Restoration After Moral Failure?

Is there disregard within ministry for the high calling of holiness, purity, righteousness and blamelessness that is demanded of God in scripture? Something is wrong when a leader brings a reproach on the Church with immoral, deviant behavior, and these men slip into obscurity only long enough for publicity of their moral failure to die down and they step right back in to the role they vacated.

At this year’s UPCI General Conference, 2009 a resolution is being presented which seeks to establish a path for the restoration of these fallen ministers. The issue of men in positions of authority and leadership committing sexual sins against their God, their calling, their families, their churches and their communities does not necessitate some sort of plan or program to rehabilitate them and reinstate their positions, it necessitates the absolute need for God-fearing men to speak out against this atrocity and call one another to a higher moral standard!

We can not lower our standards to accommodate the sins of our ministers, but rather we should recognize this as an alarm heralding a gross problem in the church. That we would be eager to reinstate these men belies a destructive flaw within our movement which will not deter moral failure but placate to it.

The calling of ministry is the highest honor bestowed on man, and it demands the highest level of integrity, blamelessness and holiness that is above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). The demands of ministry are not set by men, but God, and as difficult as they may be to attain, they are nonetheless vital. The pattern for ministry was set in Jesus Christ, and those who follow Him must be Christlike in their walk. We do not look at the world to define our ministry, we look to God and His Word. To determine whether a man is qualified to serve, look at the basic qualifications laid out in scripture (1 Timothy 3).

The apostle Paul declared that there was possibility of losing his own place in ministry. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he stated, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Most other translations say, “…I myself will not be disqualified.” There absolutely are sins that disqualify a man or woman from ministry. In fact in 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul described sexual immorality as a sin that is in it’s own category. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” It is obvious that sexual sin impacts others than ones own self, but it is detrimental to the individual as well. It permanently disqualifies a man from 1 Timothy 3:2, which is not simply an edict to be married to one woman, but to be enjoined to only one woman. Furthermore, Proverbs 6:32-33 state, “32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. 33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.”

Scripture does not lead us to a conclusion that those who have wasted away their reputation and destroyed the trust of those who follow and lead them can or should be restored to the position they once held. In fact, their negligence has created a chasm between those they would lead and their own integrity, trust, and godly example. Once this purity has been sacrificed, it is impossible to then lead by example.

It is the obligation of the church to forgive, to love, and to assist in restoring to fellowship, but there is no obligation to restore to ministerial office. We can forgive the sin, but we cannot erase its consequences. Similar to the military’s policy of discharging soldiers who are guilty of adultery, we should not support putting our ministers back in the charge of other soldiers. While we should go to every length to minister to the fallen who have repented of their sin, it does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to those who have disqualified themselves and forfeited their right to lead. When we step aside from scripture to do so, we lower the standard that God has established.

Paul rebuked the church of Corinth for their negligence in correcting fornication in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, going even so far as instructing them to “purge out therefore the old leaven”.

We should not be looking toward restitution of license to those who have disgraced their calling, but rather toward the reasons they have done so, and how to stem this issue from happening further. If there is sin in the body and unbelief toward God’s adamant requirements for ministry, the standard should not be lowered, but rather upheld and enforced even more so. When the church is less tolerant of sin, the church also becomes less tolerant of holiness. And without holiness we cannot see God.

I pray that we do not allow this resolution to pass.


  1. Bro. Jay,

    I agree with you! We need, as a ministerial body, to ensure that we maintain
    and establish a much higher standard of ministerial ethics than that which is prevalent in other
    so called organizations. Restoration in the word is for restoration to the body of Christ. We as an organization Do not have the right or authority to establish such a guideline. I am amazed
    that such a proposal could even be passed on to the membership for consideration!
    Great job Jay!

  2. Thank you, Greg. I agree. I was shocked when I received my resolution packet… especially that the two “whereas” particulars referenced scriptures which were taken completely out of context in attempt to establish their point! It is poor hermeneutics that would lead someone to apply Romans 11:29 to restoration of ministerial license. Romans 11:29 is not about the restoring of someone “called of God” to their position after they have failed, let alone had a moral failure. The entire 11th chapter of Romans is in regards specifically to the Jews as a people, and the Gentires as a people. Paul, in this chapter, and in verse 29 specifically, is speaking about God’s choosing of the Jews as His elect, and His willingness to maintain that covenant regardless of their not keeping their end. The word, “for” that leads this verse ties it directly to the preceding thought of verse 28, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling…”
    To use the statement, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” to support restoring of ministry taken in moral failure, one would have to find support from other scriptures to validate the claim. Unfortunately, there isn’t any, and this verse cannot be used for that purpose.

