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  • Affairs and other affairs

    Hi guys,

    Those of you who've been around for a while may know that I've had a string of issues within my worship team over the past few years, particularly with my worship pastor. It lead to a falling out with my worship pastor, who this year resigned from his position due to "mental health issues". You guys have been heaps supportive over that time, and some of you have encouraged reconciliation, even though I have struggled to feel anything but anger toward a pastor who has a history of showing favouritism toward some and neglect of his ministry generally.

    Now there's a new wrinkle. I have just returned from holidays and been informed that the worship pastor did indeed have mental health issues, but they were not the main reason for his resignation. He resigned because he had an "inappropriate relationship" with one of our worship leaders.

    Needless to say, I now understand why I have felt so persistently angry and befuddled by this pastor, why I always felt frustrated by our conversations, as though I was being held at arms' length. Now I know why I never felt like I was getting anywhere with him, why I always felt that something was missing from our conversations, why I could never really nail him down. Now I know why, after confronting him repeatedly and graciously about favouritism within the team, he was completely incapable of hearing me. One of the main people he showed favouritism to was the worship leader with whom he had the affair.

    My own reactions aside, I am now left with significant concerns re: how the church handled this.
    1) The church was originally informed by the senior pastor that our worship pastor left due to mental health issues. Only the band has since been told the truth of the matter. I call this a lie.
    2) The church has a history of covering up the true nature of issues within the leadership, probably to protect the reputation of the church. So there is now a pattern.
    3) When the worship pastor initially left, the church was encouraged to send him messages of thanks for his ministry. I never did this; it never sat right with me. I now feel manipulated.
    4) In a nutshell, the church is encouraging secrecy and I think that secrecy has gotten the church into a lot of trouble lately (AKA Australia's recent Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse). I am outraged at the thought of colluding with the church's attempts to keep a leader's sin a secret.

    If you have been in this situation of your leadership having an affair: how did you handle it? How did your church handle it? What was some of the fallout?
    If you have not been in this situation: do you have any wisdom to offer? What would you do if you were in my shoes?

    My husband and I have felt dissatisfied in this church and ministry for a long time. We have stuck it out, believing God wanted us to stay. We have worked and worked on our attitudes, trying to "get on with it", trying to keep Jesus at the centre of our serving and of our hearts. But now we are seriously thinking of leaving.

    Thanks everyone.
    Steffie.

  • #2
    I'll ask you one question. What does the Bible say about all of this? In other words, how are the leaders of the church to respond when a leader fails morally? How do the leaders best help the one who has failed to be restored? How does the church as a whole respond and help? Is there a Biblical reason for the confidentiality (what you've called "secrecy and lies")?

    Nathan
    Practical Worship

    Please Pray For My Wife

    Comment


    • #3
      Aw man- sounds like your church has been through a lot of drama.

      As far as how a church has handled this stuff- there is a balance between transparency and privacy. As one who holds a leadership position in my day job, I have to deal with delicate situations every day. I have come to appreciate that not everything is everyone's business. For example- if the senior pastor said the WL left due to mental health issues but did not fully disclose the affair, that isn't necessarily a 'lie'. Think about it- he's trying to a delicate situation in a way where it respects people's privacy and doesn't become a major distraction. With all due respect, neither you nor the rest of the team need to know all the details. That being said, it may have been better to say 'there was a personal issue that will remain private, and details will be shared with those on a need-to-know basis, and right now, you aren't one who needs to know. We are respecting the privacy of the people involved, we will share more details when necessary.' That may have been a better communication method.

      However- if there is a noticeable pattern of communicating incomplete and inaccurate information with an intent to deceive/mislead, that's a problem.

      As far as colluding to keep sin a secret, collusion takes a willing participant. If you knew what was going on and were in cahoots with leadership with an intent to deceive, that's collusion. Being asked to do things by leadership when they have ulterior motives you aren't aware of is on them, not you. In the same respect, if they are leaving out details because you don't need to know because it's a privacy issue, That's not sin.

      One thing I see in this discussion- the issue of 'keeping sin a secret'. I know there are verses that say to confess sins to each other- that doesn't mean confess to everyone. Just because only a few people knew doesn't mean it was kept secret. Quite frankly, it's not everyone's business. The Bible also warns about being a 'talebearer' and engaging in gossip. Can you imagine if this information got into the hands of the church blabbermouth? It would have been chaos- it would have caused the church as a whole to sin. The scandal would be such a colossal mess that no kingdom work would be done. The individuals getting their name and what's left of their dignity shredded by the Congregation would likely cause irreparable damage to their journey of repentance and restoration.

      Put yourself in their shoes- you commit a sin, you get exposed, and you are confronted by leadership. You feel shamed, crushed, weak, and defeated. You repent, start to build your life back up, and all of a sudden everyone knows your 'dirty laundry'- everywhere you look, the judging eyes, the haughty looks, the whispers, the gossip, the rumors, the lies, the alienation- you'd want to crawl under a rock and die- maybe even leave the church and Jesus forever. Would you want everyone knowing your mistake, or just those who need to?

      That is the end goal- the repentance and restoration of the people in sin. It's the cornerstone of what it means to be a Christian. Extending the grace shown to us o those who need it. Maybe the church could have handled it better. They are human- they make mistakes. We need to make sure, as fellow believers, we extend grace to others to get it wrong once in a while- as long as the motives and intent are above board.

      I get it that you are frustrated and feel like you were misled. Maybe you were, and the feeling is justified. I get it that you feel anger towards the WL. Based on everything that 's happened, it may be time to move on and get a fresh start. It could be the only way you can move on with your ministry and forgive those who wronged you. I can only say I've had to do that a time or two and it was the right thing to do. BUT- if you do, you MUST leave the right way. Be honest. Forgive- leave it there. Because how you leave this church is how you will enter the next one. If you carry that baggage with you, your sensitivity to God's direction will be drowned out by your hypersensitivity to certain things that may not be reality. Kind of like ending a romantic relationship and jumping into the next one being 'on the rebound' and not thinking clearly and being objective. If you don't go through it carefully, you will wind up in the wrong place.

