extra-biblical organizations. So a local church may be able to restore a pastor to ministry if it decides to do so, but the decision of a local church cannot be imposed upon other local churches or bodies of believers, which would be a violation of their own autonomy.
A point that cannot be emphasized enough (unless you are part of a denomination that has a governing body outside of the local and then obviously you accept denominational rule but even in that case they accept that one local church cannot impose upon another local church something it rejects).

jimcarwest wrote:
As for the "should," this is where the discussion really takes place. Churches should do what the Scriptures command or model for leadership. Apostles were restored to apostleship after displays of unfaithfulness (Thomas, Peter). These were not moral, but theological failures. Such were failures stemming from faulty thinking, not from immoral behavior. One results from a wrong interpretation of truth; the other from a deliberate decision to do wrong, which reveals a character flaw.
I do find issue with categorizing Peter's denial of the Lord on 3 occasions as a theological failure or one due to faulty thinking but it still is rightly differentiated from a moral failure.

jimcarwest wrote:
Pastoral leadership rests upon both doctrinal integrity and moral character. A pastor who errs in doctrine may be brought back to the truth. It is not hard to understand how such a man could be restored and go on to exercise a ministry of integrity, following recognition of his error. When a pastor has failed, however, to the extent of losing his reputation as a moral leader, he may regain his testimony as a believer, but can he possess again the requirement of blamelessness? The Apostle Paul seemed to believe that there were some things that might cause him to be disapproved, i.e. "put on the shelf" by God. This motivated him to "buffet his body" and to exercise personal discipline to avoid such failure.
To what passage(s) are you referring and what is your exegetical justification for applying them in this case? And you ask, can he possess again the requirement of blamelessness? Well if he can recover from being an erring teacher (unfaithful to the truth) and we can view him as recovered from such (meaning we can now trust his doctrinal judgments and direction though once he succumb to whatever forces internal and external that led him astray) then what is the magic ingredient that renders such a moral recovery impotent? But again this begs the question earlier, how long does the context of his moral failure persist?

jimcarwest wrote:
Once churches begin to lower the standard for ministry leadership, it is not long until loss of moral integrity spreads to the membership. In my church, a leader ran off with a young lady in the congregation, abandoning his wife and family for two or three weeks while he cavorted in a motel with his new lover, thus scandalizing many people, producing shame to the young lady's missionary parents, and wrecking his testimony with the youth to whom he had been ministering. He returned to his wife and confessed his sin before his church. A few months later, the local church had the audacity to appoint him for missionary service, recommending him to a mission board as a man of integrity. The mission board, after being informed of the situation, decided to appoint him for ministry, recommending him to churches without any notation of his moral failure. Fortunately, the man was not able to raise his support and decided this was evidence that the Lord did not want him in this ministry. Should he have been restored to some place of ministry as a member of his local church? I think the Scripture would support that position. Should his desire to exercise leadership in missionary ministry be sufficient to warrant his appointment to such a position? I think not. One's desire for ministry must be tempered by meeting certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3).
Obviously here you have a singular case of possibly hasty re-initiation. But the possible misguided decisions of others based on the misuse of something permissible in Scripture (I speak for the sake of argument here as if it is permissible, I understand not everyone views it this way) does not speak to a problem with the process or the license granted by Scripture, rather it speaks to those wrongly or hastily employing it.

With regard to a lowering of the standard, if the Scriptures allow for a person in ministry, namely the Pastorate, to be restored then by accepting this, no biblical standard has been lowered. That would be within the biblical standard. Now if you don't believe in such a thing, that one can be restored from moral failure, then of course a person would take the view the standard of the bible has been lowered. Clearly I don't agree.

jimcarwest wrote:
Too often, men who have fallen into public sin, are restored for sentimental reasons: "he is such a good preacher"; "he has built such a large ministry"; "he doesn't know how to do anything else"; "his wife has forgiven him," etc. The major reasons that should guide our thinking are these: a recognition of the high position of pastoral leadership in Scripture, and a sensitivity in society to the moral integrity that corresponds to the pastoral ministry.
Sentiment unfortunately is the reason for too many things within the church and your point couldn't be better. And if one has recovered from moral failure and is no longer in the context of blameworthiness regarding this but is now in the context of fidelity with the confidence of those he will lead, then it will be up to those making that decision and no doubt they should always have a view of the office bound by the principles in Scripture and not their feelings.

jimcarwest wrote:
We tend to think only of marital infidelity as it relates to this question, but there are other moral questions, such as sexual abuse of children, that pertain to ministry leadership. One only has to consider the general criticism that is being leveled against the Roman Catholic Church in our time because of the failure of priests and the tendency of the hierarchy to excuse such behavior. A convicted sexual abuser carries a stigma in society for life. Surely, no church would allow such a person to work with children. It is clear that the secular world sometimes has a higher standard for the ministry than the professing Christian church. Something like that happened in Corinth, as recorded in First Corinthians 5. Another example is the recent scandalous behavior of Ted Haggard and the general criticism of the public of his "restoration" to pastoral ministry.
While I recognize within your statement some valid principles I would also note that the structures of the world do not consider within them the supernatural transformation and empowerment of God's Spirit which the church does. I do not compare the world's standards with those of the Scriptures and end up finding myself distressed when they do not match up. I am not so naive as to fail to note that sometimes we have similar expectations but I have yet to find any organization outside of the Scriptures (which is the declaration of the church) making a point to tell everyone that they prefer the fools of the world over the wise. And I realize this does not address the office of the Pastor but it does make the point that parallels between the world and the church (the body of Christ) are rather limited. Misuses of a valid process, again, do not speak to a problem either with is validity or process, rather with those who misuse it.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

IMO we accept a person's restoration differently when they repent on their own than when they repent because they were caught. You can't get that nagging suspicion out of the back of your head that they'd've kept right on doing what they were doing if they had not been exposed. 2 cents.