    Further, Adultery is not like unbelief. It is not like running from God’s call. It is not like fear. It is something far greater, and something that defiles the individual who indulges in it.
    You want a verse about adultery? Here’s a couple… Proverbs 6:32-33 states, “32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. 33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.”

    A minister who has committed adultery has absolutely no business being reinstated to that position of power and authority that led to his taking advantage of a woman in the first place. One who misuses authority to wound others is not fit to hold the office. Now or ever.

    Restore the man to God. Restore the man to fellowship. Restore the man to Christian service. But do not put him back in a position to exercise authority over others.

  3. Bro. Jones,

    I try not to be confrontational (I leave that to my wife) but I did need to weigh in on this subject. I believe the ministry is the highest calling. I believe that we as ministers need to live a life that is above reproach. Even the scriptures declare that a Bishop should only have one wife. Even though God says Sin is Sin and one sin is not greater than another I do believe that Moral-Sin probably has the longest lasting effect on an individual. It affects them, their spouse, their children, their congregation, their community, and even many times, the fellowship.

    With all that being said…Let me also say…

    The above are all true statements and it is very easy to quickly come to a judgment on this matter…until…it hits close to home. I have someone who is very dear to me who had this very thing happen in their life. They have paid dearly for the moment of sin which happened in their life. It was not a long drawn out affair or anything like that. It was a quick moment of weakness when he was trapped. This individual quickly, without his congregation knowing what had happened, quickly resigned and moved 400 miles away. Repented to his wife, and to God, and moved on. Only God knows the battles he has had to overcome in his personal life since that day. The trust issues, etc. He mailed his fellowship card back to the district secretary’s office. The District Secretary refused to accept the card and sent it back to him. He didn’t want to affect his former church so he just kept the card and kept his mouth shut. He tried to move on gracefully but it was obvious he couldn’t do this. No one knew but he and his wife for a period of almost two years. Life was returning to normal for this man and he found a good church to attend and was a good saint. Only after his pastor kept trying to get him to go pastor another church did he confess his earlier sin to his pastor (he had confessed it two years earlier to his wife and to God). His pastor, before the conversation was through, asked for his minister’s fellowship card. This individual gave it to him. He continued to attend that church for 2 more years until his job moved him to another city. All this time this individual still had the call of God on his life but because of the UPC manual he felt like he could never pastor again. He wondered for almost ten years being a good saint but frustrated because of that one moment of weekness. Finally, after his job moved him to a city without a UPC church he started witnessing and sharing Jesus with some coworkers and won them to the Lord. He baptized them in his swimming pool and started weekly home bible studies. He finally started a church (in a city with no UPC church for him to attend). He now has almost 200 in his church. He finally got license with another organization. He would love to be a part of the UPC because this is the organization he grew up in. He attends many UPC functions. He supports UPC missionaries. He supports Metro Missions. The UPC accepts his money but not his membership because of one dumb moment on his part. He is probably a greater pastor now because of his past sin. His compassion is greater. He is more careful now because of what happened in the past. He has accountability partners now. He is more accountable to his wife now. Actually over time he has grown from this bad experience.

    Now I said all that to say this…

    If every minister was like this case I would be 100% for this resolution…


    I am afraid it would open the door to ministers thinking they could sin and keep their license.

    I am not for the resolution the way it is written. I believe in forgiveness but there has to be some great deal of accountability revisions writen in to it as well.

    Oh well, that’s my two cents worth!

    By the way, Great discussion topic Bro. Jones.

    Mark Hopper
    Pastor – The Potter’s House Church, Battle Creek, MI

  4. I wonder how many of the “preach it, Brother” bandwagon are secretly looking at porn at home? The greater your personal anger at something, the more likely it’s in your own life.

  5. Peter,

    It’s interesting that you take such a defensive stance on this. I haven’t noticed a “bandwagon” here, or anywhere else, honestly. What I have noticed is a very broad range of emotional and intellectual responses both on this blog and in the Church in general… responses that are mostly heart-felt and honest, both for and against the re-gaining of organizational license.

    I do take serious issue with your assertion that preaching/teaching/speaking against something indicates a personal problem with it. If that were the case, the entire scripture would be full of hypocritical writ.

    If you have anything of substance to add to the discussion, I’d be glad to entertain it, Peter.

Leave a comment