Seth Udinski , FISM News
The murky waters of misconduct among pastors are never easy to navigate. While grace is always necessary (because we remember the grace first shown to us in Christ), Christians must take special care to support healthy boundaries and protections against men who would use the pastoral position to take advantage of others.
At last week’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Nashville, a rule banning sexual abusers from holding the pastorate was rightly passed. The rule states, in part,
Any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.
While some would argue this rule defies grace and takes a position of judgement that only belongs to God, this position is undoubtedly biblically faithful. The health and protection of the Church is too important to risk handing authority over to a man who has committed such acts.
However, in a study recently passed by Lifeway Research in Nashville, not all pastors agree with the SBC’s bold stance. According to the roughly 1,000 surveyed Protestant pastors, 83% agree that if a man commits sexual abuse against a child, he must be permanently banned from pastoral ministry. 74% agree that those who sexually abuse an adult should be permanently banned. Only 27%, however, agreed that if a man commits adultery (i.e. sexual sin that is not abuse), he should be banned permanently.
While it is encouraging that many pastors understand the need to protect the flock of God, it is troubling that there are some who seem to think it is right for a man to enter into pastoral ministry after committing abuse. We must show grace, but we must never forsake the protection of the Church by turning a blind eye to abuse.