I was googling a colleague recently… not any one that I know… just a pastor of a really large church who had an affair with another adult in his congregation. He just got another job, helping other ministers in times of crisis. I was interested in his new position, wondering what the program looked like, so I googled his name.
The first thing to come up was an atheist site, decrying the fact that the pastor got another job, and that he was making a lot of money (the job’s funded by the Lilly Foundation 8/29 edit: CF Foundation). I scrolled down through the comments to hear what people had to say on the matter, because I often think interesting to hear what atheists have to say about our denomination.
But, not this time. They were freaking out that this guy had an affair, and that he got another position. Not a pastoral post, per say, but just another job. (I would link and name names, but I don’t really want them to find my site. There were really mean, hater comments.)
The thing that struck me as odd is the strange logic that seemed to flow under all of this.
- Athiests don’t like Christians because Christians are judgmental.
- Christians make mistakes, so that makes them hypocrites.
- A pastor makes a mistake.
- The Christians forgive, and… you know… after years of unemployment, think that the guy might still have something to offer in his professional life.
- That makes the Atheists (or at least the ones on this particular site) REALLY irate.
I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. It feels like the Atheists are much more judgmental than we are. It sounds like the Atheists are using this to point out the hypocrisy, but did anyone in our denomination ever say that pastors don’t make huge and horrible mistakes? Did anyone ever say that we are sinless and that nothing like this will ever happen? I don’t think so.
Pastors are human. We make mistakes. Huge ones. Some pastors have affairs. I know it, you know it. It often destroys the church they minister in. And it usually wreaks havoc on the pastor and his or her family.
I don’t like it. You don’t like it. And even though we know that we are held to a much higher standard, it’s a sad and bitter fact of life that it happens. It doesn’t take very much time in the ministry to hear these cases and cringe. Somewhere along the line, the stories begin to sound a lot less like a juicy piece of gossip, and more like a fatal car crash. And denominations often use great care as they try to help mend the church and pastor back together again. We try to find some place of forgiveness and reconciliation in all of it.
Of course, I could point out that our really amazing male preachers are usually the ones who get the breaks on this… but… I don’t know that for a fact. Maybe it’s just the high profile cases that I know the most about.
All I know for certain is that it happens, and it’s a sad, sad day when it does. There’s certainly hypocrisy when a pastor lies to cover it up. There’s hypocrisy when a pastor says something like, “Why would we have a gay pride parade? We don’t have a murderers’ pride parade” while he was in the habit of hiring a male prostitute.
But let me be the first to say… on the behalf of our denomination… we make mistakes. Huge blunders. And we make them often. So please do not blame God when it does. Please do not let it destroy your entire faith. And please, please try to forgive us.