The Biggest Scandal in Church History

Lately there’s been some recent scandals that have surfaced in the evangelical world. I won’t link to them, but it’s the stuff you hear about on a fairly regular basis: affairs, assumed affairs, embezzlement, frivolous spending, abuse. My Twitter feed has been bloated with links and articles on how men and women have fallen from their pulpits into sin and devastation.

This morning I read a blog post a friend of mine linked to and cringed – not because of the scandal-du-jour, but because of the assumptions and accusations made by a person who is far outside of the situation.

Recently, a public figure in the Christian world confessed to an emotional-type affair, saying (or implying) the woman he was inappropriately involved with and he did not engage in sexual acts. People have torn into his confession and resignation letter, projecting the assumptions that somehow they were sexually involved, that the man’s wife has no other choice but to endure and is probably ostracized from their community because it is one that is highly patriarchal. That this man will take some time off, but because of his authority and apparent brain-washing, will be back in power again soon. Assumptions are made about the other woman forever wearing a scarlet letter (some assumptions were made she was a virgin and unmarried, neither of which were mentioned in the statement).

Water well

I take two issues with this:

1) So many assumptions are being made in this situation and others like it. Outside of what is stated in this man’s resignation letter, we know nothing.  As Christians, we are called to believe the best and to hope for the best in our brothers and sisters. I understand the temptation to dig, to find the “truth,” to stare at the car wreck, but we cannot do this. It only destroys the beauty of our own hearts as well as tarnishes another at the time when they’re most vulnerable.

2) Although one, some, any of these “scandals” may be true to its worst assumption, we cannot let ourselves ruin a gift we don’t even have the right to have: grace. Grace is the biggest scandal in church history. It is something none of us deserve; something we’re given when we’re hiding in our sin and we meet our Saviour at the well. He offers us life, love, and hope: not condemnation. What will help someone who’s fallen “Go and sin no more?” Our gossip? Our assumptions? Our self-righteousness? Or our love, our encouragement, and our prayers?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Paul

 

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14 thoughts on “The Biggest Scandal in Church History

  1. This the perfect setting to close our ears and open our hearts. Prayer is the ONLY choice in the situations. We have NO NEED to know anything other that Christ and His love. All we are required to do is lift to the throne of grace. God knows the ends and outs of this and every other thing going on in the world.

  2. This is a touchy item to comment on, but I think you’re right – we do have to be patient and learn the facts before we judge. A good caution for all of us.

  3. “Grace is the biggest scandal in church history.” wow…that just hits me right square in the chest. 7 years ago I was a staff member for a church…and I had an affair with my best friends wife. Once the affair was found out, news of it spread throughout the church like wild fire. Mere hours after i resigned my position from the church I was already getting phone calls from church members voicing their disappointment, and some even screaming at me to move out of town. I didn’t handle all that very well…I was angry, sad, and confused…I felt judged for my sin and I couldn’t understand why people would rate my sin higher than any other. It took me a few years to realize that people don’t necessarily rate sin…they rate pain. And in that respect I had caused a lot of pain in my church. That doesn’t justify their response…but I get it.

    Eventually I left my wife and my best friends wife left him….we married and lived life together for another 3 years…until she had an affair. Anne, I share all this with you to confirm your what you said about grace being the biggest scandal in church history…because after my second wife filed for divorce and I was on my own….guess who was the first person to come see and encourage me? My best friend…whose wife I had taken away. He hugged me and told me he forgave me and that he still loved me…he helped me when I didn’t deserve it.

    We don’t offer grace to people because they deserve it…we do it because it’s been given to us and because Christ died so that we would offer it to others. I fell like we all have a lot more to learn about grace.

    Great post.

  4. Isn’t that the story of Jesus? Joseph a carpenter had an emotional relationship with an unmarried virgin and wanted to hide and do the wrong thing per the law but instead laid low, probably endured assumptions and gossip – but the scandal was the savior of the world comes through a sordid “affair”

  5. Anne, just found your blog again after several years (it seems). So glad you have found healing in your life. I was around for the split, your journey, and your renewal. As a father of several daughters, it brings me great joy to see you happy and whole again. And writing good stuff. (G-town represent!)

    After reading the comments, I had to comment. As a believer, we have no place to judge. That’s tough to say after being in four different churches with inappropriate things happening with staff. But its true. The first was that my pastor was revealed as having homosexual affairs, his wife having an affair with a deacon as retribution. The last, in my current church, a staff member having an “emotional” affair with a member of the congregation. The others a mash of some combination of the above. I wonder how I ended up in those places sometimes. But aside from the pain, I know I was there to pray, for them and the congregation.

    The first time, I was on the verge of joining a group of young men who were in a training class with that pastor. He left for a trip overseas, me waiting, thinking I had finally landed in the spot to learn from a respected, and powerful pastor. Only to have the rug pulled out from under me. I floundered for years after that.