Ron Bean's picture

I personally know of two instances (MacDonald's being one) where a pastor who was guilty of adultery was restored to leadership. In both instances the churches split creating broken hearts and bitter spirits on both sides that wouldn't have been created had not the offending individual asked the people to take sides. Is it worth it?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

BryanBice's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
I personally know of two instances (MacDonald's being one) where a pastor who was guilty of adultery was restored to leadership. In both instances the churches split creating broken hearts and bitter spirits on both sides that wouldn't have been created had not the offending individual asked the people to take sides. Is it worth it?

No.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
I personally know of two instances (MacDonald's being one) where a pastor who was guilty of adultery was restored to leadership. In both instances the churches split creating broken hearts and bitter spirits on both sides that wouldn't have been created had not the offending individual asked the people to take sides. Is it worth it?
Obviously each situation has its own merits. I suspect there is a more full story here, though.

On the other hand I know of two Pastors who did recover from moral failures and go on to Pastor churches where the members were quite grateful and edified into maturity through their teaching. Was it worth it? Of course, it is always worth having a valid Pastor lead their congregation into mature faith.

Ron Bean's picture

For the record, I believe that, while one may be forgiven for the sin of adultery, the shame and consequences of that sin are not erased. Proverbs 6:32-33

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mike Durning's picture

Just thinking and digesting these posts -- and now I'm going to throw out a few thoughts.
I am still hostile to the idea of adultery being an offense from which the preacher can be restored. But...

I'm thinking about I Timothy 5:20, which clearly leaves open the option to rebuke a pastor/elder found to have sinned -- which strikes me as implying the possibility of a lesser sentence than removal.

So, a pastor/elder sins in some fashion -- let's leave adultery off the table for now -- and the investigating officers of the church rebuke (censure) the pastor.
Of course, if this verse tells us that there are sins that don't require removal -- perhaps sins that do not contravene the list of qualifications -- then that raises a question.
How does a pastor's "blameless" reputation remain intact if it is announced publicly that he sinned and has been "rebuked"?

I ask this because "blamelessness" seems to be one of the criteria around which this argument revolves.

Not, it is my understanding that "blamelessness" is an umbrella statement over the other requirements, and that it implies "nothing that can be grasped". So, there are no areas in the preacher's life that can be pointed at as violations of the requirements that are not being dealt with or that have not been dealt with. The "blameless" person is not sinless (for who is?), but is one who makes right and fixes and corrects the errors in his life, which hopefully are few, infrequent, uncommon.

Is it possible, then, that a pastor might come to recognize a sinful state in which he has been, repent, and then have it dealt with so as to maintain blamelessness? A rebuke could be issued, but the position held.
Is it possible, then, that a pastor might confess a sin committed in the past, and repent, and establish that he has dealt with it so as to remain blameless? A rebuke could be issues, but the position held.

Just thinking out lout -- a dangerous practice here on SI.

What I'm shooting for here is room for an errant pastor to correct his course without flushing his entire life's work down the drain.

Now, I'm not yet applying this to adultery -- which may be different on several levels. But I am applying it to other possible failures.

Thoughts?

PhilKnight's picture

I don't know if you can make a blanket case with respect to every character flaw for which a bishop might be disqualified. (There are many sins other than adultery that would make a man notorious and, hence, disqualified.) However, if you consider I Tim. 3 along with the passage Ron Beam has now pointed out twice, Prov. 6, the Scripture's teaching in the case of adultery is quite clear:

I Timothy 3:2 "An overseer, then, must be above reproach." (NASB)

Proverbs 6:32-33 "The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out." (NASB)

The context that follows in Proverbs 6:34-35 indicates that "not be blotted out" is referring to that man's reputation among men (not a "blotting out" with respect to forgiveness by God).

I will grant that Proverbs is wisdom literature and, therefore, often contains general statements about the way things normally work (adages, if you will) rather than ironclad, no exceptions, statements of cause and effect. (E.g. "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up strife" does not guarantee that answering gently will make someone throwing a temper tantrum suddenly get calm in every case.) However, I think that's the only possible "wiggle room" for this biblical syllogism:

  • An overseer must be "above reproach" to be qualified for the office.
  • The reproach of man who commits adultery with a woman will never go away.
  • Therefore, a man who commits adultery with a woman can never again be qualified to be a bishop.

I Timothy 3:7 provides additional instruction on the general idea of being "above reproach": "He must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach." (NASB) That's a pretty tall order that, I think, precludes restoration of fallen elders in many cases. Restoring your reputation among God's people, who understand God's forgiveness and God's power to transform, is one thing. Restoring it among the unsaved is quite another. For example, can a pastor ever again meet this qualification if he's publicly exposed in some notorious financial scandal?

Note: I have assumed here that bishop, elder, and pastor are different terms for the same office.

Philip Knight

PhilKnight's picture

Mike Durning wrote:

How does a pastor's "blameless" reputation remain intact if it is announced publicly that he sinned and has been "rebuked"?

