“Avoid, as you would the plague, a clergyman who … has risen from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to a high position” Jerome (52.5)
John Stackhouse Jr and his wife, Sarah-Jane Britton (Bastararche) before her first marriage ended): thoughts on repentance and restoration.
At the moment, I have been learning more than I ever wanted to know about the broken marriages of John Stackhouse Jr. and Sarah-Jane Britton (aka Bastarche.) More on that later. I started to think about their families and previous spouses and wondered about the hurt. I have been informed that there is hurt, which makes me sad. There is little to rejoice about in this situation, at least at this moment in time. I thought about apologies, repentance, and true reform instead of the restoration we write about here. However, I rarely see any example of true repentance in the stories I cover. Yes, there have been apologies. In some cases, there are no apologies…In other cases, there are lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, as seen in the Johnny Hunt situation.
I know of one pastor who had an affair and handled it correctly. He apologized and truly repented. He decided that he would never return to the pulpit. I must admit that I felt bad about that since he is an excellent teacher. He went to work at Home Depot. As time passed, he began to teach a small Sunday school class and has continued to do so. There is much that I say which found its root in his thoughts on life and theology.
I don’t think much of quick apologies since apologies are lived out over time. I do not believe in the restoration of pastors or leaders who have abused (clerical abuse) one of their congregants. When Scripture talks about restoration, I think it speaks of the restoration to the body of Christ after a time of sorrowful repentance. But back in the pulpit or positions of authority over others? No, it is time for them to live out their faith in humility, out of the eye of the admiring congregants. So, what is true repentance?
(PS Anyone who thinks they are spiritually superior and uses David’s example will be kicked off the blog until they have done their homework.)
What does a no account, scandal-ridden, former British Prime Minister like John Profumo have to teach us?
Here is a link to Wikipedia on John Profumo.
John Dennis Profumo /prəˈfjuːmoʊ/ prə-FEW-moh; 30 January 1915 – 9 March 2006) was a British politician whose career ended in 1963 after a sexual relationship with the 19-year-old model Christine Keelerin 1961. The scandal, which became known as the Profumo affair, led to his resignation from the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.(
After his resignation Profumo worked as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall, a charity in East London, and became its chief fundraiser. These charitable activities helped to restore his reputation and he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975.
David French is a writer that I follow. I have learned much from his writings. He had much to say about John Profumo. On 12/22, he wrote Remembering What Repentance Looks, subtitled: “True sorrow looks more like resignation than restoration.”
Let’s start with Profumo’s rise and fall.
John Profumo, born in 1915, was an English aristocrat, a soldier and a politician. He served in World War II with distinction. He landed on the beaches at Normandy and was mentioned in dispatches. He was awarded a military OBE in 1944.
He began his political career as a member of Parliament, and by 1960 he rose to become secretary of state for war in the British cabinet. Shortly thereafter he began an affair with a young woman named Christine Keeler. The affair was bad enough, but it was rendered incalculably worse when it was discovered that Keeler had also been sleeping with the Soviet naval attaché Evegeny Ivanov.
At first Profumo lied about the affair to Parliament. A 2006 profile of Profumo by Theodore Dalrymple notes that lying to Parliament was then “regarded as the most heinous sin a gentleman could commit, rather than as merely par for the course.” But then he confessed, “resigned in shame and resolved never to obtrude upon the public again.”
His service to the poor.
Profumo was an aristocrat, meaning he could have retired to his clubs, drowned his sorrow in fine drink, and played cricket. He wasn’t the only aristocrat to fail. He was, after all, a war hero and one of the boys. According to Wikipedia:
On 21 December 1944, Major (temporary Lieutenant Colonel) Profumo was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, Military Division) “in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in Italy”,specifically, for his service on Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander‘s staff commanding the 15th Army Group. In November 1947, Acting Colonel Profumo was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the United States “in recognition of distinguished services in the cause of the Allies”.
Profumo eschewed all that and began his decades-long work with the poor. According to French:
What did he do? He dedicated his life to quiet service for the poor. As Dalrymple notes, “He went to work for the poor of the East End of London, starting by washing dishes in a hostel.” After washing dishes, he raised money for Toynbee Hall, a charitable organization located in London.
