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.