Given the number of evangelicals who aren’t deterred by Donald Trump‘s immoral personal life, it’s not surprising that a recent survey finds that pastors don’t think adultery should be a dealbreaker for someone in the pulpit.
LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, asked Protestant pastors how long a pastor should “withdraw from public ministry” if he has committed adultery. They all thought some amount of time away was needed… but they were all over the place after that.
Leah MarieAnn Klett of the Christian Post explains:
The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that around one in six pastors (16%) believe an offending pastor should stay gone for at least a year; 3% say for at least three months, and another 3% say at least six months.
Other pastors believe those who commit adultery should remove themselves from public ministry for a longer period of time: 10% say at least two years, 7% say at least five years, and 1% say at least 10 years.
Just 27% of pastors believe those who commit adultery should withdraw from public ministry permanently, and 2% of pastors believe a fellow pastor who has an affair does not need to take any time away. Three in 10 pastors (31%) say they aren’t sure what the appropriate time frame would be.
Maybe the bigger takeaway here is that adultery — supposedly one of those unforgivable sins in the conservative Christian world — isn’t a dealbreaker for most pastors.
The survey didn’t ask this, but it would’ve been interesting to find out nonetheless: Who was the affair with? Someone in the congregation? Would that affect the length of punishment? What if the pastor’s actions made women in the church feel particularly uncomfortable? (When you’re in a position of power, an affair may ultimately involve more people than just those in the act, considering how much trust they’ve placed in the pastor.)
And while white evangelicals have been quick to say they elected Trump to be president, not pastor, the amount of trust we all have to place in him is significantly higher. So why do his lies — including ones involving affairs — get a free pass among many of these same pastors?
Now that’s a survey I would love to see.
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