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Pastors and Sexual Immorality

Dr. Chet Weld is the Director of Pastoral Counseling at Casas Church in Tucson, AZ.  Here is part of a very interesting piece he recently wrote for Crosswalk.com:

How common is adultery among pastors?  About 15 years ago I read an interesting study that concluded the following: 10% of all psychologists have had an affair with a client; and 30% of all pastors have had an affair with a member of the congregation.

I think we can account for the difference between the 10% and the 30% in this way: Psychologists have to take a course in ethics, which includes teachings on how to draw boundaries with clients, how to seek counseling for themselves in order to understand their how to gain victory over personal flaws, how to avoid temptations in the office, how to make appropriate referrals, learning professional consequences of inappropriate behavior (losing one’s license), grasping the importance of “doing no harm” to a client, learning about the requirement to report another psychologist that you hear about that’s having an affair, and other important ethical and legal teachings.

I’ve had two years of seminary and three years of Bible College, and I never took such a course. If seminaries and Bible Colleges presently provide such a course, I’m not aware of this.

Also, pastors are frequently alone with women, alone in an office without a window, and sometimes even go to a woman’s house alone. Pastors are also “targets” for some women who idealize them, some of whom are extremely needy and flirtatious and who are sometimes mentally ill and without treatment.  My father, a Methodist minister, was plagued by a mentally ill woman who thought that he was the Messiah.  My father was able to refer her to a psychiatrist friend at Butler University.  Of course, this didn’t stop her from visiting my father’s church when we moved from Indianapolis to Columbus, Ohio.  I don’t know what became of her, but I remember that my father well documented all interactions and stayed far away from even the appearance of evil.

Basically, many pastors are “sitting ducks.”  Of course, their protection against immorality should be their deep and personal commitment to and relationship with Christ.  How sad that this is not enough.

via Pastoral Infidelity: Problems and Solutions – Pastors and Christian Leadership Resources.

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Have you known any ‘sitting ducks’?

Perhaps you’ve been a sitting duck at some point in your ministry.

Do you buy Dr. Weld’s reasoning for why pastor’s goof up more than Psychologists.

Where is the breakdown.

If you’ve ever had an affair or considered an affair while you were in ministry… what was the trigger?  How did it happen?

You can post anonymously if you like… but I’m interested in how it happened.  And it may be helpful to keep others from falling in the future.



7 Responses to “ “Pastors and Sexual Immorality”

  1. Paul S. says:

    During my time in seminary, one of my courses was on leadership, with an emphasis on strategic planning, and taught by Aubrey Malphurs. One of the assignments he gave us was to develop a strategy for avoiding sexual sin in ministry. While there’s no perfect answer (where there’s a will there’s a way), having a set of practices and principles that help keep temptation from getting a foot in the door is a good way to keep from “sliding into” sin.

    Mine included things like, “only counseling women when another person is nearby – preferably my wife (who’s better at counseling women anyway) and limiting it to two sessions before I refer them” and “my office will always have a glass panel as part of the design.” I thought about it along the lines of how Billy Graham won’t ride in an elevator alone with a woman, just to avoid the appearance of evil.

    What works for me might not work for others, but… failure to plan is planning to fail.

  2. Peter says:

    Strict “legalistic” boundaries have kept me safe and will continue to…

  3. Anonymous Preacher says:

    I highly doubt the number is 30% but I bet the number of pastors trapped in lust related sins is way higher then people think.

    Psychologists may have lots of training but their sin is not based on extreme spiritual warfare that comes against ministers. Ministers have all the issues counselors have, plus they have the issues that heads of corporations have, plus they have all the issues that people who perform on stage have, plus they have an adversary plotting their downfall like a roaring lion.

    I agree with what both Paul and Peter (talking about the commentors, not the Apostles) said. Rigid legalism will indeed preserve you. It has me. I have never had an inappropriate interaction with a woman since I have been married.

    But I find myself regularly fantasizing about the women in my church. It is disturbing and it drives me to the prayer closet but it happens. It doesn’t happen with people I don’t know. Not with tv or music stars, just the women who are in a position for me to sin with and destroy my family and ministry.

    I never hear men of God talk about this but it is a constant battle for me in my mind.

    I am thankful I was taught early on to set up barriers to protect me. I talk about them in mixed company. I tell people about these safeguards and advise men to put them in place. This way, if I violate them everyone will know I am in sin.

    And I love my good name to soil it by “testing the waters” to see if a woman would have an affair with me.

  4. mike says:

    “Ministers have all the issues counselors have, plus they have the issues that heads of corporations have, plus they have all the issues that people who perform on stage have, plus they have an adversary plotting their downfall like a roaring lion.”

    Good observation

  5. Jim says:

    In addition to the normal safeguards I have a list. Many years ago a man I deeply respected suggested I make a list of all those I would disappoint if I gave in to temptation. I have made it a practice to update that list at least once a year. The list includes family members, mentors, men I currently mentor, etc. That list is posted in some obvious places and serves as a reminder that my choices impact a lot of other people.

  6. Steve Cuss says:

    Like Peter above, I have legalistic boundaries, but I should also note that the seminary I attended covered this very specifically and I came away feeling well equipped to know the boundaries, pitfalls and ethics etc. Interestingly, that class was taught by a marriage therapist and I’ll never forget his, “only one relationship with a person at a time” – ie, don’t be someone’s friend and counselor, don’t be someone’s pastor and counselor etc.

    Todd, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the nature of “multiple relationships” in a church and the challenge that it brings with friendships, employment, counseling etc. It seems that the issue above is part of the larger issue of the unique nature of church relationships.

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