No Grace For You

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126 Responses

  1. EricL says:

    We live in a society that is so strange. Some things are so in-your-face that we can hardly avoid them: dire news events, celebrity gossip, temptations through media, intimate details about politicians/ celebrities’ lives, and the latest Facebook feed or Pinterest post.

    And yet other things seem so hard to find: genuine fellowship, close and enduring friendships, loving accountability, mentoring in work and life skills, extended families that care and are close, solid marriages where the husband and wife love and respect each other.

    If the church body could just work on flipping these two around, then there would be far less funerals. At least, those are my initial thoughts.

  2. Michael says:

    EricL,

    Those are very good thoughts…

  3. Josh the Baptist says:

    My initial thoughts are crushing conviction. A sickness in the pit of my stomach. Recognition of what a whitewashed tomb I am.

  4. Michael says:

    Josh,

    This is hard stuff…hard to get our arms around how to deal with this stuff.
    I’m kind of at a loss and know I need to think it all through again.

  5. Steve Wright says:

    In reading the linked article there sounds like a lot of backstory known to the family but unknown to the internet world….as it should be. I hope the wife and children mentioned can experience some peace in the midst of their grief.

  6. Nonnie says:

    I have so many mixed feelings about this.

    Anger…..anger over adultery, anger over suicide, anger him choosing death over a wife and children who loved him and who have their hearts broken…anger over a man who would throw everything away for sex.

    But he didn’t deserve to die and if only…….if only he would have seen through the condemnation of the enemy who tempted him to sin and then, little by little, drew him to destruction….if only he would have taken the chance to hope for grace.

    I’m so sorry for his family.

  7. Michael says:

    Nonnie,

    It has me upside down…because I know that this could happen again and again along with all the concerns we’ve written about over the years.

  8. Plucked Brand says:

    Very sad story indeed Michael. We are all a click away from finding ourselves in the same dark place. May God comfort the loved ones left behind.

    On the issue of restoring the fallen pastor to the pulpit CT had a well-written article:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1995/april-3/should-adulterous-pastors-be-restored.html?start=5

  9. Em says:

    i remember a line from a song out of the 60s or 70s maybe… “I’m just playing a game in my mind….” do we tell ourselves that it’s just a game? where do the heart and the mind come together? when i pray these days, “lead us not into temptation” i think – even tell God – if You can do that, You’ll pull off the biggest miracle of Your whole prayer… today, if David was to make a covenant with his eyes, he’d have to around with them shut… poor, honest man – God rest his soul

  10. Michael says:

    Plucked Brand,

    When I got online this morning there was porn in my email, porn on my Facebook feed, porn in my Twitter feed…and I solicited none of it.
    It’s as if the devil himself were in charge of online services.
    We are all one click away from shipwreck.

  11. Plucked Brand says:

    Know what you mean brother. I think the whole system is run by Satan anyway. He’s there lurking in every nook and cranny. If we could see all the strings he’s pulling in everything we’d be shocked.

  12. Jim says:

    Disqualification for ministry is not a death sentence, nor is it condemnation to hell. Holding elders to Biblical standards has nothing to do with withholding forgiveness or extending God’s grace.

    Who ever said that resisting temptation is easy? Don’t click that button because God is with you, and because you’ve made a covenant with a woman. Losing your job should be pretty far down on the list when considering the consequences of sin.

  13. Lurkie Loo says:

    Jim, amen to every sentence you just wrote. The irony is that now an unimaginably large number of people know of his sin, whereas had he chosen another way it wouldn’t be as widespread of a story.

  14. Jim says:

    BTW, I could greatly expand upon, “don’t click that link because….” I think that might be a more helpful conversion than talking about how hard life is. I’d start with the value and worth of women. If a man hasn’t gotten past seeing women as boobs and butts, he isn’t mature enough for the minefield.

    Sorry, but I think this post is a little whiney. Women don’t wear clothes where I live.

  15. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jim, did you note this post is about a suicide?

  16. j2theperson says:

    I don’t necessarily think the action he took to end his life is any different than that of a secular person in a secular job who was in a similar situation. He made a really stupid decision that could very well have resulted in him losing his job. People in secular jobs have made stupid decisions that have resulted in them losing their jobs and have committed suicide due to their personal embarrassment and fear of looming financial and personal upheaval. The amount of grace extended to someone going through that is not necessarily the deciding factor as to whether or not they commit suicide. The article mentioned that he struggled with mental health issues in the past. He could very well have committed suicide even if he faced losing his job suddenly after messing up in some other, non-sexual way.

  17. Babylon's Dread says:

    I think this guy was the real thing

    I think he was simply a man of like passions

    I think he got entangled in the deceitfulness of sin

    I think he was murdered by shame, his own shame.

    The Baptist system is still pretty much a one and done party. At least more so than most, The greatest deterrent to funerals like this is bonded friendships with peers in my opinion. Disconnected males are deadly to everyone and everything. We need lifelines. I have had friends to whom I could confess my sin for a while.

    The priestly system of confession and forgiveness is also a safety net. I think having a confessor is a hedge against the depths of it.

    I wonder what might have happened if this guy had been able to preempt his exposure with a confession end a recommitment to his wife.

    We need help. Your focus on the accessibility of darkness is huge. By the way I am not suggesting accountability I am suggesting fraternity. I am suggesting relational depth. I hold NO ONE accountable. I walk with people in relationships.

  18. Disillusioned says:

    Sorry, Jim, but you sound a little too sure of yourself.
    Take heed, lest you, too, fall.

  19. Michael says:

    BD,

    One of the great loads of crap that has come forth from the church is the notion of “accountability partners”.

    I spend a lot of time talking to pastors…and they don’t need a cop, they need real friends…just like the rest of us.

    I think your points about confession are right on…

  20. j2theperson says:

    People commit suicide when they lose their jobs suddenly–even when they haven’t committed any sin or mistake that led to that firing. Some people commit suicide when they experience personal and financial upheaval. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. This guy just happened to be a pastor and his personal upheaval was caused by his own poor choices. That doesn’t mean a lack of grace was involved.

  21. Jim says:

    Josh,

    The post was about a number of things, including internet porn. I haven’t and will not reference the gentleman who took his life.

  22. Michael says:

    j2,

    There is little grace for fallen pastors unless they are celebrities.
    I have had little grace for them…and wonder why we make this the end all sin when abusing the flock in myriad other ways isn’t.