We get into difficulties with these qualifications if they are interpretted in an absolute sense: If applied absolutely no person would be qualified. (E.g., if my pastor get's irritated and raises his voice at his child in a moment of impatience, is he no longer "gentle"?) It's obvious that these spiritual qualities don't have to be true in the sense that they are always exemplified perfectly. However, they should be true in the sense that people will readily agree that the man under consideration can be designated as having this sort of character. If you say "John Doe is man who is gentle" and someone in the church can think of a case where he was not gentle, that doesn't necessarily disqualify him. However, if that statement elicits rolling of eyes, he's not qualified. Regarding having to rebuke and confront an elder, the question of his being "blameless" would depend upon (1) the nature of the sin for which he was being rebuked and (2) how he responds to the rebuke (an elder should be "easily entreated").

Some sins bring reproach because committing them requires a "high handedness" that reveals serious underlying character issues (e.g. embezzlement of church funds). These sorts of sins stick to a man and make people lose confidence in his character & leadership.

Since no one is without sin, you could probably make the case that all of the qualifications for an elder have some degree of subjectivity. In the end, the Scripture points out the qualities on which we should be focused if we are to select the most qualified elders (implicitly comparing the man under consideration with other men). I believe there are flaws (like adultery) that disqualify a man from the office of elder in any church, period, end of story. However, I also believe that the Scripture provides enough subjectivity to make possible situations where believers prayerfully consider the qualifications and God leads them to choose a man as an elder in one church that would never be chosen in another church (simply because they have candidates who exemplify those characteristics even better). To give a specific example: the practical result of choosing a man who was "not a novice" would be quite different if applied in a 2000 member church in Greenville, SC vs. a five-year-old church plant in Haiti. Obviously, a certain minimum level of training and experience is required to meet the threshold at all, but there is also a situational, subjective threshold that is specific to the individual church situation. In my hypothetical Haiti church, that latter threshold might be 5 years as a Christian and some number of years of Bible training under the tutelage of the local missionary. However, God would likely lead my hypothetical Greenville congregation to judge that same experience and training quite inadequate for eldership in their church.

Philip Knight

Alex Guggenheim's picture

PhilKnight wrote:
Prov. 6, the Scripture's teaching in the case of adultery is quite clear:

I Timothy 3:2 "An overseer, then, must be above reproach." (NASB)

I will grant that Proverbs is wisdom literature and, therefore, often contains general statements about the way things normally work (adages, if you will) rather than ironclad, no exceptions, statements of cause and effect. (E.g. "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up strife" does not guarantee that answering gently will make someone throwing a temper tantrum suddenly get calm in every case.)

Which of course defeats the myopic approach and injured hermeneutic when a response to this issue is based in the Proverb, as if it is without exception.

And can a man restore his reputation within the community in general? Again, if one does not believe so my suggestion is that his eyes are part of the problem. In the same method a man gains a reputation, over time he restores it with saved and unsaved. This dichotomy between saved and unsaved that you have introduced with respect to their ability to be reasonable and accept restoration and regain confidence in someone is something I don't see functioning in reality. I accept that there are cases where the damage may be too great but certainly I find it less often that more often.

Yes, some notorious figures whose minimization and justification for their failures might come to mind but I these are not the typical context for the average ministert when he finds himself in such a fault and works toward restoration.

jimcarwest's picture

Alex:

Both Thomas' and Peter's errors stemmed from a theological misinterpretation of Jesus' teaching. Thomas found it impossible to believe in the resurrection. Peter struggled with Jesus' prophecies about his death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21-23). Both of them saw him as Messiah, but not as Savior. Their misunderstanding of these doctrines cannot equate to the failure of one in Christian leadership who fails morally.

The passage in 1 Cor. 9:25-27 certainly has application to the issue we are discussing. Paul understood that, if he didn't keep his body under control, this could disqualify him from ministry. Quite obviously, Paul believed that some things might eliminate him from ministry. Why is this not applicable to the subject at hand?

You ask: "how long does the context of his moral failure persist?" As long as it affects his reputation with those who are without. Sins may be forgiven, but there are some sins that bear ongoing consequences as relates to one's capacity to lead. Grace is greater than all our sins, but grace doesn't cancel the consequences of sin, e.g. the adultery of David left a blot upon his life. The pastor must have "a good testimony among those who are outside." A pastor who was arrested for a DUI would most certainly damage his testimony in a community and might find it impossible to continue being a leader. Certainly, a man who was arrested for domestic violence would not easily escape the condemnation of the community, thus impairing his ministry. A pastor who is discovered in pornography would damage his moral leadership. A pastor I know who visited prostitutes could surely not regain his reputation in a community. He would be the brunt of jokes. No committee of pastors would be able to restore a man to leadership when the community continued to condemn him.

Unfortunately, what you deemed as a singular, and possibly misguided re-initiation to ministry is altogether too frequent. Men who have obviously disqualified themselves from public ministry and leadership are often continuing in their positions. And the damage done to churches which often split because a congregation cannot agree to restore the pastor is considerable. Take the case in question -- that of Gordon MacDonald; the restoration committee failed to foresee that his congregation would split over this issue. In my opinion, those who rejected his return to the pastorate were on stronger ground biblically than those who reinstalled him.

Just what, in your opinion, might a pastor do which might represent a lowering of the Bible's standard for ministry? Is there anything that might disqualify him from ministry?

Do you think Paul had in mind temporary and current fidelity in marriage as a pre-requisite for leadership, or was he speaking of a history of fidelity? How many acts of adultery violate the qualification of fidelity in marriage? When it comes to the opinion of those outside the church, does not infidelity at some point in a person's life raise questions about the strength of his requirement that others be faithful to their marriage vows? What is there about a pastor that makes him think that infidelity in marriage, drunkenness, domestic violence, pornography ought to be overlooked by those outside the church?

