In these troubling times it is rare to go through another day without hearing or reading in the various media that another minister has fallen; the brother or sometimes sister has succumbed to temptation and committed heinous acts. Perhaps the transgression is not of a sexual or financial nature, perhaps the wrong is a departure from faith on the minister’s part; it is amazing how many ministers these days are coming out as closeted atheists, but regardless of the transgression the ministers flock is left in a confused and devastated state. I can reflect on the pain felt by the victims–the congregation–as my wife and I have suffered through such, not just once but twice.
We hadn’t been married long, still going through pastoral counseling after we had both been through divorce then later found each other and remarried, and we had become close to our Southern Baptist Pastor. I mean we revered this guy as much as Roman Catholics revere the Pope; in the same way that many Protestants love their pastors–a near hero worship type of thing. Then we felt lost, confused, in pain, quite literally one of those dark nights of the soul when we learned our brother had had an affair with his own daughter in law and they were expecting a baby from this union!
The second time was after we both accepted the call to the ministry, a path that eventually lead us to Orthodoxy and Independent Catholicism (Note: these independent jurisdictions are not affiliated with Rome but while Rome recognizes their Holy Orders as valid, Rome sees them as irregular as the Roman Church was not involved in the ordination or consecration process.) Accepted by a small order of brothers and sisters made up of married couples–some with children–and also single adults, we once again allowed ourselves to be set up for pain and suffering as we began to admire the young presiding Bishop.
The Bishop, a young man in his late thirties at the time, married happily to a darling young lady, was in our eyes the epitome of Christianity. The couple had even took another young lady and her children into their home, a seemingly big happy family. Then the day came when the Bishop and his wife announced that they intended to hold a blessing ceremony accepting the other young Lady into their family as a spiritual wife. Of course this literally tore the group in half, the younger liberal crowd going one way and the older conservative group the other. While some would say to those of older more conservative folks that parted ways with the Polygamist Priest that we should have embraced love no matter what form it takes and in both cases accepted and tolerated the sin–ignoring scripture. However in all good conscience we still could not accept either situation–the Baptist or the Bishop–as their actions were harmful to everyone, most especially their wives and children. The evils of Polygamy will be debated another time and another place, so let’s return to our current discussion, that of the seemingly end of the world event when a pastor falls from grace.
The bottom line is this, when we feel pain, hurt, betrayal, confusion, and other not so desirable emotions when hear our beloved pastor has been caught with his fingers in the proverbial cookie jar, do we not need to seriously look at our selves? Is it possible that we each sinned by effectively making that man or woman a false idol? Idolatry is placing a greater importance or consideration on anything than you do God; a false idol can be anything, not just a graven image or statuary. We must be extra careful not to put our beloved clergy up on a golden pedestal; doing so is invite failure and disappointment.
Our pastors, priests, reverends, doctors, brothers, bishops and popes are naught but human, sinners–like each of us–trying to live a life free of sin. Unfortunately as humans they are not immune to temptation. So be careful of how you idolize your minister, remember they are only human, and heaven forbid they fall remember Christian charity, compassion and forgiveness; be there to support them when they repent and heal together.
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