The news broke Sunday. Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in South Florida, resigned his position due to an affair. A prepared statement given to The Washington Post reads:
I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.
That Tchividjian is a grandson of Billy Graham will add to the prurient interest of some.
Pastors having affairs is not as rare as it should be. I don’t like the “feet of clay” excuse, but reality is what it is: some pastors, despite both promises to spouse and covenant before God, commit adultery. Not mental, not inappropriate fantasies, not temptations, but the physical breaking of vows. This reflects badly on Christ, and on the people who claim His name.
All Christians fail in some way or another. Anyone claiming sinlessness is suspect morally, and lying actually. But we expect more from our pastors–and I say that as one–just as scripture itself does (James 3:1). Overt pastoral sin should bring shocks, not yawns.
Inevitably in the rush to deal with pastors who confess to sin there are two problematic responses: blame whatever theological system the pastor happens to hold, and the heartfelt, but I believe misplaced, desire to restore the pastor to ministry as quickly as possible.
Typically people who blame a theological system for a moral failure do so attempting to distance it from their own theological framework. Who, after all, wants to be tainted by association? Like there are not a plethora of Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Reformed, Arminian, and undecideds to be used as examples. The wrenching fact is pastors from all theologies and traditions have failed morally. No one has cornered the market.
Adultery is an extraordinary rupture of trust. Followers of Jesus consider it a sin in the face of the God who instituted marriage, and upon whom we call as witness to our marital vows. To place primary blame on a theological system glosses over the sinful tendencies we all carry. Paul’s documented wrestling with his sinful flesh didn’t result from indecision over predestination (Romans 7:13-25).
Before someone goes there: I am not arguing beliefs don’t affect behavior at all; cultic theology is proof of that. The differences between Liberals and Conservatives are evidence. But when considering the vast majority of Christian pastors there is no theology of “adultery is ok.” Preaching one thing while living another is hypocrisy, not heresy.
The second problematic response is rushing to get the offender back into ministry, or “restored.” While the “gifts and callings of God are without repentance” pause should be given when both are abused and misused.
Tchividjian’s own words reveal a marital situation on the rocks prior to his own sin. His wife’s affair did not arise from good soil. The tectonic plates of their relationship had already shifted causing visible destruction. To borrow from Jerry Seinfeld, “You don’t just bump into someone on the sidewalk and start committing adultery. Life isn’t Cinemax.”
I’m not insinuating the Tchividjians crossed fingers when repeating their wedding vows, but broken relationships are a long time in the breaking. And that which is a long time in the breaking is a long time in the re-making.
The primary restoration of the relationships are to God, each other, and their kids. There are multiple ways a man may miss providing for his family, demonstrating himself less than equal to an unbeliever. Once again holding a ministry position, if ever, should be well down the road of needed restorations.
I join countless others in praying for this man, this couple, this family, and their church. “Where are your accusers?” Mr. and Mrs. Tchividjian. Neither does Jesus condemn you. Now, as He commands all of us, go and sin no more.