    I’m not speaking from Sinai…I’m trying to work through what being restored in a spirit of gentleness means in these situations.

    I know myself…and I could crash harder than anyone, at anytime.

  23. Josh the Baptist says:

    Had he not killed himself, and just been caught, I’d be on here today attacking him like a rabid dog.

  24. j2theperson says:

    I think the myriad other ways pastors abuse the flock should also be a one strike you’re out deal–not that adultery should no longer be disqualifying.

  25. Jim says:

    Dis,

    I’m in my late 50’s and have been married for 36 years. I understand lust, and waged a bloody war with it in the 80’s. Having said that, I do take heed, and will not rest in “victory”. I’m sorry if my tone was proud, as I would have zero victory over any besetting sin or addiction without God’s grace.

  26. j2theperson says:

    Plus, at this point, I reject the basic concept that in this specific case the way the church responded to this man’s poor choice is what led him to commit suicide. The article linked to gives no evidence of that.

  27. Michael says:

    Josh @ 23… as would I have been.

    Unless…I knew him, loved him, and was in fellowship with him.

    We all harbor our own hypocrisy.

    He isn’t going to be the last…but I don’t want my finger on any trigger.

  28. Michael says:

    j2,

    I’ve had conversations with someone who was a friend of his in that culture.
    He would have been toast on every level.

  29. Josh the Baptist says:

    As a Baptist who especially supports New Orleans seminary, I can say without a doubt that his career and ministry were 100% over. His family, I don’t know, but I’m sure he felt that was over as well.

  30. Steve Wright says:

    Much like the migrant/refugee issue being two different things…so is this discussion.

    We know almost nothing about this pastor except he fought with addiction (unnamed) and depression (extent unnamed) in his life (unnamed how many years)

    We do not know if all of this was only discovered by the family in the suicide note. Or if the family knew about this and supported him for years to try and beat it, or if he also had a large number of Christian friends that showed grace and encouragement, like many here have done for others who nonetheless still took their lives. We also do not know the circumstances of his death other than what I read which is that it was not at first clear this was a suicide.

    An entirely different issue is the general discussion about internet temptation, grace and the like – maybe worthy of a different thread or open blogging. I have some thoughts but do not wish to include them here.

  31. Ixtlan says:

    “The priestly system of confession and forgiveness is also a safety net. I think having a confessor is a hedge against the depths of it. ”

    I had a discussion with a dean of doctoral studies at a seminary about the idea of confession where the priest/pastor/spiritual director/mentor/person whom you do your 4th step with, etc does not absolve you of your sin, but affirms that your sin has been forgiven by God. Huge difference. The man began to do an earnest study on this idea (it actually became his dissertation) because he noticed that no one in his church would want to confess their sin, but he could hardly go into a Starbucks with his collar on without, encountering people, complete strangers, who approach him in conversation that ultimately led to their wanted to confess their sins…… I thought their must be something to this…..

  32. Josh the Baptist says:

    I, for one, will be moving towards the “God will deal with them” model.

  33. Michael says:

    Ixtlan,

    I think you’re right…

  34. Michael says:

    Josh,

    I think theres a difference between some of the people we’ve dealt with and those men whose foot may have slipped or more accurately, whose finger has clicked.

    Those of us who blog are going to need a lot of wisdom…

  35. j2theperson says:

    At what point does he have any responsibility for choosing to be a part of that group and making that culture his home and choosing to earn his income as a pastor in that environment? Whenever a scandal is posted about here we talk about how ultimately people choose to go to those abusive churches. This man knew his own short-comings. He knew his history of sexual addiction and depression. He knew what the cost would be were he exposed in this culture, but he chose to stay there. He chose to be a pastor. He chose to be a seminary professor. He could have left. He could have gone to a less abusive church. He wasn’t some idiot 20-something-year-old kid. He was a middle-aged man who was well-educated and biblically literate. I’m sure someone with his credentials could have gotten a different job and moved himself and his family away from such a toxic environment. At what point does he bear a responsibility for grounding his whole spiritual and financial life on such an unhealthy foundation?

  36. Michael says:

    j2,

    We all bear responsibility for our actions.
    That doesn’t mean when we act foolishly that we are beyond mercy.

  37. Ixtlan says:

    wtf, j2, the man killed himself. Do you have no compassion?

  38. Jtk says:

    “By the way I am not suggesting accountability I am suggesting fraternity. I am suggesting relational depth. I hold NO ONE accountable. I walk with people in relationships.”

    What’s the difference?
    Accountability versus relationships versus fraternity versus relational depth versus “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

    And pastors at all levels need real friends. Great point.

  39. Josh the Baptist says:

    “I think theres a difference between some of the people we’ve dealt with and those men whose foot may have slipped or more accurately, whose finger has clicked.”

    I’m sure you are right, but still, I’d rather just let God deal with them. IF they get away with stuff, so what? Thank God I get away with stuff every day. There’s wheat and there’s chaff, and I’m just gonna stop trying to separate the two.

  40. Josh the Baptist says:

    J2 – as far as I know, no one has suggested this was an abusive church environment?

  41. j2theperson says:

    ***I think theres a difference between some of the people we’ve dealt with and those men whose foot may have slipped or more accurately, whose finger has clicked.***

    His finger didn’t “just click”. He actively made the effort to sign up for a website that facilitates adultery. It’s not like he just came across some free porn on the internet and clicked on it.

    I also don’t understand why “grace” always comes up in regards to sexually immoral pastors. When an insurance agent or an investment broker messes up so badly that they are no longer qualified to work in the business nobody argues “They shouldn’t lose their job because grace”. But a pastor messes up so that he is no longer qualified to work in the business and suddenly the people who support his firing are responsible for his suicide?

  42. j2theperson says:

    ***J2 – as far as I know, no one has suggested this was an abusive church environment?***

    Michael implied as much in his 28.

  43. Michael says:

    j2,

    I didn’t say that.
    I’m saying that we don’t deal well with fallen people in the church at all, and especially not with pastors.

    We know how to take someone down…and then leave them there.
    That’s not the biblical model.

  44. Michael says:

    j2,

    I didn’t say it was abusive.
    The southern church is a highly moralistic and at times, graceless place.

    There is little room for redemption.