Jay's picture

Can't talk long, but I think this passage applies as well:

I Cor. 6 wrote:
Flee Sexual Immorality

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined [4 ] to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin [5 ] a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Alex Guggenheim ][quote=jimcarwest wrote:
Alex:

Both Thomas' and Peter's errors stemmed from a theological misinterpretation of Jesus' teaching. Thomas found it impossible to believe in the resurrection. Peter struggled with Jesus' prophecies about his death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21-23). Both of them saw him as Messiah, but not as Savior. Their misunderstanding of these doctrines cannot equate to the failure of one in Christian leadership who fails morally.

Your view is one I am sure its eccentricity has some supporters but categorizing either one as a "theological misinterpretation" is something on which we will have to disagree and I will appeal to the volume of commentary that would weigh in against this unusual view.

jimcarwest wrote:
You ask: "how long does the context of his moral failure persist?" As long as it affects his reputation with those who are without.
And as I have observed (as have many within the body of Christ) this affect is reparable. It is good to see your response not with the view all such incidents are perpetual.

jimcarwest wrote:
A pastor who was arrested for a DUI would most certainly damage his testimony in a community and might find it impossible to continue being a leader. Certainly, a man who was arrested for domestic violence would not easily escape the condemnation of the community, thus impairing his ministry. A pastor who is discovered in pornography would damage his moral leadership. A pastor I know who visited prostitutes could surely not regain his reputation in a community. He would be the brunt of jokes. No committee of pastors would be able to restore a man to leadership when the community continued to condemn him.
I draw back from attempting to describe scenarios and then placing values for others on them. That is, I don't know what a community would do and I do not wish to project my speculations onto community regarding what it might or might not do in any instance and from that attempt to issue boundaries or propositions that are binding or conclusive. I am not saying what you are proposing isn't possible but it seems to treat any similar context with a conclusive view before any community concensus has been drawn.

jimcarwest wrote:
Unfortunately, what you deemed as a singular, and possibly misguided re-initiation to ministry is altogether too frequent. Men who have obviously disqualified themselves from public ministry and leadership are often continuing in their positions. And the damage done to churches which often split because a congregation cannot agree to restore the pastor is considerable. Take the case in question -- that of Gordon MacDonald; the restoration committee failed to foresee that his congregation would split over this issue. In my opinion, those who rejected his return to the pastorate were on stronger ground biblically than those who reinstalled him.
I cannot comment on that particular case but I cannot agree with you more that such sincere efforts often are done hastily, without due consideration to all higher principles and those being lead by such persons.

jimcarwest wrote:
Just what, in your opinion, might a pastor do which might represent a lowering of the Bible's standard for ministry? Is there anything that might disqualify him from ministry?
Not permanently.

jimcarwest wrote:
Do you think Paul had in mind temporary and current fidelity in marriage as a pre-requisite for leadership, or was he speaking of a history of fidelity? How many acts of adultery violate the qualification of fidelity in marriage? When it comes to the opinion of those outside the church, does not infidelity at some point in a person's life raise questions about the strength of his requirement that others be faithful to their marriage vows? What is there about a pastor that makes him think that infidelity in marriage, drunkenness, domestic violence, pornography ought to be overlooked by those outside the church?
I believe what is in mind with respect to the qualifications of a man seeking the office of Pastor (bishop) is just what is presented which is what his reputation is. It does not have in view the nullification of a man with a good reputation that is one which has occurred with reconstitution or without reconstitution, it condemns or commends neither,. Rather it is based in what that man's status is at that time, obviously based on some undetermined period of time during which such a reputation was built.

Do understand that I do not miss your position and won't contend that it is without its merits but I do not subscribe to it, therefore in responding I will assert the position to which I have come myself. But I do recognize your concerns and the issues you raise.

jimcarwest's picture

Alex:

Since all actions have their basis in thought, just what, in your opinion, would be the thinking that drove Peter to deny our Lord and Thomas to deny the possibility of the resurrection. Any Scripture to support your view? Just what, in your view, explains the failure of these two men. My argument was to show that wrong thinking does not have the same repercussions as wrong behavior. In your opinion, would a man who had been a serial adulterer or married/divorced several times, somehow be qualified for ministry if he had afterward remained ten years faithful to his last wife?

We don't have to wait to find out what a community thinks and how it responds to the kinds of behavior I am calling into question. We already have the instances of Jimmy Swaggert, Tim Bakker, Ted Haggard, David Hocking, Gordon MacDonald, and many more. We know from history what "those that are without" conclude about those in the ministry who have been "restored" to their positions. These men are still being ridiculed and their character put in question years after their fall. The "consensus has been drawn" already.

When Paul expressed his fear of "being disqualified," there seemed to be a finality in his view. He seems to think he might be "permanently" disapproved. This is why I hold that a pastor may do something that permanently disqualifies him from ministry leadership.

Having been unfaithful to his wife and to his children, a man might always be suspect to other men and their wives. Something like, when a man has sexually abused children, he is permanently labeled in society as a sex pervert and not allowed to have any contact with children. Many churches run background checks on children's workers and refuse to employ them in such positions. Are they wrong? Doesn't society expect a church to exercise such caution? This is a practical issue, not a theoretical issue. It has nothing to do with whether such a person may be forgiven or not. Our church employed a business manager once who was found later to be involved with embezzlement. Turns out, he had a reputation of that sin with other churches, but these other churches, when faced with giving references, refused to mention his reoccuring failure because they didn't want to be unforgiving. We need to get real about people's failures and how they are often repeatable. Why restore a man to a leadership position when, had he brought this failure to his initial application for ministry to begin with, he would doubtless have been disqualified?

