The Ashley Madison hack, the exposure of adultery and the site itself are all reprehensible and sinful. In some states, adultery is still considered a crime and under the Law of God, it is a capital offense. However, there is at least one outlet claims that around 400 church leaders will resign this Sunday after the list of customers to Ashley Madison was released.
Ed Stetzer wrote at Christianity Today, “Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be. To be honest, the number of pastors and church leaders on Ashley Madison is much lower than the number of those looking to have an affair. Yet, there is still much that we must consider in the midst of the embarrassment.”
Stetzer estimates 400 church leaders were involved on the site. I’m not saying he isn’t correct. It could be more or it could be less. Any church leaders falling into such sin not only brings a reproach upon himself, but upon the Church and the Lord Jesus, as well as gives the world a reason to blaspheme God (2 Samuel 12:14). They also give up any right to lead the Church as well (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).
There is no doubt that the world focuses much more on those who are upholding the standard of God’s Word and fall. Thus, this is the reason that God, though He forgave King David following his repentance for adultery and conspiring in the death of Uriah (2 Sam. 12:13), faced serious consequences because of his sin (2 Sam. 12:9-12, 14). God told him, “because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”
Our sin is always a grievous thing because it is always a rebellion against God and His Law. Church leaders are held to a higher standard as well. They are those who are recognized in the community as those who are the mouthpiece of God in expositing His Word every week.
Whatever the number of church leaders who gave into their temptations and sinned in this manner, whether one or 400, they still give reason for unbelievers to blaspheme the Truth. Unbelievers are still accountable for their blasphemy, but nevertheless the sin of these leaders must be taken into account.
Yet, there is something else that should be considered and many don’t consider this in our day and age and that is, what was the theology of these church leaders? Do they actually believe the Bible? Or, are they actually those who have been in the culture preaching that everybody’s OK? My friend Dr. Joel McDurmon commented on this very issue recently. He wrote:
I see a lot of shares about the 400 pastors who will resign because of#AshleyMadison. I see articles multiplying. Yes, 400 is a big number, but let’s have some context:
There are 607,000+ clergy in the U.S. 400 of those makes for about 0.07 percent, or 7 hundredths of one percent.
Compare that to the 31 million male AM accounts, which comprises roughly 20.5 percent of the U.S. population of men in general (151.4 million).
See a disparity there? 20.5% vs. 0.07%.
Further, we don’t even know the makeup of the 400 pastors. Several may be from liberal, humanist, modernist, or antinomian backgrounds. Shock, here, anyone?
Yes, it’s a tragedy that any pastor or church officer would fail in this regard, but it should be somewhat encouraging to see such a HUGE disparity between clergy and the general population.
I think that is a good context for sure and does put things in perspective that there is not a huge number of people in the Church that this hypocrisy can be laid on. I don’t say that in order to make light of what took place in Ashley Madison. On the contrary, there must be a proper perspective and there must also be proper discipline applied to those in leadership in the Church.
There should not just be resignation from Church leaders, but God has laid out in Matthew 18 a process by which the Church is to deal with those that sin. First, if the sin is against them personal, the one sinned against should go to their brother and seek repentance. If they repent, Jesus says that one has won his brother. If not, then the person goes to the sinning brother with two or three witnesses and if there is no repentance, he tells it to the Church. That portion is often taken out of context, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst.” He’s talking in legal, biblical law terms (Matt. 18:20, cf. Matt 18:16; 1 Cor. 13:1; Heb. 10:28). Even accusations without evidence against elders are to not be received unless there are two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).
We also know that the apostle Paul rebuked the Church at Corinth because they were puffed up about a man having his father’s wife. Apparently, they saw grace as a license to sin. However, Paul said that when they gathered together they should excommunicate the man from the Church and turn him over to Satan (1 Cor. 5).
Even if a man repents and is forgiven following such sin, there are consequences that he will have to face and one of those consequences is that he must not be allowed to continue in leadership.
Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. –Proverbs 6:33
However, we are still left with those who are then given ammunition to blaspheme God and His Word. Take for instance, JT Eberhard spoke of extracting “nuggets of solid gold” from the CT article. He wrote, “I wonder how many of those pastors made a big deal about how faithful, monogamous gay couples are ruining the sanctity of marriage. I guess this is the proof: just look at how all this gay marriage is forcing these pastors to be hypocrites who lie to the spouse. If only those gay people would find Jesus none of this would ever happen.”
You can sense the sarcasm dripping from his words, but he fails to realize the other nearly 99.93 percent who were not a part of Ashley Madison, who were not hypocrites.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? -1 Peter 4:17-18