I am writing this letter for a number of reasons. First, it is to express my deep disappointment in your moral failing. Second, it is for the benefit of the church I serve, that they might follow Christ more closely. Finally, it is for the benefit of my friends and family who do not know Jesus.
I am a Millennial pastor serving in a small church in Northern Michigan. I was not raised in the SBC but having been serving in Southern Baptist churches for the last twelve years.
I can only assume from your follow-up statement to your first resignation that you mean adultery when you say “personal failing” and “personal indiscretion”. If this is the case, please clarify your sin. We live in a culture that uses language to minimize sin. Adultery is not an affair, a fling, or a personal indiscretion. When we minimize sin, we minimize our need for the Savior.
Because you have used terms that our entire culture will interpret as adultery, I am responding to your resignation with that assumption.
At the very least, I call on you to prorate any monies and benefits you received from the SBC (including travel, meals, conferences, etc.) from the time this relationship began. Please return these funds to the Cooperative Program. Both of the SBC churches I have served in have given faithfully and sacrificially to the CP. My current church is in desperate need of a larger sanctuary. We are growing in leaps and bounds. It is difficult for us to see our massive need to serve more people with the gospel, then look at our giving over the years and see that some of those funds have been used to enable you to lead us while committing grievous sin.
Please return the funds.
More importantly, if indeed you have committed adultery, your sin goes far beyond adultery. Because of your power, authority, and influence, it is sexual abuse. Perhaps it is not sexual abuse that is illegal but remember that the law is the absolute bottom of morality, not the top. Just because something is legal, does not mean it is moral or acceptable in God’s eyes.
King David sexually abused Bathsheba. He used his power to have sex with Bathsheba. When Nathan the Prophet confronted the king, Nathan said the rich man devoured the lamb. While we are not given insight into how David and Bathsheba’s sexual encounter played out in the bed chambers, God – speaking through the prophet – was very clear. What David did in taking the lamb and devouring it was abuse. In a very real way, David destroyed Bathsheba.
I found it ironic that on the same Sunday, a popular pastor in America described his sexual abuse of a teenager as a “sexual encounter” our small church was wrestling through 2 Samuel 13 – the rape of Tamar.
As we discussed this difficult topic, I communicated to the church that we would not sweep sexual abuse claims under the rug like so many organizations and churches have done. Instead we would immediately separate the accused, contact authorities, and communicate what was happening with the church congregation.
Part of my hope with this letter is to bring to light sin so that the congregation I serve does not have to fear that I, or other leaders in the church, will ignore or minimize sexual abuse.
While I pray for you and your family’s well-being and healing, I hope the public consequences of your sin are severe. So severe that generations of pastors understand that sin is not worth it. God told David, “You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight” (2 Samuel 12:12). While there is forgiveness to be found in Christ – there are consequences in this life. It is the entire point of 2 Samuel 12. Forgiveness with consequences.
Other than answering and repenting of your sin, please do not enter again into public ministry. You can serve the Church in many wonderful ways, behind the scenes.
On a final and personal note, you know that pastoral ministry is hard. It is becoming increasingly hard. You have made it harder for all of the SBC churches you were supposed to be serving. Your sin terrifies me. Not because it is so foreign and unthinkable, but because it is very near to me. While I have never committed physical adultery or fornication, I know that I very well could do so. I know that sexual sin frequently comes knocking on the door of my heart.
So, I too need to repent. I repent in the hopes that I will rely on the strength of God the Holy Spirit and not myself. I repent, trusting that the sacrifice of Christ is not only enough to forgive me of my sins, but to keep me from falling.
And I repent in the hopes that God will somehow use this fallout for His glory, for your good, and that many sons and daughters will enter into the Kingdom of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Nathan J. Norman
njn (at) nathanjamesnorman.com