I fail to understand the biblical reasons for your position. Is it based upon the matter of forgiveness alone? Would Judas have been reinstated as an Apostle if only he had not committed suicide and had confessed his betrayal of Christ at some future time? I know this is pure conjecture, but I cannot see why the other Apostles and believers might have felt required to restore him to his office simply to prove that they understood the meaning of forgiveness.

There is an interesting example in the OT of Shimei, who cursed David when he was fleeing from Absalom. When David returned after the death of his son, Shimei's response was one of repentance, and David spared his life. Yet, when David was dying, he warned Solomon about Shimei, for he didn't trust the sincerity of his confession of loyalty. After David's death, Solomon issued a warning to Shimei to test his loyalty. Shimei complied for a time, but when a circumstance arose to his advantage, he acted disloyally, and this led to his judgment and death. Now how might this apply to a NT situation. I have a friend (now with the Lord), who was greatly used in ministry as a pastor and evangelist. He failed maritally twice, with sporadic weaknesses shown in between periods of faiithfulness during which he was "restored" to ministry because of his great ministry gifts. But think of the churches and individuals that were injured by all this. This could have been avoided by relegating him to a place of "disqualified" as Paul teaches. Sometimes our sentimentality leads us to make unwise decisions. I think you can sense my concern. For the sake of the church I would rather err on the side of being too strict than too tolerant.

In Hebrews 13:7, we are urged to obey two commands regarding those who rule over us, but this command has its qualifying clauses. "Obey those (who have spoken to you the word of God), and follow those (whose faith is consistent with the outcome of their conduct.) Something to think about!

I would strongly encourage the reading of John H. Armstrong's book "Can Fallen Pastors Be Restored?" -- a Moody Press book. This is a reasoned, biblical, and historically-based study that addresses this contemporary problem in the Church. Of special note there is in this book a view of this problem throughout Church history.

Anne Sokol's picture

i have had different views on this topic. i think in my younger days (cough), i was pretty much like, you messed up, you're outta here. but now that Vitaliy is listening to everything in the world associated with the concept of God's grace to us , . . .

well, I'm re-thinking.

bottom line, i guess my own worthless opinion is that it's really a case-by-case call. Steve Brown, some relatively-famous radio preacher, says that, for example, committing adultery is not necessarily a pastoral death sentence. That man needs to get back into the pew so he can repair and grow again, but restoration is possible if God leads that way.

i was thinking, too, like, what if the disqualifying sin wasn't sexual. what if the disqualifying sin for a pastor or ministry worker was gluttony? . . . or greed? . . . not sure where that hypothesis was going, but it was sure interesting to think about (if only for a short while).

jimcarwest's picture

Ann:

With all due respect, we must deal with the issue on the basis of "What saith the Scripture?" Grace leads to godly responses. People who have known the grace of God must still conform to the will of God. Is there nothing a Christian leader may do that would disqualify him from service simply because God is gracious? Then what is Paul referring to in 1 Cor. 9:27? Surely, if it boils down to a "case-by-case" basis, it is left to each of us to decide subjectively what the standards of ministry are. Is God's leading the issue? We have seen enough of people justifying their behavior and wrong decisions on the basis of "The Lord led me." What we are discussing here is whether the Bible countenances a return to the role pastor if one has violated certain basic requirements. The two sins you mentioned (gluttony and greed) are hardly in the same category as marital infidelity and divorce. They may counsel a temporary departure from ministry until one has corrected these issues, but to equate them with adultery, that's a stretch, in my opinion.

BryanBice's picture

jimcarwest wrote:
Ann:

With all due respect, we must deal with the issue on the basis of "What saith the Scripture?" Grace leads to godly responses. People who have known the grace of God must still conform to the will of God. Is there nothing a Christian leader may do that would disqualify him from service simply because God is gracious? Then what is Paul referring to in 1 Cor. 9:27? Surely, if it boils down to a "case-by-case" basis, it is left to each of us to decide subjectively what the standards of ministry are. Is God's leading the issue? We have seen enough of people justifying their behavior and wrong decisions on the basis of "The Lord led me." What we are discussing here is whether the Bible countenances a return to the role pastor if one has violated certain basic requirements. The two sins you mentioned (gluttony and greed) are hardly in the same category as marital infidelity and divorce. They may counsel a temporary departure from ministry until one has corrected these issues, but to equate them with adultery, that's a stretch, in my opinion.

And it's noteworthy that the pastoral qualification passages in 1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1 don't deal specifically with gluttony or a bunch of other sins. But both lists begin with "blameless, the husband of one wife..." Some seem almost to have the view that if a pastor has committed adultery/fornication, repented, & been forgiven by God, wife, and church, then forgiveness should mean he can be restored to pastoral leadership. That view fails to see a distinction between forgiveness and restoration--they're not the same. Furthermore, on that basis, any Christian would be qualified for pastoral ministry, would he not? After all, he's been a sinner, repented, and been forgiven. No. Adultery/fornication bars a man from pastoral leadership, for his sin has destroyed the "one-woman man" trait, which can't be restored. In his life, there will always be that "other woman." That doesn't mean--if repentant--he can't serve in other areas, have some other kind of ministry, etc. It simply means he cannot legitimately hold the office of bishop/elder/pastor in a local church. For example, I've read three or four of Gordon McDonald's books, and found some very good material. He can have a fruitful writing ministry, and I can "sit under" that. But I would've been part of the congregation who left when his church voted to restore him to the position of pastor.