  45. fyi says:

    Josh @23; we don’t have a lot in common but the more I hear/read from you, the more I admire and like you. That is the kind of honesty that forces us to look in before ever looking out again. Thanks for your transparency.

  46. Steve Wright says:

    Again, nobody took him down.

    There is an article mourning his death when nobody even yet knew the cause, had not found the note (or at least its existence had not been stated).

    Michael’s description of the effort to find p*rn in the pre-internet, pre-cable TV days is STILL the case when it comes to finding another human being to have sexual intercourse with. A hundred or more bad decisions against conscience and the conviction of the Spirit must be made.

    However, I do not recall a public media case involving a pastor defrocked for clicking online where he did not belong – especially “one wrong click”. Maybe someone can provide the links if that is common but I do know it is quite common for adulterers to also consume p*rn on a frequent basis and for the two to be connected.

    The Ashley Madison cases are not about p*rn but adultery…intent…motivation.

    Put another way, if a woman in the church came crying saying she just found out her husband was looking at stuff online and wanted to run to a divorce lawyer I would urge hesitation (while also removing the man from any ministry responsibility). My response to a woman who said her husband had been with another woman would be very different as to the consequences of the different sins. Yes, Jesus made it clear that fornication can be of the heart and mind, but did so in the context of proving none are innocent of sin..not to push the notion that they are equal in gravity and should have equal consequences.

    That said, a perpetual p*rn abuser, unrepentant, destroying the marriage and potentially harming the children would be grounds for divorce in my opinion.

  47. Disillusioned says:

    Real friends. The kind you can tell anything to and they will still love you. The kind who can speak truth into your life without rancor or self-righteousness.
    I believe Michael’s point is that these are in short supply to Christians in general, and leadership specifically.
    Is it because we’re all trying to make each other think we are more “transformed” than we truly are?

    How deluded are we?

  48. j2theperson says:

    Michael, if what you described in your 28 is true, then, yes, it is an abusive church.

    And, I would argue the church has not yet learned how to properly deal with victims and respond to abusers or to deal with the strong and the powerful misusing their authority. Those issues should be focused on first before the way fallen pastors are dealt with is. If the church tries to figure out how to handle fallen pastors with grace before it gets any sort of handle on dealing with victims and the truly downtrodden then it’s just going to promote further bad behavior by pastors (i.e. the strong and powerful). Maybe we should learn how to treat the weak and the powerless properly and then when the strong and powerful fall and become the weak and powerless they will be treated with grace.

  49. Michael says:

    “Is it because we’re all trying to make each other think we are more “transformed” than we truly are?”

    Absolutely, yes!

  50. Michael says:

    j2,

    Is it possible that we can do more than one thing at a time?

    Have I not spent years advocating for the weak and powerless?

  51. Francisco says:

    Was saddened to read this news.

    I say amen #47 that we all need folks in our lives who can speak truth in love to us. A Nathan in our personal lives and ministry is good thing..

  52. Jim says:

    So, we’re now judging the motives (and honesty) of those who don’t have a lot of patience for adulterers (physical or mental), but are fully willing to come along side of them, saying, “you don’t have to do this, bro. I’ll help”.

    Really?

  53. Steve Wright says:

    More and more I see the great value of confession to a spiritual leader who is sworn to secrecy before God. I would have trouble being such a person myself because I would not feel right about advising a wife of the sins of her husband if she was in the dark.

    The problem in other church circles is that one can never be sure about the gossip. And even sometimes those who are close friends become enemies and if they truly are vindictive they can use things against another person. I think that is why pastors in evangelical circles are hesitant especially but also because I think there is the thought that the last time was truly the last time (unless they are truly scoundrels) and so why tell anyone but God? I know if a pastor confided in me of certain ongoing sin and repeated falls my advice would be to step away from the pulpit for the good of his own soul…most guys don’t want that sort of friend.

  54. Michael says:

    Jim,

    I don’t see that anywhere in this thread at all.
    I daresay I’ve given more hell to adulterers in the church than all of you put together.

    Having said that, I’m doing some wrestling with all of this and as usual, I’m doing it in front of God and everybody so we all wrestle together.

    That’s what the point of being here is…

  55. Steve Wright says:

    Should read “not feel right about NOT advising the wife in the dark”

  56. Jim says:

    Michael,

    Perhaps I misread Dis’ statement and your amen.

  57. Michael says:

    Jim,

    I get a lot of calls from a lot of guys.
    There are times when I look at my caller ID and think I must be being pranked.
    It’s never a prank.

    They call because I’m pretty honest about being a hot mess who is just trying to get home before dark, not a holy man afraid to have his garments stained by other peoples sin.

    We all wrestle with demons…and it’s helpful to talk to people who are honest about their own struggles.

    We have a church culture where most people can’t do that.

  58. Jim says:

    I don’t see any holy men here. I’m sinning right now by being pissed at Dis for implying that I’m one of them.

    I’ll get over it quickly 🙂

  59. Michael says:

    Jim,

    I don’t think he was…and I’ll vouch for you if he did. 🙂
    You’re a good man in my book…which may or may not comfort you…glad you’re here.

  60. Jim says:

    Look up at #18. Maybe it’s my fault and I was sounding haughty.

    Letting it go now……….

  61. j2theperson says:

    ***Is it possible that we can do more than one thing at a time?

    Have I not spent years advocating for the weak and powerless?***

    Yes, you have spent years advocating for the weak and powerless, which is why I think what I think. Nothing has come from it. The powerful have never been held to account and most if not all of the abusive pastors you’ve blogged about are doing better now than when the scandals broke. I think that giving “grace” to fallen pastors will take off and take hold way more than justice for victims ever has and will just end up getting twisted and used as one more way for bad men to maintain their power and get away with abuse. So, in this case, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do two things at once.

  62. j2theperson says:

    Also, I think this quote from a Washington Post article on the subject is pertinent. “For 25 of their almost 30 years of marriage, Gibson and her husband struggled with his sex addiction. She knew that he struggled and had relapsed over and over again. She did not know that he had used Ashley Madison until she read his suicide note, however. In it, her husband talked about his depression and his deep remorse and shame over having his name be among those found in the adultery Web site’s database.”

