Q. I hope you are having a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. My question for you is regarding excommunication. My pastor, a man I’ve known and respected my whole life and who has been the head of my church for 8 years, was recently arrested in a police sting at a park for making a sexual advance to an undercover male police officer. It wasn’t prostitution, but it was overtly sexual. I spoke to him after this happened and he’s clearly sorry for what he did and not proud of it or denying it at all. Understandably the church has asked him to step down as pastor, but they also are banning him for a year from even attending the church. I was told about this informally by a couple of the board members and I told them then that I didn’t think it was a good thing to prevent him from seeking support and healing from his church family. I tried to research some scripture in his defense, but I ended up coming across 1 Cor. 5:1-5. But, it seems to me the context of these verses are against somebody who is not repentant, which my pastor clearly is. Do you think that this is an appropriate course of action to take against somebody who needs the church now more than ever? I understand they’re trying to prevent mixed emotions among the congregation when the new pastor starts, but I think they’re sacrificing grace, mercy and forgiveness for their denominational bylaws. I know this is going to come up at church on Sunday and I know there are others who feel the same way I do, I was just wondering if my feelings can be supported scripturally or are the scriptures from 1 Cor. 5:1-5 the final voice on the subject? Thank you so much for any insight.
A. Paul admonished the Corinthians to expel an immoral believer for 2 reasons. 1) because he wasn’t repentant, and 2) because they had been too tolerant in allowing the behavior to go on. Later in 2 Cor. 2:5-11 He told them that the plan had worked and they should welcome him back, lest the devil get the best of them after all.
Asking your pastor to leave the fellowship for a time does not deprive him of the opportunity to receive the ministering he needs. The situation you describe happens on an average of 3 times each week somewhere in the Church, so there are ministries set up specifically for this purpose, and your fellowship could help sponsor him so he could receive expert help in rehabilitation.
Doing something like this would help your pastor to be restored, would give members the opportunity to express their love by participating in his rehabilitation, and would allow your new pastor a fair chance to make a clean start. It could be the best thing for all concerned.