Monthly Archives: November 2011

Keeping secrets

(I’ve received a number of notes over the last few years from those of you going through this same thing.  I would like to share the stories of others going through the fall of a pastor.  I will remove the names, dates and locations to protect their privacy, but their stories from the pews are so important that I wanted to share them with you.   -Mike)

Thank you for writing your blog.  At the moment, I am the confidante of our pastor’s wife in a very small church (under 60 most Sundays.)  We’ve been through a difficult loss of a beloved pastor (new appointment) which made many leave our church and now our current pastor is having an affair.  I am the only one at church who knows at this time about this situation and have been praying with and for the pastor’s wife.   He has asked her to leave the parsonage, but she has determined to stay as long as she can.  While there is no physical abuse, the situation is becoming unbearable as he leaves her and the children, as he lies, as he walks blinded to what he is doing to his family.  At this point they believe their boys don’t know, but the 12 year old is perceptive and knows things aren’t right.

I am so burdened for this family, for this dear wife who is so wounded (and has never been anything but an exemplary pastor’s wife, supporting him through seminary and small churches, working hard in the churches they served, etc.)   She is looking for a full-time job and housing so she can leave, because staying is becoming too hard and in the meantime, they tell their children nothing and outside of their very immediate family, and our district superintendent (who only knows he wants out of the marriage, not about the affair) I am the only other one who knows about this.  I have not even told my own husband what is going on except that he knows I meet with the pastor’s wife because she is having “issues.”  I do believe he has his suspicions though!

I am not exactly sure why I am writing, except that this is pretty anonymous and I need to share this burden.  I do not think our church  has any real procedure for church discipline; I am pretty sure the pastor fully expects to continue preaching and receiving his salary until an appointment to a new church, which is what typically is the procedure in a divorce situation.  I have appreciated reading your blog, seeing what you’ve “done right” and gleaning much wisdom from your experience.

Thank you so much for the wise counsel offered in those blog posts… I am preparing for the earthquake, even while I struggle Sunday after Sunday to sit and hear him preach and act as if all is right with the world… Jesus has been faithfully instructing me in how to deal, and even when I feel at a loss, I know He will continue to lead.

We are going through the same thing — is it OK to feel this way?

(I’ve received a number of notes over the last few years from those of you going through this same thing.  I would like to share the stories of others going through the fall of a pastor.  I will remove the names, dates and locations to protect their privacy, but their stories from the pews are so important that I wanted to share them with you.  Here is the first one.  -Mike)

I am writing this on behalf of my husband and I.

I’ve found your site to be very helpful, and beneficial.

I write to you because our church underwent a similar situation. In 200-  our pastor had been unfaithful to his wife, which he admitted to us in a letter of resignation. The incident had occurred months prior, but he felt it was right to resign, even though they were in the middle of reconciliation. I worked for the church at the time and the shockwave of the sin and resignation hit all of us staff. It shocked the rest of the congregation as well. At the time I was ready to forgive, completely understanding that he’d chosen to resign for the better of the congregation.

But giving began going down after his resignation, although much of it probably related more to the economy, and I was among those staff members laid off as a result. The pastor completed reconciliation/recommission and then started another church in our area, which resulted in a church split. Individual congregants, including my husband and I, have endured some pretty hard, heavy-duty financial and physical trials, which we continue to this day.  When I lost my job that was when I became angry with the pastor and the situation. I knew people who were my mentors or friends who left our church to go to his and it was like a pain going through my heart. I am still hurt because his sin ultimately caused my job loss and helped contribute to our financial struggles. I’ve struggled with feelings of betrayal, feeling as if he abandoned our church after so many years invested in it.  I feel hurt because he apologized in a letter instead telling us face-to-face.  I have not been able to visit the pastor’s new church. Now I don’t want to harbor unforgiveness, and I have asked the Lord to help me to forgive, but the situation is still painful. Is this OK? Will I get to place of forgiveness? How do I really get over this and truly forgive? Is there any support groups that address this situation?

