What should happen to pastors who fall into sexual misconduct? Should they return, repentant, to their pulpits/leadership within weeks or months – or should they return at all?
Around the world sexual misconduct is defeating ministers and destroying ministries. As the numbers of fallen leaders grow it is crucial to know what should happen to them – for their good and for the good of the Church. Does the Bible and church history give us any help with these kinds of questions?
In the 1990s, when sexual misconduct among some rather well-known evangelical pastors in America reached major proportions, I began to question the practices of various churches and organizations in how they handled a major moral problem. I also studied abundant evidence that suggested this problem was massive in scale and scope. Very few were interested then but the evidence I gave then has only grown more obvious over time. We have a crisis and few want to talk about it. I remain curious as to why this is true.
I am persuaded, more than a decade after writing The Stain That Stays, that this book is more needed now than it was then (the first edition appeared in 1995). I seek to provide a biblical, historical, theological and ethical framework for dealing with morally fallen leaders. I make some rather bold suggestions about a correct response. I do not think I would change more than a paragraph or two if I wrote this book in 2012. Sadly, it is needed more than ever.
Though this book is extremely valuable for elders/deacons (church leaders) who are required to deal with the issue in hard times the real value is that all leaders read and study it in advance of a failure. When it first appeared several seminaries used it to train future leaders. Sadly, I see no class on pastoral theology or practice that even deals with this problem now. Is it me or is this still a major problem that we wish would go away? We seem to have little or no conviction about dealing with it before or after the breakdown.
For the record, mainline churches deal with this problem better, and more easily, than evangelical and extremely conservative churches. I have some theories about why this is so but I would love to hear what you think. Copies are available from Amazon at $17.99. I encourage leadership groups to study it. I would love to help you if you ask.