Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sexual Sins in the Church

Sexual sins are in the news. Barbara Walters and her illicit affairs (Has she no shame?). Governor Elliot Spitzer of New York and his high priced call girls. The "D.C. Madame" and her list of the rich and powerful who made use of the services she provided via her 'escort service.' Human trafficking that lures unsuspecting women into a lifestyle of sexual slavery. The list goes on and on. Things like this are in the headlines nearly everyday.

In the fall of 2006 the evangelical church in this country was rocked to its core when the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, was 'outed' for substance abuse and gay sex. He was summarily removed from the NAE along with his church and entered a period of intense pastoral accountability.

In the last week two stories hit the national airwaves about pastors being arresting in sting operations for soliciting sex on-line. I guess that I don't know how to write about this matter without consciously reminding myself that I am no different from these men for I am cut from the same cloth. It is only by God's grace that I have not fallen into such sins. I grieve for these men, their families and their churches.

The first story is of a Baptist minister in Plano, Texas who served on the staff of a church of 26,000 people. For two weeks he chatted online with an undercover police officer who was posing as a 13 year old girl. He drove 200 miles to meet this person and was arrested. You can read the story here as reported in the Dallas Morning News:

Megachurch pastor caught in internet sting resigns: Plano minister held in sex sting resigns Dallas Morning News News for Dallas, Texas Religion The Dallas Morning News

The second story is about a minister in our own denomination arrested in suburban Chicago for much the same thing. Apparently some ads appeared on for massage services. Police received complaints about those ads and then decided to post one of their own to see what would happen. This pastor along with four other men were arrested after answering the ads and inquiring about the possibility of sex for money (each of the men initiated this discussion). You can read about it here:

Illinois PCA congregation grieves after pastor's arrest: <b id=red>Updated 5/12:</b> Trinity members grieve after pastor's sex charge :: News :: PIONEER PRESS :: The Doings Hinsdale

With my background in prison ministry I know something about sexual offenders and addictive hehaviors. What's abundantly clear is that a person just doesn't wake up one day and decide to go online to solicit sex from a complete stranger. Most often that act is a culmination of behaviors that have gone unchecked for years. That's what I find so tragic in all of this -- both men have been in ministry for years. They have preached sermons, officiated at weddings and funerals, conducted baptisms, celebrated the Lord's Supper all the while living a secret life of addiction to sexual sin. Their legacy is tainted -- elders and fellow ministers who have served with them feel betrayed, lay-people who once looked up to them now stand at a distance. Odds are against them ever entering into ministry again -- the most notable exception being Dr. Gordon MacDonald who was restored to ministry after his fall from grace over 20 years ago.

My prayers are for these men, their families and the churches they served. I am unconcerned about them ever returning to ministry -- I pray that with God's help they will overcome their addictive behaviors and I also pray that their marriages will be restored.

Since September I led my congregation through the book of Proverbs on Sunday evenings. As one sinner to another I admonish you to heed the words of Proverbs 1-9 and pay special attention to the warnings about sexual sin. Here is a sample:

"For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it." Proverbs 5:3-6

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not he scorched?" Proverbs 6:27-28

Here is a description of one who commits sexual sin: "With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." Proverbs 7:21-23

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