    He had deep seated, long-term, ongoing issues. As I said earlier, I’m not sure the issue with his suicide is one of a lack of grace at all–as unhealthy as his church home may have been.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/09/09/why-the-wife-of-a-pastor-exposed-in-ashley-madison-leak-spoke-out-after-his-suicide/

  63. DavidM says:

    I did not know the man but I am crushed to read about this. Oh, man, he leaves a wife and children. Dear Lord, I am so sad.

    There is so much damn self-righteous pintificating on this site at times, so much smug analyses about pastors and leaders in spiritual and moral crisis. Poor guy, his mistakes did not warrant a death sentence. I will pray for his family.

  64. ? says:

    J2
    You make very good points.
    And if this man was a pedophile there would be less grace shown.
    You did your homework and this is a man who lived in habitual sin.
    Not only a Pastor but a teacher.
    How did this go on for so long?
    Where is the accountability?
    We have seen others like BC and TT seem not to lose their cheerleaders over their sin.
    IMO very selfish to take his own life and have his family deal with this.

  65. Disillusioned says:

    Jim, I hate to trot out the old, ‘methinks thou protesteth too much,’ but….

    Look, if you are a guy and you think you are immune to ‘boobs and butts’ (as you so eloquently put it), you are truly deluded. I don’t care how long you’ve been married.

    Now go get pissed some more because I pointed out the obvious.

  66. Bob says:

    I’m trying to get a handle on this thread and the purpose behind it. What are the main talking points here:

    1. Is it about the pressure on “pastors” to be something they aren’t?
    2. Is it about the tragedy of suicide and its selfish effects on so many people?
    3. Is it about the access to porn?
    4. Is it about infidelity in marriage?
    5. Is it a guilt trip about how someone missed this man’s problems and should have stopped his actions (adultery or suicide)?
    6. Something else?

    I’ll add a couple of things (or more) to the mess.

    1. It’s not just pastors who feel the pressure to “live up” to a standard, we all do except when our heart becomes so hard others start to not count.

    2. Suicide happens and many of those here have thought of, or maybe even tried to do the action in the past (or maybe not so past).

    3. Before the Internet there was porn, adultery, murder, cheating, suicide and all sorts of corruption among men and women. Nothing stops it.

    4. See #3.

    5. I believe Jesus (and many others) taught about what to do if we see someone in sin. Let’s do our best to hep others or maybe do we really want others to help us.

    6. When I read about men and our problem with porn and adultery I always wonder what the “sin” of women are that might be comparable? I don’t know because (in spite of stupid men like Bruce Jenner) men will never be able to think like women in all areas.

    Right now I’m in a major world city where there are a lot of Muslim women, you know all covered from head to toe in black and many with just a slit to see out of,who are filling the western department stores shopping and doing all the same things as their non-Muslim counter-parts.

    What’s the point?

    I still don’t get the thread and where people’s feelings are really going.

  67. j2theperson says:

    ***Poor guy, his mistakes did not warrant a death sentence. I will pray for his family.***

    The sad thing is he sentenced himself to it. I can’t imagine a single person ever saying that he ought to die for what he did or believing his death to be a good outcome. Apparently, he’d been struggling with sexual sin for 25 years and being forgiven for his sexual misdeeds for that long by his wife. Clearly she was supportive of him even with his problems.

  68. Bob says:

    One last thought:

    “Clearly she was supportive of him even with his problems.”

    Is this and indictment because she facilitated his crimes or a complement about how she tried to get him help?

    All I know is this man, while trying to find a solution to his problems has brought pain and suffering to countless numbers of others (he had know idea PP would be writing about him). Is the solution for depression and suicide to care more about others than one self and consider what the results of our smallest actions might be?

    Someone once said, “It’s the little things in life which count. Oh by the way everything is a little thing.”

  69. Disillusioned says:

    Bob, I think the answers to your questions are all “yes.”
    There is a lot going on here.
    My take on this whole thread is this: why would someone who ostensibly knows the Lord choose suicide as the ultimate expression of lack of hope? I think j2 raised **excellent** points and questions regarding this.
    Michael’s question was whether or not this tortured soul could’ve avoided his fate by feeling free to be honest about his addiction and failure to his Christian community. It’s a question that has merit, but I agree that it should be asked about all Christians and not just ‘pastors.’

  70. Steve Wright says:

    The old saying is a good friend is the one who tells you of your body odor or bad breath – tells you the truth out of love and your best interest

    In ministry the good friend is the one who tells you you have to step down from ministry – out of love and your best interest.

    This poor woman..25 years of suffering, apparently all alone. And her earthly reward is now this.

  71. j2theperson says:

    ***Is this and indictment because she facilitated his crimes or a complement about how she tried to get him help?***

    She spent 25 years giving him grace and it wasn’t enough. He still killed himself. So I don’t know know why it’s being argued that a lack of grace is the issue here. His wife appears to have been extremely gracious toward him both during his life and after his death.

    I think it’s kind of offensive to say things like “his mistakes didn’t warrant a death sentence”–as if somehow the people who believe that he should have lost his job or that there should have been some consequence for his immoral and un-pastoral choices would have advocated for that or in some way hold responsibility for his choice to kill himself.

    According to his family, he struggled with sexual addiction for 25 years. He struggled with depression throughout his life. At the point that he took his life, nobody had even discovered that his name was on a list of Ashley Madison users, so it’s not like anybody even had the opportunity to be ungracious to him. And yet, he is being used as an example of the consequences of the church not showing grace to pastors.

    I am in the group of people who advocate for pastors losing their jobs when they engage in sexual sin, so when someone writes an article like this I will speak up and disagree. I disagree with the idea that firing a pastor for sexual impropriety is a lack of grace. And I disagree that this case in particular is a good example of any of the issues surrounding firing pastors for sexual impropriety because he had a history of depression and 25 years of sexual addiction and, at the time he killed himself, nobody even knew what he had done, and his wife had spent 25 years showing grace to him. Maybe the entire church would have been very ungracious to him if they had found out, but he killed himself before they did so they never had an opportunity. I think it’s wrong to blame people for something they didn’t even have the opportunity to do.

  72. Nonnie says:

    I fully agree with Steve Wright and j2 is speaking a bit more “strongly” than I would say it ( I think we mellow a bit with age) but I certainly agree with her as well .

  73. j2theperson says:

    ***j2 is speaking a bit more “strongly” than I would say it ( I think we mellow a bit with age) but I certainly agree with her as well ***

    I am sorry for this. I’m posting in between taking care of my 3 year old, so I’ve been a little rushed which I know makes me sound brusque.

