“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is.”
― C.S. Lewis
I’m enjoying my last full day at the beach in Florida before heading home. In the next two weeks, I will presenting two stories of sexual abuse; one in the SBC and another in a nondenominational church. I also want to followup on the lack of response by SBC pastor, Steve Bradley, to Jules Woodson. His silence is nothing short of abusive since he was the main pastor in charge when Jules was molested.
Today, I was stunned by a post recommended on The Gospel Coalition’s website. It was posted by a TGC insider, Jared Wilson, on the 9 Marks website. Folks, it is obvious to me that these guys do not get the power dynamics involved when a pastor commits what they claim is simple *adultery.
This post discusses how to restore a pastor who has had an *affair with a partner.* Read that carefully. There is no mention made of the misuse of the pulpit to gain sexual favors with vulnerable women. (Their churches only have men as pastors and one can assume if the *partner* was a man, that pastor would be out of the pulpit for a lifetime.)
Wilson begins his post by outlining potential disqualifying sins beside *adultery.*
we rarely bring in the disqualification conversation as it relates to short-tempered, argumentative, or otherwise un-self-controlled pastors
Wilson claims that his *tribe* reckoned with Mark Driscoll which is codswallop!
As one who has followed Driscoll for 10 years, I feel confident in saying that nothing could be further from the truth. Driscoll was the darling of the Calvinista set. Piper was delighted with Driscoll’s theology. Papa Bear Mohler even tried to get janet Mefferd in trouble when she exposed Driscoll’s plagiarism.The seminaries couldn’t wait to get Driscoll on their campuses.
Evangelicals seem to most often discuss disqualification as it relates to adultery—which, to be clear, is disqualifying—but we rarely bring in the disqualification conversation as it relates to short-tempered, argumentative, or otherwise un-self-controlled pastors. The “fall” of Mark Driscoll is probably the closest my particular tribe has come to reckoning with the full-fledged (dis)qualifications for ministry, but it is still not a widely understood concept in the age of the celebrity minister.
Let’s take a look at a post that Jared Wilson wrote in 2013. By then, most people with an ounce of sense knew something was really off with Driscoll. Wilson did not *reckon* with Driscoll. He promoted him, even saying that Driscoll saved his life. (You can read where he says this here although the post seems to have disappeared..) Read his whole post. He even goes after the haters (read bloggers).
He might say this post was begging Driscoll to do better but The Gospel Coalition, Piper, Akin, Mohler and others promoted Driscoll and allowed his behavior to get increasingly bizarre, verbalizing excuse after excuse. Wilson, in this post, even gave Driscoll an out by acknowledging the possibility that his plagiarism was *unintentional.* Now where have we heard that before, folks?….
There are lots of people who want Mark Driscoll to fail and fall. I am not one of them. I love and respect Pastor Mark. His preaching helped saved my life. I have profited immensely from his ministry, especially in my early days of church planting and trying to figure out what missional ministry could look like among young adults. I do not know Mark personally. We have never exchanged so much as email messages. But we have mutual friends. He was kind enough to endorse my first book. During my time with the Docent Research Group, I did some editing work on a few of his book manuscripts. When I wrote the piece linked above, he was gracious enough to send a note of thanks and encouragement through his personal assistant.
Its clergy abuse, not an affair
Please note the assumption that the pastor simply had an *affair partner.* Wilson appear to make an assumption that this sin was simply a mutually consenting relationship. Why do I say this? He does not mention the possibility that this was not a simple affair but an abusive relationship in which a pastor used his office to wield his power over a vulnerable member of his church body.
cutting off all contact with their affair partner,
I wrote It’s Clergy Sex Abuse; Not an Affair! in 2016.
A pastor holds a position of power in the relationship and is misusing the power differential to gratify himself at the expense of a parishioner who comes to him for spiritual advice or counseling.
Here is what the American Counseling Association has to say about the ethics of a sexual relationship between a counselor and a client. Surely the church should agree with such ethics.
” The 2005 ACA Code of Ethics continues to recognize the harm that can be impacted upon clients when they are sexually intimate with their counselor. The counseling relationship is one based on trust, so we must respect the power differential inherent in any counseling relationship regardless of the counselor’s theoretical orientation or perspective. Engaging in any type of sexual or intimate relationship with a current client is abuse of power. Clients come into counseling emotionally and psychologically vulnerable and in need of assistance, so a counselor trying to engage in such relationships would be trying to take advantage of that client and their vulnerabilities to meet their own needs. Relational/cultural theory frames this as striving for a “power with” instead of a “power over” relationship.”
Google power dynamics in a pastor having sex with a congregant You will see article after article on the particular problem of a pastor have sexual relations with members of his church.
It is deeply concerning to me, given the discussions of the last year, that The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks and Jared Wilson are still stuck on the simple paradigm of the pastor’s *affair partner.*
In discussing repentance, once again, the other person is not mentioned.
He mentions that there are more parties at stake than the sinner. However, the woman is not mentioned in his paradigm. He’s worried about the reputation of the church and *the body.* The woman is not mentioned. It appears to me that she is just a problem to be overlooked.
We are simply discerning repentance. That is biblical, and it is gracious because there are more parties at stake than simply the sinner in question — there is the body, the reputation of the church, and the credibility of our witness for Christ
The pastor’s restoration to the body can be immediate but, once again, the other half of the equation is absolutely disregarded.
What about the woman? Is she still part of the church? If he has been involved in using his position to abuse a member of the church, why should he be allowed to return to the same church body? How are they supporting her in the midst of this emphasis on the pastor? Does she even matter to them,?
For any person who has fallen into discipline-worthy sin, restoration to the fellowship can be relatively immediate. I say “relatively” because of the considerations above. But paying penance is not a biblical virtue.
Restoration to the pulpit is possible but not one word is said about the woman.
Does the woman just sit there and watch the guy become the celebrity pastor once again? What happens to her in this paradigm?
Repentance is an immediate re-entry to the fellowship, but re-entry to the pastorate takes the testing of time.
John Piper: And very practically I think this is what I would say: A man who commits adultery, say, in the ministry, should immediately resign and look for other work. And he should make no claim on the church at all. He should get another kind of job and go about his life humbly receiving the discipline and sitting and receiving ministry, whether in that church or in another church. And then the church should turn that around if it believes it should, not him.
Why don’t they get that a clergy sexual relationship usually has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power?
This post, and another I plan to write about next week, appears to show that we have a long way to go when it comes to clergy sex abuse. It appears these guys still think this is all about sex when it is really all about power.
That power, in the hands of the clergy, can be quite dangerous. It often shows itself in other areas such as authoritarian behavior, entitlement mentality, serious anger issues, emotional abuse of others, etc.
Jared Wilson is a leader in the SBC which supposedly cares about sex abuse in the church.
I am saddened by the lack of insight in this article. Wilson is a leader in the SBC
Jared C. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Spurgeon College, Author in Residence at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, General Editor of For The Church (and host of the FTC Podcast), and Director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO.
It appears that some of them still don’t get it or don’t want to get it. Why not?