      Hope this works out for you- know you've had this issue going on awhile.

      Mike
      If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

      Comment


      • #4
        Guys, thanks for your input. Your wisdom is like a breath of fresh air. It brings new perspective which was the very thing I hoped for when I wrote this post.

        Mike, I appreciate your sentiment when it comes to forgiving, maintaining privacy and not jumping ship "on the rebound"! I do appreciate the need for privacy and the importance of not shaming someone for their sin. I certainly wouldn't want to be publicly shamed for all of my mistakes. I also think that the church should have said something along the lines of your suggestion: "The worship pastor has left/been asked to leave due to reasons we cannot disclose" rather than selling it as a mental health issue. The latter suggests the pastor was a victim of the mental health issue, not responsible and therefore not to blame. Whereas the former locates the blame with the pastor - his decisions and his actions were responsible for his leaving. I don't care about the details - I would have been happy not knowing about the affair - but I do care about being asked to thank someone who is painted as a "poor victim in a clinic" when in fact he left because of sin.

        I'll be honest, I'm struggling to forgive. I'll probably get there eventually, with God's help, but I don't think I'm there today. And it's not because I don't grasp the significance and implication of forgiveness. It's because I feel that the whole band, including myself, have been betrayed by this pastor. He's lost all my trust and respect. At times I feel angry and at other times I just grieve for what the band has lost. Not only has the pastor left the church but the worship leader has gone as well. And the impact is profound.

        I'm sure God will lead me to forgiveness. He is deeply concerned about healing, both intra- and interpersonal healing. I am certain he will do healing in my life. I just don't know how quickly it will happen. In the meantime, it's hard work just showing up every Sunday. It's hard to keep eyes fixed on Jesus with all the politics and garbage flying around. All prayer appreciated.

        Thanks again.

        Comment


        • #5
          BTW, as somebody who recently took three weeks off from his full-time job at the church because of mental health issues, I wouldn't completely discount that explanation as well. Unless you know EVERYTHING about the situation, you don't know if that was at least part of the truth of the matter.

          Nathan
          Practical Worship

          Please Pray For My Wife

          Comment


          • #6
            Steffie, my church has lost 5 pastors in the last decade because of "Inappropriate Behavior", from different departments, including a worship pastor. The incidents took place during a 3 year period that was absolutely brutal emotionally and spiritually for the entire church. Brutal for me personally too, being in Media Arts, I worked closely with all of them. As far as your pastor citing "Mental Health Issues" for the worship pastor's dismissal, that was a BIG mistake on his part. You can be open and honest about the dismissal, it is more difficult at first, but better for all in the long run. In the cases I mentioned at my church, the pastors in question were fired on the spot as soon as the situations came to light. Then the following weekends, the senior pastor would announce the pastor being dismissed for "Inappropriate Conduct", that violated the terms of their employment. He would then ask the congregation to pray with him for the pastor in question. I would approach your pastor and explain to him that purposely clouding the issue was not the correct way to handle this. You can offer him what my pastor did as an example of a better way to handle such issues.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks guys,

              Bassguitarist, that's a good idea, using the phrase, "Inappropriate Conduct". It indicates that something went wrong without having to go into the sordid details. I have thought about approaching the senior pastor, but my trust in him has been affected by all this, so I am cynical about it being worth the effort. Still tossing this up.

              Milepost, I totally agree. I don't have the full story. Just for the record, I do believe his mental health stuff was genuine. I dealt with him a lot in the lead-up to his resignation and I knew that he was profoundly unwell. It was obvious to all of us. So this is not me questioning the legitimacy of his mental health issues. The problem I have is citing mental health issues as a reason for resignation when, in fact, the reason he left was for inappropriate behaviour. He was mentally unwell for 18 months. He only left when the affair stuff came to light. As far as I know, the church has still not been told the whole truth of this situation, only the band.

              Guys, I'm plugging away at forgiveness. Hard yakka, as we say here in Australia. I still feel angry and sad about the whole affair. But I also kinda think that those feelings should not necessarily get in the way of forgiveness. I can forgive, truly surrender this to God, while accepting that I might still experience emotional reactions. Healing is complicated. If you have a spare sec, pray for me and for the healing of our whole worship ministry.

              "Step out of the traffic!
              Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,
              Above politics, above everything." - Psalm 46 (MSG) - my prayer.

              Thanks everyone.

              Comment


              • #8
                HI Steffie

                It may be helpful to sit down with the pastor and give constructive feedback. I do think leadership needs to hear that the way it was handled made it feel like you were lied to- or at the very least. misled. It's ok to be honest and say that it creates a trust barrier when the church leadership gives factually incomplete information that comes across as a smokescreen. It's deceptive. I think they need to hear that feedback. As long as it's delivered from a somewhat objective and constructive perspective.

                It's a tough situation for leadership to be in. They have to balance the need for transparency in decisions with the discretion to maintain the respect and dignity of the person(s) involved. Those can be competing interests. In the moment, they made a judgment call that, in hindsight, could have been handled better.

                Yes-healing is complicated. Forgiveness is a journey. Forgiveness doesn't mean you forget what happened or how it made you feel. It just means the event isn't going to steal your joy. It's not going to have the power to make you angry- to dwell there and rehearse the past hurts in your mind until it becomes an anchor that doesn't let you move forward. It means you have left it in the past and are moving forward. And it takes prayer and time to get to that point.

                Will be praying,
                Mike
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

                Comment

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