  74. Michael says:

    I wrote this to look at the bigger issue which is that I don’t believe the church is very good at all in providing a place for confession and repentance, which is the way you overcome sin, which should be one the primary goals of the church.

    I wrote it with this man’s story as the centerpiece because I happened to be mutual friends with some who knew him and loved him.

    They believed that the situation I described affected not just this man, but all of us in one way or another.

    I didn’t write it to kill this man all over again.

    Most of you are evidently much farther ahead of me and most of the people I know in terms of sanctification and holiness.

    There are a lot of us who manage to keep the demons just far enough away for us to function, but are well aware that the battle will last until we die.

    We are also well aware that we could lose that battle at anytime.

    I have to remember grace.

    I have never written , never ever, that it is graceless to remove a man from ministry for sexual sin.

    Never…and I resent greatly the implication that I have.

    I also resent the fact that the culture places sexual sin above all other abuses of power.

    I’m going to tell myself that the article was written poorly and the points unclear…even though some managed to hear me despite my failure.

  75. Josh the Baptist says:

    I think I’m a little more ready to form a coherent thought today.

    Several days ago, I railed on Tullian harder than anyone here. When his new pastor showed up, most of you were polite and accepting. I immediately called him out, and judged him too. If I had woke up to find that Tullian had killed himself, I’d have trouble living with my behavior.
    I have admitted this man would have received the same treatment from me. I’m an equal opportunity loudmouth. Thus, I came very close to experiencing the thing that I am very glad I did not experience with Tullian.

    I do believe that a pastor who commits adultery should step away for a long time. I do think it is the best thing for him. I have not lied about that, but my method of conveying that message has added to the problem, rather than help it.

    I have many pastors who I consider close friends. Some even come to me occasionally for counsel. I will use the influence I have with these friends to lovingly correct where I have opportunity, while also allowing them to correct me.

    I will no longer rage against the sins of an invisible boogeyman online. It’s too easy, completely ineffective, and perhaps even dangerous. This is my conviction.

  76. Babylon's Dread says:

    Michael,

    It was a great article, clear and compassionate.

    We parse things with finer points that our information validates.

    Thus these discussions take their own life.

    I watched the funeral, read the articles, resonated with so much of the tone because of my history.

    The temptation he fell into is very powerful.

    The shame of exposure was devastating.

    Death looked better than life… easier to quit breathing than to live with the thoughts in your own head. I think it was not the church, the culture or the public that pushed him to the darkness of death. Suicide is capital punishment self-inflicted and regarded as better than living with death inside.

    Paul Laurence Dunbar comes to mind,

    This is the price I pay —
    Just for one riotous day —
    Years of regret and of grief,
    And sorrow without relief.
    Suffer it I will, my friend,
    Suffer it until the end,
    Until the grave shall give relief.
    Small was the thing I bought,
    Small was the thing at best,
    Small was the debt, I thought,
    But, 0 God! — the interest.

  77. Michael says:

    BD,

    Thank you.

    I will not lay the loss of life at the hands of the church.
    I will say that we have a church culture where, as Bowden once wrote, some of the dead are still breathing.

  78. Jim says:

    Dis,

    I’m not immune to anything. I’ll put this little tiff on me, as I probably came off as proud.

    Perhaps I’ll learn from your humble demeanor…

  79. Jim Vander Spek says:

    Asking a boy or a man to merely control his impulse to “click” is inadequate advice. Sadly, the underlying sin of lust is not generally understood and mostly gets a pass— even in the church.

    I wrote the following after learning that the beginning point for defeating this sin is to understand it as Jesus taught us: http://www.overcoming-lust.com/articles/understanding-lust/

  80. Lurkie Loo says:

    Michael, was the Soup Nazi in any way your inspiration for the title of this article? I can only hope…
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=svSGKJFSl-8

  81. Xenia says:

    What do you mean by the word “grace?”

    I know the definition I was given for years: unmerited favor. But I think that definition is inadequate.

    I believe “grace” is nothing less than the Holy Spirit Himself. Grace in action is the energies of God in action.

    So when we speak of “showing grace” to sinners, what does this really mean? Does it just mean forgiving them and accepting them back in the fold? Or does it mean something else?

    What is grace?

  82. Michael says:

    Grace exists on a horizontal and vertical plane.

    We receive the unmerited favor of God in the forgiveness of our sins and the acceptance as children of God.

    We then are to give what we have received to those who sin against us or among us.

    This does not negate in any way the need for confession and repentance…but it is the promise that after confession and repentance that we will once again be made whole both vertically and horizontally.

  83. Michael says:

    It is not a promise of position or stature among us, other than the position of being forgiven and accepted.

  84. Xenia says:

    Like the words “word” and “church,” “grace has many shades of meaning.

  85. Disillusioned says:

    Jim,
    Honestly, you crack me up. You got your shorts in such a knot just because I called you out on what to me was, yes, a prideful statement. Not only did you not have any sympathy for those addicted to porn (in your words, the post was ‘whiny’) , but you also offered that you had the means to keep others from going there. Sorry, but to me that smacked of smugness and self-righteousness.
    I have no desire to spar with you. Just called it as I saw it. Sorry if it hurt. But I do think you are being a bit hyperreactive.

  86. Nonnie says:

    Let me be clear, I am very sorry this man was so hopeless that he killed himself and I don’t see anyone who has commented here wishing that upon him. However, are we not allowed to be disgusted at what Satan has done? Lies, sex addiction, adultery, death….? It is horrible and it makes me angry? Sadly another complication is that his wife seems to have enabled him in this….something I would guess she felt was her Christian duty to do. I’m angry with this man….I admit it. He put his wife though hell for 25 years, lied to everyone around him, and stayed in ministry all these years while living a lie. Steve Wright was correct when he said he needed a good friend that would love him enough to tell him to get out of ministry and get the help he needed.
    Now I said all of that, but please don’t think I would have wished that man ill will. I so wish he would have had enough hope in Jesus to understand that nothing is impossible with God and he could have had a new beginning. I’m so sorry he chose death over hope and forgiveness. I’m really sorry for his family. There is a difference between being angry over the results of sin and being judgmental and condemning.

