Shaun Tabatt of Cross Focused Media was kind enough to procure a review copy of The Stain that Stays: The Church’s Response to the Sexual Misconduct of Its Leaders from Christian Focus for me.
This is a timely book that it going to the top of my list because it pertains to recent discussions I’ve been having about this issue. It is my firm conviction that sexual misconduct permanently disqualifies one from leadership positions in the church. My dialogue partners disagree. Strongly.
One thing that I’ve found frustrating about the discussion/debate has been the constant misunderstanding/misrepresentation of what I’m saying and the constant conflation of issues. My position is that the leader who falls into such grievous sins can absolutely repent and be forgiven by God and by those whom they have offended through their sin. They can and should be restored to fellowship. They should be treated as brothers/sisters in the Lord and loved as we would love anyone else.
But this is entirely different from saying that they should be restored to leadership. Leadership positions are not anyone’s by necessity or right. They are theirs by qualification and once someone disqualifies him- or herself then their ship has sailed. My dialogue partners keep acting as if I’m saying that the offender shouldn’t be forgiven. That’s not what I’m saying nor is it the issue. They also think that I’m hung up on divorce and remarriage. I’m not, and I’ve explained that, but that does factor into the disagreement.
When we read about the qualifications of leaders, forgiveness is not among the items listed. Gifting and charisma also are not listed as the necessary qualifications. One can be a gifted preacher/teacher (the ability to teach is but one qualification) while not being fit for the position of pastor/elder/deacon. Integrity is a qualification that the person should possess and sexual misconduct demonstrates a serious lack of integrity.
I’d go so far as to say that wanting to once again occupy a position of leadership after having committed such sin demonstrated a continued lack of integrity. Even if one has repented and been forgiven, why would they want to once again hold a position that they so recklessly defiled? Why can’t they be satisfied to sit among the congregation and to hold the position of minister of reconciliation, which is reserved for all believers?
So I am very much looking forward to reading what John H. Armstrong has to say about the issue. I’ve heard my dialogue partners and I don’t agree with them nor have I been convinced by their arguments so far. I don’t know if Armstrong agrees with me or with them and I have no ideas what kind of arguments he’s going to present; but I can’t wait to find out.
If anyone can recommend any other resources on the subject then please do. I welcome arguments from various viewpoints. I’d like to give each position a fair hearing (which I believe I have been doing thus far, but I haven’t been engaging scholars in conversation, so scholars might bring more evidence to bear on the subject).