Harsh Punishment for a Pastor Slow to Divorce
During the first ten years of my ministry, pastors who had an affair, essentially having slipped once, were usually transferred to another conference where he and his wife, the new one or the old one, could start over with a clean slate. Then the practice changed. They were given two years exile or two years leave of absence, and then they returned to their conference for appointment, with either the old or the new wife.
Then there were several bishops who were involved in affairs who divorced and married the one with whom she or he had the affair and they were forgiven by the Church, continuing as bishop or as a pastor. But those whose spouses forgave them were treated by the Church as spurned lovers. Since then, the pattern has been much the same. Where the spouse was forgiving and the marriage continued, the pastor was cut off at the legs. The Church seems to have become the rod of the wrath of the one who lost the pastor lover.
Oh yes, I’m supposed to be commenting on a Council decision.
Surprise, a pastor admitted to an affair that was broken off when he didn’t divorce his wife and the affairee blew the whistle. And how did that turn out? The Council did as it always does. It dismissed any objections, as did the trial court and the appellate committee. No one is saying it is because he didn’t divorce his wife. It just works out that way.
Weird. Really weird. It is too much of a coincidence.
The spouse can reconcile and the Church can’t. Something is upside down here.
Unfortunately, I do not have access to any more information than is in the statement of facts. I have documented other cases where the woman was the predator and got to the pastor when he happened to be vulnerable. I have documented cases where the woman lied very effectively, except the evidence showed she lied but no one anywhere in the judicial system of the Church wanted to see that.
I understand that everyone who errs should face consequences. I understand that confession is not sufficient to necessarily ease the punishment. What I do not understand is that there is no nuance in the Church, especially for men who do not divorce and marry the one with whom he had an affair.
And if counsel for the respondent in this case is right about all kinds of bad actions against the pastor, it appears the Church can do anything it pleases to that pastor because, well, he said he was guilty.
I have heard all the arguments that appellate bodies should respect the trial court because they received all the evidence and were eyeball to eyeball with the accuser and the accused. “Respect the closest judicial body to the evidence.” And I have heard all the arguments about appellate bodies looking only at law and not substance of the case.
I understand all that. But you’d think that somewhere along the line, the justice of the Church would be a little easier on some pastor who did not get a divorce.
Not this time.
I’m so glad we don’t have a death penalty!