  87. Jim says:

    Ok Dis. You win the Internet. I was a drunk as well, but have no desire to drink. I’ve spent some time in the trenches, and have helped some struggling with addiction. Prideful statement? If I continued to proclaim the grace of God towards me, will it be called smug?

    Never mind. I’m a jerk and you win. Yay for you.

  88. Em says:

    want to test your own church? just have someone start an ugly rumor about you 🙂

  89. Xenia says:

    I think the fact that he got away with his vices for 25 years indicates that a great deal of grace was offered to him, both by God and by the people in his life. So rather than titling this piece “No grace for you” it should have been titled “The man who refused to receive grace.”

    It seems that you want us to be angry with someone, Michael. Probably “the church.” His church looked the other way (probably citing “grace”) for 25 years. Twenty five years of sexual addiction has a negative effect on a person’s entire being and I can’t believe no one noticed that things were not quite right with this man. Yet apparently they tried to think the best of him.

    And if his church would have fired him for his activities, this is not a lack of grace. This is obedience to God. Unlike a lot of the people discussed here on the PPhx, this man was at least ashamed of himself. (But of course, the others might be ashamed, too. How could we know otherwise.)

  90. Steve Wright says:

    The shame of exposure was devastating.
    ———————————–
    Dread..I think the battle for the Christian is as much between God and Satan if even more between the fear of man and the fear of God. If there is ever a theme expressed clearly in Scripture, emphasized by Jesus, is which One is to be feared.

    That said, Satan is his strongest in the shadows and darkness..the secret places. Way up there I mentioned the value of being able to confess/share sin with a trusted friend who could keep confidence and would speak the truth in love.

    I’ve spoken to many wives who have found their husbands viewing p*rn. Usually it is in the moment, a day or two after discovery, when feelings are raw and a mixture of anger, shock, betrayal, confusion, lowered self-esteem. My guess is a few others reading have as well.

    Then there are those occasions when a few years later you are with the same woman, because the sin is still active. Those are far different meetings.

    My hope in all this is this widow does not add guilt to all she is feeling, thinking if she had told others and he had been removed from the position he was disqualified to hold, at least he would be alive. That is a terrible burden to carry and may it not be so here.

  91. Jim says:

    Dis,

    I re-read the post and the thread. The whiney part of the post for me was reciting how hard life is for pastors. I believe that life is hard for everyone. For the record, I have great compassion for those stuck in addiction. You still win the Internet, but you have judged someone you don’t know incorrectly.

  92. Michael says:

    I don’t want us to be angry with anyone.
    Josh and Dread seemed to grasp what I was trying to communicate, others haven’t.
    I’m not going to try to explain anymore…I’ll just chalk this one up to my own incompetence.

  93. j2theperson says:

    Over 50% of church-goers are women. But, at the same time, a majority of churches bar women from holding any sort of leadership position within the church. They can’t be pastors, they can’t be deacons, they can’t be elders, and it is the rare church that has even one token female on the church board much less a number commiserate with the ratio of women who attend the church. The balance of power is steeply stacked against women. I don’t think it is unwarranted to hold men who would be pastors and religious leaders to a very high standard when it comes to sexual morality. How could a man possibly appropriately pastor women if he is a sex addict, a porn addict, or an adulterer? I know I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable continuing to go to my church if I found out that my pastor was a regular consumer of pornography or had engaged in multiple affairs. How could I interact with him and not be worried that he was only viewing me as a sexual object? How could I let my daughter grow up attending a church where the pastor engages in behavior that demeans and dehumanizes women?

    Also, the fact that John Gibson took his life is tragic. Look at his story…

    *** But there was a part of Gibson’s life few knew about, a sex addiction that surfaced about 10 years into the couple’s marriage and led to extramarital affairs, his wife said.

    “It started with a co-dependency of needing everyone to like him,” she said. “I believe that led to a sexual addiction.”

    There were good times, she said, times when he made a concerted effort to address his addiction through professional counseling. But Christi Gibson said her husband could never fully bring himself to open up to the outside world.

    “We had a broken relationship for at least 20 years, if not longer,” she said. “I always had hope that we could work on it together. He was worth that. We were worth that. Our children were worth that.”***

    http://www.nola.com/religion/index.ssf/2015/09/ashley_madison_john_gibson.html

    It looks like he spent decades hiding his sin from the people around him, and when it looked like that sin would be revealed he killed himself. He didn’t even wait to find out if any actually would find out about it. It’s sad that he spent decades living under the weight of this sin. It’s sad that he had mental health issues. But how could people show him grace if he kept this hidden from everyone but his wife and then killed himself when he thought they might find out? From the accounts I have read, his students seemed shocked by his death and there has been a great outpouring of sympathy from them. Surely there had to have been people he knew who would have continued loving him even after they found out what he was struggling with. But, needing to have *everyone *like you is a highly unrealistic and deeply unhealthy mindset—clearly.

    It seems to me that at least one part of grace in this situation would have been to remove him from his pastorate and from his teaching position—not even as punishment but if only to help him regain some sort of mental and emotional stability. How could he ever hope to face his sin and deal with his mental health issues if he had a job and was in an environment in which he felt he had to keep his problems hidden from everyone? It’s hard not to look at his situation and wonder if he had had a different job that he would not have had to lose if people found out he was a sex addict and an adulterer—if he would not have been confronted with the idea of losing a lot of prestige if his secret life was revealed—would he still have been driven to kill himself? If he had stepped away from that environment, or had a friend to encourage him to step away, early on when he first started having problems maybe things wouldn’t have gotten to the point they did 20+ years down the road. It’s sad to see a man who had a loving wife and family and a lot of people who seem to have cared about him still kill himself.

  94. Nonnie says:

    J2…..well said

  95. j2theperson says:

    And I hope I sounded nicer in that post. I took the time to write it when Cal was asleep so I could go over it a few times and not be rushed.

  96. Steve Wright says:

    The last three married Christian women to post have spoken well throughout…

    Moving on…

  97. Xenia says:

    Good post, J2.