    As someone close to those situations, I can offer the following.

    1. I get the comment above about anger being expressed by the congregation. I was angry, hurt, and not sure which direction to head in next. For several years I tried to find my place in ministry. I just felt I was not supposed to go the seminary route. I still feel that way. So the opportunity for instruction and mentoring by a bonafide man of God who ministered in power was an answer to prayer. When it fell apart, I was lost. And angry. I was close to one of the premier pastors in America. And when my opportunity was gone, I was crushed. But crushed is better than being drawn into or in the middle of a scandal.

    2. Seeing four men that I loved, prayed for and expected great things from fall was very difficult. I guess the romantic in me expected each of these men, who were great in different ways, to produce great fruit for the kingdom of God. But being a few years removed, encountering my own scandal and finding my own healing, has provided me with some perspective. I can see now that men in power are exactly that. Men in power. Though society and the church expects differently from them. Men are men. Fallen. A christian with a past is a man with the possibility of repeating that past. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Which is why most smart men of God put themselves in a position of accountability. Everyone can fall, even you. We all need to depend on God’s grace to walk with him daily.

    My cynicism was a perfect tool for where God has helped me land.

    After two of the falls I witnessed, and a gouge in the eyes (not literally) by a previous pastor, I gave up on ministry. I went back to school and obtained a professional degree and certification.

    Anne, just found your blog again after several years (it seems). So glad you have found healing in your life. I was around for the split, your journey, and your renewal. As a father of several daughters, it brings me great joy to see you happy and whole again. And writing good stuff. (G-town represent!)

    After reading the comments, I had to comment. As a believer, we have no place to judge. That’s tough to say after being in four different churches with inappropriate things happening with staff. But its true. The first was that my pastor was revealed as having homosexual affairs, his wife having an affair with a deacon as retribution. The last, in my current church, a staff member having an “emotional” affair with a member of the congregation. The others a mash of some combination of the above. I wonder how I ended up in those places sometimes. But aside from the pain, I know I was there to pray, for them and the congregation.

    The first time, I was on the verge of joining a group of young men who were in a training class with that pastor. He left for a trip overseas, me waiting, thinking I had finally landed in the spot to learn from a respected, and powerful pastor. Only to have the rug pulled out from under me. I floundered for years after that.

    As someone close to those situations, I can offer the following.

    1. I get the comment above about anger being expressed by the congregation. I was angry, hurt, and not sure which direction to head in next. For several years I tried to find my place in ministry. I just felt I was not supposed to go the seminary route. I still feel that way. So the opportunity for instruction and mentoring by a bonafide man of God who ministered in power was an answer to prayer. When it fell apart, I was lost. And angry. I was close to one of the premier pastors in America. And when my opportunity was gone, I was crushed. But crushed is better than being drawn into or in the middle of a scandal.

    2. Seeing four men that I loved, prayed for and expected great things from fall was very difficult. I guess the romantic in me expected each of these men, who were great in different ways, to produce great fruit for the kingdom of God. But being a few years removed, encountering my own scandal and finding my own healing, has provided me with some perspective. I can see now that men in power are exactly that. Men in power. Though society and the church expects differently from them. Men are men. Fallen. A christian with a past is a man with the possibility of repeating that past. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Which is why most smart men of God put themselves in a position of accountability. Everyone can fall, even you. We all need to depend on God’s grace to walk with him daily.

    My cynicism was a perfect tool for where God has helped me land.

    After two of the falls I witnessed, and a gouge in the eyes (not literally) by a previous pastor, I gave up on ministry. I went back to school and obtained a professional degree and certification.

    I found myself in the middle of some very famous people. Like, people you see on TV every day. I don’t even know how it happened exactly. But my cynical nature that developed from my hurts, has been a great tool for those people. I am not enamored by their elevated position. And for the most part, the dazzle doesn’t get to me. It allows me to shoot straight with them, and they appreciate that . People in that position have few people in their lives that can be completely honest with them. I’m that guy. And they love me. And send more of their famous friends to me.

    The one thing I’ve noticed is that famous people are just like you and I. Only they often have more problems. They can just afford their’s easier than we can. They love their significant others. They love their parents. They want the best for their kids. And they want to be happy.

    I am still on my journey, but closer than I was even a year ago. I still have questions, mostly about me and how I managed to screw things up. But I am grateful that God can redeem our lives and mistakes. My grandfather used to say, “its how you finish boy.” I am believing for God’s grace to finish strong, and close to him.

    I am still on my journey, but closer than I was even a year ago. I still have questions, mostly about me and how I managed to screw things up. But I am grateful that God can redeem our lives and mistakes. My grandfather used to say, “its how you finish boy.” I am believing for God’s grace to finish strong, and close to him. Part of that journey is forgiveness for the fallen.