Jay's picture

BryanBice wrote:
And it's noteworthy that the pastoral qualification passages in 1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1 don't deal specifically with gluttony or a bunch of other sins. But both lists begin with "blameless, the husband of one wife"...Furthermore, on that basis, any Christian would be qualified for pastoral ministry, would he not? After all, he's been a sinner, repented, and been forgiven. No. Adultery/fornication bars a man from pastoral leadership, for his sin has destroyed the "one-woman man" trait, which can't be restored. In his life, there will always be that "other woman." That doesn't mean--if repentant--he can't serve in other areas, have some other kind of ministry, etc. It simply means he cannot legitimately hold the office of bishop/elder/pastor in a local church.

Let's go one step further - is a man blameless if he's a glutton and has no control over his physical appetite or physical body? I Tim. 3 says:
Quote:
1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

I'd say, based on what is highlighted, that the answer is no. Frankly, I think we don't take this passage seriously enough, for all the ways we like to talk about it.

Grace is grace, but grace isn't lazy or unwilling to hold someone to a standard, nor is it cheap forgiveness or absolution from the disastrous consequences that someone is rightfully reaping.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

BryanBice's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Let's go one step further - is a man blameless if he's a glutton and has no control over his physical appetite or physical body? I Tim. 3 says:
Quote:
1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

I'd say, based on what is highlighted, that the answer is no. Frankly, I think we don't take this passage seriously enough, for all the ways we like to talk about it.

Grace is grace, but grace isn't lazy or unwilling to hold someone to a standard, nor is it cheap forgiveness or absolution from the disastrous consequences that someone is rightfully reaping.

I agree, Jay, that a man who's a glutton at the time of his consideration for the ministry is not blameless, and is therefore, unqualified. I would also concur that a man who's been in the ministry for a number of years and falls into a sinful lifestyle of gluttony or uncontrolled anger, etc. has disqualified himself and should step out of pastoral ministry, at least for a time. In contrast to adultery/fornication sins, though, gluttony can be repented of & forsaken without leaving a permanent "hook." In time, he can (once again?) be marked by a lifestyle of self-control, sober-mindedness, and respectability and perhaps be pastor material. Scripture indicates that such is not the case with adultery.

I realize that NT pastors are not the same as OT priests, but there are some instructive parallels. For example, an adulterous priest would be permanently & immediately removed from office--by stoning, if the sentence were properly executed. I also find it instructive that there are no biblical examples of men who were unfaithful to their wives who went on to serve as priests (in the OT) or apostles/pastors/elders/deacons (in the NT). In contrast, we do have, as noted in other posts, Paul's expression of fear-motivated discipline to keep his body under control lest he be disqualified from service. Isn't it interesting that Paul didn't say, "I love the Lord too much to do something that would disqualify me," but, "I'm afraid if I do ____, I'll be disqualified."

It seems to me that a century ago, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Perhaps the last several decades of ever-increasing moral laxity in the culture has infiltrated the church. I wonder if men in general and even pastors in particular have lost an appropriate fear that compels self-discipline. And maybe the (broader evangelical) church's willingness to restore to pastoral ministry those who've disqualified themselves through moral failure effectively erodes that Pauline fear. I suggest that we who are pastors need to hold onto that fear tenaciously.

Ron Bean's picture

Quote:
Scripture indicates that such is not the case with adultery.

While we may be forgiven of sin, we are not always delivered from the consequences of sin.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Alex Guggenheim's picture

jimcarwest wrote:
Alex:

Since all actions have their basis in thought, just what, in your opinion, would be the thinking that drove Peter to deny our Lord and Thomas to deny the possibility of the resurrection. Any Scripture to support your view? Just what, in your view, explains the failure of these two men. My argument was to show that wrong thinking does not have the same repercussions as wrong behavior. In your opinion, would a man who had been a serial adulterer or married/divorced several times, somehow be qualified for ministry if he had afterward remained ten years faithful to his last wife?

The Scripture here does not reveal what was in Peter's mind specifically so I can only offer conjecture based on what I can observe by way of the text. Peter appears to have been afraid of the consequences of his identity with the Lord seeing the hostile disposition of the crowd hence his denial is based in a selfish interest to preserve his person when asked about his association.

Thomas, I don't believe, was rejecting the resurrection, rather that he insisted on a personal investigation. He did not question the Lord's resurrection but the account of others. And when he saw and the Lord afforded him forensic authentication he did not deny it was the Lord, meaning he believed in the resurrection but in this particular case he wanted to verify it for himself. I don't find cause for faulting with Thomas here.

I do agree, though, that the premise that wrong thinking and wrong behavior are not synonymous. How such a distinction impacts what we are talking about is worthwhile but I do not believe it ultimately creates two classifications which preserves a man in one and permanently disqualifies one in the other.

As to your example of man who was "a serial adulterer or married/divorced several times" and whether or not he can "somehow be qualified for ministry if he had afterward remained ten years faithful to his last wife" I would say, without agreeing to prescribe a certain amount of years rather that it can be said of this man that his fidelity to his wife is his reputation and if all other issues are satisfied with respect to a man qualifying for the Pastorate, yes, in my view he would be an appropriate candidate for the Pastorate.

jimcarwest wrote:
We don't have to wait to find out what a community thinks and how it responds to the kinds of behavior I am calling into question. We already have the instances of Jimmy Swaggert, Tim Bakker, Ted Haggard, David Hocking, Gordon MacDonald, and many more. We know from history what "those that are without" conclude about those in the ministry who have been "restored" to their positions. These men are still being ridiculed and their character put in question years after their fall. The "consensus has been drawn" already.