A note from a fallen pastor

I am the pastor who fell, the one who worked with the man who created this site. Only recently did he tell me about it, and he asked me if I would be willing to write my own perspective as a Fallen Pastor. I responded that if I could offer anything of value to help people, I would be happy to do so.

The first and most important thing is to share my sorrow, grief, and sadness over the hurt and damage my sin has caused. I do not excuse it in any way. It’s been five years and more since my sin became public, and I have lived with regret and sadness every single day since. Beyond hurting people I loved and who believed in me, the worst thing to live with is to have brought reproach on Jesus Christ and discredit to his message of grace, hindering the progress of the gospel. Sometimes I can’t imagine why he has allowed me to live, and even more, to find a new life in which he continues to share grace and love with me. His grace is truly amazing.

Having said this with all sincerity, I believe it might be helpful for me to address what I believe are some misconceptions about “pastors who fall.”

First, I believe it needs to be said that there is no single category of “pastors who fall.” The stories are as unique as the individuals. There are all kinds. The worst cases are serial offenders, who go across town and start another church, seemingly without conscience or repentance. Most pastors I’ve known, however, have been sincere men who wanted to serve God. In the cases of those who fell, they ran into temptation during a time of weakness and sinned, the same as any believer can do. I can’t talk about anyone else’s story meaningfully. I can only speak for myself and what happened to me.

I never dreamed I could fall into adultery. I was married and in the ministry for almost 30 years, and had an unspotted record of integrity and faithfulness. For all those years, I made it my aim to not even flirt with another woman. What happened to me was a gradual breaking down that finally reduced me to clinical depression. Once I hit that state, I lived for almost a year wanting to die every single day. There was no joy, no happiness, no light, seemingly no presence of God in the universe. If you have never experienced it, you’ll have to take the word of those who have and of the medical profession. Genuine clinical depression is not a pouting spell or simply being down in the dumps. It is a brain chemistry phenomenon where you simply can’t reason or feel normally. The emotional pain was sometimes so great that it became physical pain.

It was in the midst of this that a woman came into my life representing a temptation I couldn’t resist. Through her I received brief glimpses of happiness in that dark dungeon. It was only an emotional connection during the following months, but eventually, inch by inch, I got to a point of literal unfaithfulness. That period lasted about two months. I ended the relationship and tried to hang on and pull myself back together, but the secret came out. I was barely functional by that time. I confessed and resigned immediately.

It was the only time in my life that I was unfaithful to my mate, but one time was all it took. My job was over. My career was over. My marriage was over. My wife told me that nothing I could do would change her mind, and she angrily threw me out of the house. I drove away with no place to live and no money.

I think one of the hardest things for church members where pastors have fallen is dealing with the lack of answers. Along with the feelings of betrayal, their imaginations run riot. However, a moment’s serious thought makes it clear that detailed explanations cannot be given to the public. It involves too many people, and too many people would be hurt even more in the process. If there are facts about my marriage and the reasons behind my sin that even my best friends and grown children don’t know, you can be very sure the public isn’t going to hear about them. However, the unanswered questions can drive people pretty crazy and make them increasingly angrier.

I understand that members of the church would like to have “closure,” but I have been preoccupied with other realities like, “Can I find a reason to keep on living at all?” and “What can I do for a job to support myself?” All I had done for 30 years was to work in ministry. What kind of job could I find to do now? Thanks be to God, he has helped me find a new life and a new career. His grace has overflowed to me, the one who betrayed him.

I will never work in public ministry again. If the Lord allows me to serve him in other ways, I am thrilled to do so. I love Jesus Christ, and express my sadness to him every day about my sin. I tell former church members about my sadness and ask their forgiveness whenever I get the chance. I don’t know what else I can do.

Thanks for allowing me to share. I hope these things are helpful to others.