  98. Disillusioned says:

    Geez, Jim. Dishing out mighty helpings of sarcasm, aren’t we?
    What prompted me to respond to your post has everything to do with this article. Sometimes guys who have been “in ministry” or as you put it, “in the trenches,” for a number of years can become convinced that they’ve got this Christianity thing down. That’s how your original comment smelled — like no one has any excuse for not being the strong man…like you are.
    Now, I know this is probably going to set off another 5 posts from you, but instead I wish you’d just take a step back and ask yourself why I am perceiving you that way….(here’s a hint: I tell you you’re being prideful. You tell me why you are not, ad nauseum. Tell me I’m prideful…and I’ll be the first to agree with you. Not rejoicing in it, mind you…just acknowledging what God already knows to be true.)
    As for me, if you don’t, then I am not winning the Internet.
    Oh, and please don’t stomp your feet on the way out. Because I really see your reaction as quite childish. So just….stop.

  99. Jim says:

    Ok Dis. Michael has my number if you want to discuss.

  100. Disillusioned says:

    Jim, I am not your enemy. Only said what at the time felt like a prudent warning.
    It was meant with the best of intentions and complete lack of snark.

  101. Jim says:

    Dis, I understand.

  102. pstrmike says:

    There is a dynamic that some people experience where the source of momentum in their lives shifts from being initiated by the individual to a situation where the momentum is self-perpetuating and in fact drives the person. At that stage, a person feels out of control and either resolves to embrace the inevitable or becomes depressed because the merry-go-round is now spinning too fast to be able to step of the ride. It is akin to riding a bicycle up a steep hill only to find out that just beyond the summit is even a steeper downhill from which the rider loses control. I see this dynamic all the time and it is prevalent in the lives of leaders, including pastors.
    Things simply get out of control and the person battling with things like depression is ill equipped at times for proper self care and oversight. That does not mean the person needs someone to put a ring in their nose and lead them around, but it does mean it’s not as simple as get an accountability group or a confidant or some other high minded panacea.
    Jesus did prescribe some rather strong medicine to deal with such things: if your eye offends you, pluck it out. The real root of these problems really stem from desire. What is it that we desire more than anything else? What do we need to keep our hearts undivided so that we are not confused or deceived when things become convoluted?
    It is easy, too easy, I am afraid, to said could have, should have, would have. I’m sorry for the family’s sake and saddened that serving in our present ecclesiastical structure can extract such a high price from someone. And he isn’t the only tragedy, of course. What is it that rives a person to desire the ministry of overseeing and caring for others, knowing full well that it will require a stricter judgment? This isn’t what Jesus had in mind when He established His church, and it wasn’t His desired end for anyone.

  103. Francisco says:

    I think Pstrmike summed it up quite well with the bicycle illustration. I ‘m also coming to terms that starting well in ministry is the easy part……. but it is finishing the race well that is the more important yet most challenging part. May God help finish this race well.

  104. Francisco says:

    Please excuse my typos……I meant to say May God allow us to finish this race well.

  105. Bob says:

    Good thoughts.

    Can someone answer my question on what would be a comparable sin for women?

  106. Em says:

    j2 observed, “It seems to me that at least one part of grace in this situation would have been to remove him from his pastorate and from his teaching position—not even as punishment but if only to help him regain some sort of mental and emotional stability.”
    THAT is indeed a part of grace, a major part and we don’t seem to grasp the principle – IMO – well said, j

  107. Em says:

    #106 – thinking… a solitary, secretive, degrading, treacherous and shame producing sinful addiction? … are there other descriptions?
    while there are some women who get caught up in this pattern of illicit sex, i’m having trouble thinking of anything unique to our gender that hits us with the same impact and description … there is the sisterhood of gossip, but that’s not solitary… hmmm

  108. j2theperson says:

    There are women who ate addicted to porn and addicted to sex. Those are not exclusively male sins.

  109. Jim says:

    A few women bought 50 Shades of Grey.

  110. j2theperson says:

    ***As a trained counsellor, Renaud now calls women’s addiction to pornography “widespread and silent”. In almost every case, the women she meets believe they are the only ones ever to have struggled with the issue. “Porn and sexual addiction has always been referred to as a man’s problem,” says Renaud. “But for women it’s an unspoken struggle. We have to give them the opportunity to say: ‘Me too.'”***
    http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2011/apr/07/women-addicted-internet-pornography

    At least in Australia, 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. I would suspect the numbers would be the same if not higher in the US.
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/05/25/1179601669066.html

  111. Steve Wright says:

    On adultery – I would not say it is 50/50 but certainly a large percentage of all adulteries I have encountered in Christian families were the wife cheating on the husband.

  112. ? says:

    J2@94

    Very good observation. It appears, according to his wife’s own words that she may have had some responsibility by allowing this to go on all these years knowing he was teaching and pastoring, leading a double life.
    Sometimes leaving a spouse and letting them hit rock bottom is the only way for them to get right with God, assuming they are really believers in the first place.

  113. Em says:

    so many good observations … and ponders … i’m thinking about j2s observation on grace this morning… so easy to Monday morning quarterback … is there an act of grace, a hard one that i need to show to someone, to try to help someone? how do i do that? don’t want to be a busy body (in other men’s affairs definitely not) or a legalist… thinking, thinking…

  114. j2theperson says:

    I, personally, wouldn’t go there re: his wife being an enabler. There’s no law, biblical or otherwise, that says a woman *has* to leave her lying, cheating, porn-viewing husband. And I would need some convincing to believe that it is the duty of a pastor’s wife to protect the church from her husband if he is engaging in this sort of behavior. If I were in her place I would have made very different choices, but that’s me, and I probably hold very different views than she does as to women and their authority and their status as compared to men.

  115. Judy says:

    There is a tremendous amount of shame and guilt that plagues a porn addict. So much so that they will lie, betray, break their marriage vows, blame shift, and do whatever else they have to do to keep their little secret quiet. The shame and the guilt become a prison that they break in and out of (they may think), depending on if they are able to have times of abstinence from porn. But that prison brings destruction to everyone around the addict. It can erase in one swoop the trust between a wife and a husband, something that is not easily restored. In fact, if you know anyone who has been able to restore that deep emotional trust, let me know. I’m interested in hearing how it’s done.

    If so many Christian men are viewing porn and all hiding it and hiding themselves beneath their shame and guilt, how is anyone going to find grace? The church doesn’t seem to bring this issue to light which blows me away because it’s so prevalent in our church culture. I’m not convinced, though, that there aren’t people in the church who would extend grace and a hand of help to someone coming out of porn. There are a lot of good people out there.