The scorn of some of these men is not their return to ministry but in some cases their pitiful excuse making, minimization and justification. It is not commentary on the validity or invalidity of the process, rather on the casual and imprudent manner in which they rapidly reclaimed their previous ministries.

And I believe you are wrong about community consensus. Most people saved and unsaved, receive honest confessions. While it might be true that Christians will have more antagonists who are less inclined to receive their confession and reparations such extreme personalities, I do not believe, are what are in view with respect to the issue of reproach from those without.

jimcarwest wrote:
When Paul expressed his fear of "being disqualified," there seemed to be a finality in his view. He seems to think he might be "permanently" disapproved. This is why I hold that a pastor may do something that permanently disqualifies him from ministry leadership.
The passage is not a reference to the qualifications for Pastoral office (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).

jimcarwest wrote:
Having been unfaithful to his wife and to his children, a man might always be suspect to other men and their wives. Something like, when a man has sexually abused children, he is permanently labeled in society as a sex pervert and not allowed to have any contact with children. Many churches run background checks on children's workers and refuse to employ them in such positions. Are they wrong? Doesn't society expect a church to exercise such caution? This is a practical issue, not a theoretical issue. It has nothing to do with whether such a person may be forgiven or not. Our church employed a business manager once who was found later to be involved with embezzlement. Turns out, he had a reputation of that sin with other churches, but these other churches, when faced with giving references, refused to mention his reoccuring failure because they didn't want to be unforgiving. We need to get real about people's failures and how they are often repeatable. Why restore a man to a leadership position when, had he brought this failure to his initial application for ministry to begin with, he would doubtless have been disqualified?
A church is more than free to decide they don't wish to hire someone based on their background. I have not contested any such view. However we are discussing whether Scripture demands that we take the view that a man can be permanently disqualified from the Pastorate, not the license of any assembly to hire whomever they wish. For every example of a man whose past failures were not remedied but he allowed them to persist there is an example of a man who restored himself and his reputation and excelled. The number of stories for or against one's view isn't what justifies their position. They are merely anecdotal.

jimcarwest wrote:
I fail to understand the biblical reasons for your position. Is it based upon the matter of forgiveness alone? Would Judas have been reinstated as an Apostle if only he had not committed suicide and had confessed his betrayal of Christ at some future time? I know this is pure conjecture, but I cannot see why the other Apostles and believers might have felt required to restore him to his office simply to prove that they understood the meaning of forgiveness.
Interestingly Judas was commissioned as an Apostle by our Lord who knew full well the future of Judas' betrayal. I would shy away from this citation noting its exceptional circumstances.

jimcarwest wrote:
There is an interesting example in the OT of Shimei, who cursed David when he was fleeing from Absalom. When David returned after the death of his son, Shimei's response was one of repentance, and David spared his life. Yet, when David was dying, he warned Solomon about Shimei, for he didn't trust the sincerity of his confession of loyalty. After David's death, Solomon issued a warning to Shimei to test his loyalty. Shimei complied for a time, but when a circumstance arose to his advantage, he acted disloyally, and this led to his judgment and death. Now how might this apply to a NT situation. I have a friend (now with the Lord), who was greatly used in ministry as a pastor and evangelist. He failed maritally twice, with sporadic weaknesses shown in between periods of faiithfulness during which he was "restored" to ministry because of his great ministry gifts. But think of the churches and individuals that were injured by all this. This could have been avoided by relegating him to a place of "disqualified" as Paul teaches. Sometimes our sentimentality leads us to make unwise decisions. I think you can sense my concern. For the sake of the church I would rather err on the side of being too strict than too tolerant.
Again for every story on one side there is another on the other side, these are not weight in the argument. The case of Shimei is worth learning principles from, however they do not serve to rule regarding the ecclesiastical determinations. But your attempt to thrust it upon the story of your friend lacks adhesion.

You clearly state, "he was "restored" to ministry because of his great ministry gifts". Obviously this is a case of an imprudent restoration. This, again, does not speak of the process or its validation, rather toward the haste of those in this case.

Anne Sokol's picture

it's just interesting to ponder all these ideas. play with our logic and minds. evil grin Smile I'm not ready to decide one way or the other across the boad. jimcarwest says that it's a local church decision (which I repeated by saying it's a case-by-case call), but then he doesn't really seem to think that is true--he says God says it's permanent.

does one-case adultery make a man permanently a blamable, non-one-woman man? i'm not sure you can say that. if a person is a glutton, he is not permanantly labeled blamable and a glutton even when he is transformed and not a glutton any more?

in one sense, i can see this would be yes, but then, i would also say that the answer is no. because a man can return to being soley and faithfully devoted to his wife alone. or Spirit satisfied in his eating. what else the the point?

i guess, in general too, i dont' like arguing from bad examples. sure, a man who should not be restored is restored for all the wrong reasons. Does that mean it's wrong to restore in every case?

p.s. i think most of us dislike the idea of grace because we equate it with permissiveness and easy answers. i think it is anything but that when we really can grasp it. i think understanding grace makes us more able to call our sins "sin" because we dont' have to excuse it away to live up to some acceptable standard. we all disobey the 10 commandements more than we even realize ourselves. i do wish we had an atmosphere where people, even pastors, are able to be uncondemned, even subtly, for honesty about our sins and how Christ is really the one responsible for our sanctification. instead of lowering godliness to some level of human conformity. not saying we all do that, but it's a 'yuman tendency.