Read the following sentence carefully.
None of this service was performative. None of it was designed to pave the way for his return to public life. Once he lost the public trust, he never attempted to gain it back.
Queen Elizabeth later recognized and honored him for this work, but he never asked anyone to trust him again.
According to French:
The irony is that he did in fact recover that trust. In 1975 he was awarded a CBE for his charitable work, and In 1995, he sat at Queen Elizabeth’s right at a dinner honoring Margaret Thatcher’s 70th birthday. And when he died in 2006, he was eulogized as a deeply honorable man. But he never asked for the public to trust him again. He never tried to make a political return.
He includes this quote by Theodore Dalrymple, which I think should be hung on every pastor and theologian’s door.
In fact, the dignity, discretion, restraint, and repentance with which Profumo lived his life after his fall were the last gasp of an old system of values. His honorable conduct—continued for years, away from the blaze of publicity—would now be almost inconceivable among the political elite.
David French contrasted Profumo’s with that of celebrity coach Hugh Frieze, who is now at Auburn (at least I think so. I don’t follow college football.)
Late last month Auburn University hired Hugh Freeze to be its next football coach. Who is Hugh Freeze? You might remember him from the book or the movie “The Blind Side.”
…You might remember him as the former football coach at Ole Miss, where his rising star fell (briefly) to earth after he was caught in multiple recruiting violations and caught calling a phone number tied to an escort service.
Frieze is mad that Christians have been “unforgiving.” I assume he means towards him…
He resigned—but then reappeared a few months later in January 2018 to speak at Liberty University’s convocation service, where he asked for forgiveness and then scolded other Christians for being unforgiving. Liberty hired him to be its football coach that December.
In a 2020 Sports Illustrated interview, Freeze expressed frustration that he still had to deal with the repercussions of his past sin three years on from the scandal. “To my knowledge, I’ve tried, with anybody I could, I made sure they knew that if I hurt them I was sorry, but it’s time to move on,” he said. “How many times can we write about it? How many times can we talk about it? I said I was wrong. I’ve paid a price. My family paid a heck of a price. When can we move on?”
Frieze wished to compare himself to the prodigal son who came home and was forgiven.
David French observed the parable of the prodigal son, which should be repeated regularly by pastors of good faith. Be sure you get the part in which the prodigal son Does NOT ASK for His Former Position. Repeat: he did not ask to be exalted once again.
A young man asked his father for his inheritance, left home, and squandered his wealth so thoroughly that he found himself destitute, reduced to eating pig feed. In his desperation, the young man repents:
I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ (Emphasis added.)
Note that the prodigal son does not ask for his former position. This is not a man seeking his former prestige. He’s broken, seeking only to be a hired hand. In an act of remarkable grace, however, his father restores his son:
But the father told his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” So they began to celebrate.
So, who exemplifies the prodigal son more? Frieze, who demanded it, or Profumo, who labored long without recognition?
David French’s warning: Powerful people should not seek a second chance at the prestige they once possessed.
Any person can live a life of great meaning and honor far removed from the spotlight. And not one of us is capable of peering into a man’s heart to know when he’s changed. But let me suggest a clear warning sign that repentance isn’t real—when a powerful person doesn’t just ask for forgiveness but also seeks restoration to the life they lived before.
No one is entitled to be a pastor or a politician, and there are times when the continued quest for those positions is itself a sign that a person simply doesn’t understand the price they should pay when they’ve committed a serious wrong. Powerful people should not seek a second chance at the prestige they once possessed.
There is much in the article that I did not cover. French specifically looked at the abuse in the SBC. His thoughts are worth the read. His post went a long way in helping me see how true Christians respond to being called on the carpet. It doesn’t involve lawsuits, it doesn’t involve threats, and it doesn’t include arrogance. A genuine Christian responds humbly by removing themself from the limelight and following their Savior on the humble path of caring for others, even at a cost to their ill-conceived dignity. There are way too many self-aggrandizing celebrities in the broader evangelical world. Time for some genuinely humble leaders. Do you know any?