    On the flip side, men who do porn tend to be loners, often without friends, unable to open up about how they feel or even explain what they feel or unable to understand what they feel. Porn is the release from that mindset, it is the thing that fills the hole in their lives/heart. Porn addicts are people who are generally unable to connect to others, so it isn’t surprising that this fellow took his life. If he couldn’t connect before he did porn, or while he did it, how would he ever believe that he could connect when he was found out?

    Maybe the grace should be extended before the porn, when a man stands by himself, unconnected from his peers. But maybe no one would even notice. I don’t know. I find it incredibly sad that, from my POV, the church seems to be dodging the porn bullet but it is really one of the biggest elephants in the room. If ever Christian men needed help, this is the time.

  116. Em says:

    as to this poor man’s wife – she could have made bad choices selfishly or she could have gone through hell attempting to do the right thing… we don’t know and to hold her accountable now is tantamount (i like that word) to telling some poor grieving parent that their child would still be alive, if they’d done a better job as a parent… IMHO

    that doesn’t mean that it is wrong to examine this situation that has transpired, maybe get a little smarter about our own way of living as Christians

  117. Steve Wright says:

    Most of the guys who have spoken to me about their p*rn were definitely not loners, but I think the conclusion is that it is just so prevalent that any and all personalty types are included.

    Two specifics they will say – first, it is an escape. Often it is the busiest people, or those with most responsibility that are involved. Especially an escape when life is really tough.

    Second, the addiction is in the “newness”..the “what is going to happen next” idea. That is where the “rush” is found much like a drug addict. Thus the need for constant fixes, seeking for “new” p*rn – and the industry, especially with the modern technology is more than ready to supply.

    Having said that, there is little doubt the marriage bed is affected for the worse in such households and part of a “cure” is for the man to do exactly what the Bible says. Enjoy the wife and not see his body as for himself but for her.

    Every pastor should understand as much as they can about this, however I believe no pastor is skilled to counsel in this area and should refer such men to professional trained and experienced in sex addictions. I would take issue it is not talked about much. Every men’s conference it seems has one session/speaker focused on it it would seem.

  118. ? says:

    J2

    I never used the word “enabler”.
    I don’t see this issue any different than a husband who is a gambler, alcoholic, or pathological liar.
    A wife should not have to wait until her husband ends his life to “tough love” the situation.
    You would not let your teenager get away from living in sin with his girlfriend in your home, you should not tolerate 10 years of your husband having extramarital affairs that you are aware of and stand behind him dutifully. Grace is not tolerating sin.
    Grace is loving the person enough to let them see their sin for what it is.
    And that is sometimes giving them an ultimatum.
    Perhaps he would still be alive.

  119. j2theperson says:

    My bad, I read your words “she may have had some responsibility by allowing this to go on all these years” and interpreted it as “enabler”. Like Em I think going down that road is too much like telling a parent that if they’d made different choices their kid wouldn’t have killed themselves. The articles I’ve read have not given me enough information to get a sense of what his wife is like or what the dynamics in their home were. And, again, like I said, if a person wants to remain married to a sex addicted serial adulterer then that’s their prerogative. The strongest opinion I’m comfortable having based on the articles I’ve read is that John Gibson clearly should not have been a pastor or religious teacher, he obviously had a lot going on mentally/emotionally, and I don’t believe an objective systemic lack of grace played much if any role in his choice to commit suicide.

  120. ? says:

    J2

    Would you live with your husband if he was having extra martial affairs for 10 years?
    I believe she was part of the problem by her own admission.
    I would not need any more information than that.
    I do agree with you that a lack of grace is not the issue ( as the thread title suggested)
    I was just willing to delve more into the dynamics of the situation.

  121. Steve Wright says:

    The pastor’s wife who leaves her husband due to sexual sin is in a very tough position when it comes to alimony and child support given the almost certain termination of the husband’s employment and unlikely chance of getting hired anytime in the near future (a couple notable exceptions duly noted)

  122. ? says:

    So Steve, you keep up the facade just for financial reasons?
    What benefit is it to her now that she stayed with him?
    There are many women who must make the choice of staying in an abusive relationship( yes , adultery is abuse) or leaving based on their sanity and for the sake of their children .
    Gid will take care of them if they obey Him.
    Surely, the ” church” ought to be there for them, financially and spiritually?
    Maybe they will lose most of the perks of being a Pastors wife but welcome to the real world..

  123. Michael says:

    ?,
    I’m sure that the women I know who have been left to clean up these messes and are barely surviving with their kids will be encouraged by your words.
    Not…

  124. j2theperson says:

    I already said I would have made different choices than she did. But my situation and my view of women’s place and worth as compared to men is probably quite different than hers. I am not financially dependent on my husband, I have supportive parents and siblings, my job situation and the people I work with are very positive and flexible, my friends are not all his friends, and I’m an egalitarian. Her situation could very well be the exact opposite of my own.

    Beyond that, show me where in the bible in says that a person *must* divorce their spouse if their spouse commits adultery. Until you can, you’re creating a rule based on, at best, inference and massive massaging of scriptural principals. As far as I can remember, there are multiple instances of women in the Bible remaining married to sexually immoral men and not once were they condemned for doing so. And Hosea was basically commended for standing by his prostitute wife.

  125. Steve Wright says:

    So Steve, you keep up the facade just for financial reasons?
    —————————————
    Sorry. Just offering a perspective for those who think they can judge with no knowledge…It is not an easy decision for a woman in her shoes..no telling the life of regret she may feel she needs to live with now…especially by all those who sit second guessing her choice to stay..

    As far as the “welcome to the real world” comment…that was my point. In the real world, a man’s occupation rarely is terminated because his wife leaves him. Thus, the wife has no problem securing alimony and child support with at least an expectation of collection…THAT is the real world. This woman did not live in the real world.

    And yes, as I pointed out ad naseum last week in the Tullian thread – the church should be there for her and her kids, but that extent will likely be quite limited. We do what we can but could not offer a financial equivalent to what the world allows through the legal system in divorce.

    You asked what did she gain? If we are keeping it in purely crass financial terms, 25 years later my guess is there has been some savings, some retirement, maybe a paid for home, social security benefits and of course the minor children are now grown and independent.

    But as j2 noted, this is not simply a financial decision. I only offered a unique aspect to a pastor’s wife that other wives (of similar white collar well paying jobs) do not face that makes for a harder decision.

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