Jay's picture

I know that we've already mentioned these verses, but they seemed apropos in light of Anne's last post. I do think that the consequences of sinning in this way bring permanent and lasting damage to a person. Note what Solomon wrote:

Prov. 6 wrote:
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife;
none who touches her will go unpunished.

30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense;
he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
and his disgrace will not be wiped away.

34 For jealousy makes a man furious,
and he will not spare when he takes revenge.

Or what Paul said:
Quote:
13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

It seems to me that Paul's admonition is based on a one time sexual incident, and not on a constant course of action. So I do not think that it's possible for a person to be restored to Pastoral work in light of the consequences and the way that the situation is described by Scriptural writers.

Finally, there's James' admonition as well:

Quote:
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Anne Sokol's picture

there's the question of what if the wife commits adultery. have heard of that too.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jay C. wrote:
I know that we've already mentioned these verses, but they seemed apropos in light of Anne's last post. I do think that the consequences of sinning in this way bring permanent and lasting damage to a person. Note what Solomon wrote:
Prov. 6 wrote:
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife;
none who touches her will go unpunished.

30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense;
he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
and his disgrace will not be wiped away.

34 For jealousy makes a man furious,
and he will not spare when he takes revenge.

Or what Paul said:
Quote:
13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

It seems to me that Paul's admonition is based on a one time sexual incident, and not on a constant course of action. So I do not think that it's possible for a person to be restored to Pastoral work in light of the consequences and the way that the situation is described by Scriptural writers.

Finally, there's James' admonition as well:

Quote:
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.
Your bible references, while having in view immorality, do not pass muster with respect to their ecclesiastical rule on the matter. First, whether it is one time or many the issue of the joining of one to another in fornication is the context here and it does not have in view once or many time. The passage nor any hermeneutic provides such a position. Rather it is a commentary on the sin itself. What you have done here is violate a basic hermeneutic by projecting onto it your view of "how many times" and then exporting it from its context and attempting to import it into another context as a ruling text.

As to the judgment of teachers, yes they will be judged but this judgment is referring to divine judgment and has no bearing regarding our determinations about the qualification for office of a man.

But I understand your earnestness and the seriousness of the issue to you as it is to me.

jimcarwest's picture

Alex:

It seems to me that we are all pretty well polarized in our views on this subject. No matter what biblical passages are cited, there is always a justification for why that doesn't apply to this subject. It seems to me that the burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of those who hold that moral failure does not disqualify a man from ministry leadership. The Scripture says clearly that "being above reproach" is required of a pastor, and that his reputation with "those who are without" is of prime importance. We cannot dilute those requirements by introducing a discussion of God's grace. Even within the context of grace, there seems to be the warning that grace does not redeem a "position" that has been forfeited by public sin. Such a view would seem to be classified as "anit-nomian." If the word "disqualified" in 1 Cor. 9:27 does not apply to this discussion, it appears to me that, for the sake of argument, one might be too enamored with one's own point of view. Again, I believe that most reasonable people understand the Scripture to deny continued ministry leadership as a pastor to those who have violated the requirments laid down. As far as I am enlightened on this subject, it appears that the practice of the early Christians was to remove people from ministry who had sinned in this manner. So the burden of proof rests with those who may attempt to rule out the plain sense of Scripture. What's the rule? "When the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense." To do otherwise runs the risk of making the Scripture say what it doesn't say.

jimcarwest's picture

Anne:

If one case of adultery doesn't disqualify a man from ministry, how many cases would require it. If a man can be a "two-woman" man and not be blamable, why couldn't he also be a "three-woman" man?

Do "those who are without" view gluttony on a par with adultery? No.

Yes, a man may return to being faithful in the future to his wife, but can he remove the stigma that the sin of adultery leaves on his life? Wouldn't there always be a question and a doubt in the minds of others? Take an unsaved man, for example, if he hears that the minister violated so sacred a trust with his wife, wouldn't he tend to view this man with suspicion? This is the where the real world lives. It is not the world where "we ponder all these ideas, play with our logic and minds, evil grin." The ministry is the most sacred employ of all. No other responsiblity in the church has so high a list of expectations. We dare not lower or weaken that standard.

Yes, a local church is autonomous in making its decisions, but I never sought to imply that an autonomous local church is free to take a weak position on the qualifiecations for the pastorate. Scripture holds the final authority.

To imply that many people hold to a strict standard for the pastorate because they "don't like the idea of grace" seems unfair. That is like saying someone is "legalistic" because they adhere to a strict reading of the Scripture.

If one holds to what the Scripture says, that cannot be equal to "excusing it away" because they don't want to call their sins "sin." The fact that everyone is often in violation of the 10 commandments, even if only it one's heart, does not remove the Pauline standards for ministry leadership as required in his Epistles.

To imply that holding to the standards of Scripture is somehow preempting from Christ the responsibility for sanctification is just a stretch. Obeying the plain commands and instructions of Scripture does not imply "lowering godliness to some level of human conformity." We are not discussing legalism in this thread, but the biblically-stated standards of leadership.

Since marital faithfulness is thought by most to be a critical condition, if even that is not now in play, then just about anything goes. All the other qualifications might easily be rationalized to be of lesser value.

I appreciate your questioning mind, but in the end, let's test our thoughts by the plain sense of Scripture.

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