Some are predicting that over 400 clergy and religious leaders will resign their positions this Sunday after their names appeared on the Ashley Madison list. As many of you know, this website facilitated affairs.
Many will be understandably frustrated and hurt by the news that their pastor appeared on this list. This will be particularly true for those clergy who have preached monogamy and who have attacked gay marriage as an assault on traditional marriages. Clearly, this will be seen as hypocrisy and unfitting for those serving churches.
So what do we do and where do we go from here? As a minister and as a husband, I believe that the marriage relationship is one that is a kin to a covenantal relationship. We are to be supportive of one another and in the words of Scripture we are to be subject to one another.
Still, clergy are human and prone to human error. That does not mean, however, that all clergy are having affairs or misusing their positions for financial gain or other purposes that are in conflict with their call to ministry.
The real tragedy is the hypocrisy that so many clergy engage in. Clergy often present themselves as somehow more perfect or more holy than the average parishioner. This is a terrible mistake. We are all flawed.
President Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, was openly mocked decades ago when he declared that he had sinned in his heart. But it was a deeply honest answer from a Christian struggling with his faith and trying to be the best husband that he could be. In retrospect, I hope that people see his openness as a demonstration of what it means to be an authentic Christian.
We need more of this from our church leaders. We need to be able to admit that we are not perfect people and that our lives are a journey and that none of us has reached perfection. We need to be humble and to embrace our flawed humanity as we seek through our faith and experience to better ourselves.
It is also a mistake, if not a sin, to point other people (such as gays and lesbians) and suggest that they are a threat to the institution of marriage. Straight people have been messing up the institution of marriage as we now understand it for as long as it has been around.
Ultimately, families and individual churches will have to wrestle with how to respond if their church pastor is found to be on this list. My sincere hope is that whenever possible we seek to offer appropriate forgiveness and to look for ways to bring reconciliation to broken relationships.
Spouses should be given the space to determine what that best means for them under these difficult circumstances. Yes, sometimes that will mean separation or divorce and there is nothing unChristian about responding in such away. We can never know all the dynamics involved in a marriage that is not our own. Nor should we judge if a couple decides to stay together and repair the breach that has been broken.
As for the rest of us, we should not take glee in the Ashley Madison leak. We shoud seriously contemplate the words uttered by Jesus that are recorded in Matthew 7:3 (NRSV):
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"
Who among us can say that we have not stumbled or fallen in one way or another over the course of our lives?
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