Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Frederica Mathewes-Green...

... closes her commentary on Haggard this way:
So it is a mistake to present Christianity the way some churches do, as if it is the haven of seamlessly well-adjusted, proper people. That results in a desperate artificial sheen. It results in treating worship as a consumer product, which must deliver better intellectual or emotional gratification than the competition. And that sends suffering people home again, still lonely, in their separate metal capsules.
Read the whole thing.

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  1. Here's my question for you, Sara and all of your friends at Seminary: What constitutes a firable offense by a pastor?

    The folks in Colorado Springs have made it clear that Haggard was fired because he was not faithful in his marriage. In other words, he sinned.

    But we are all sinners and unless I'm just nuts, I'm willing to bet that there isn't a pastor alive today who hasn't sinned after becoming a pastor.

    So how does a church decide what is a firable sin and which sins are not firable offenses?

    Is firing pastors for sins Christian conduct? Does it send the right message both to church members and to the world at large? How do churches effectivly deliver the message of, "we love you, we forgive you and we want to help with your healing but understand that help will have to come in between job interviews and trips to the unemployment line"?

    Would some sort of administrative leave be better?

  2. "What constitutes a firable offense by a pastor?"

    Great question, Carter.

    Generally speaking, in the Presbyterian Church (USA) a pastor can be removed for just about any reason. A congregation simply votes to dissolve the pastoral relationship. If the pastor concurs, the Presbytery's committee on ministry can handle the dissolution. If the pastor does not agree, the whole presbytery must resolve the matter (G-14.0601 and G-14.0603).

    The church's Book of Discipline is structured in recognition of the sinfulness of humanity. Accordingly, there is fairly wide latitude for restoring to full life in the Church. Given our theology, which recognizes that all have sinned, these mechanisms can be used with great compassion. D-1.0101 states “The purpose of discipline is to honor God by making clear the significance of membership in the body of Christ; to preserve the purity of the church by nourishing the individual within the life of the believing community; to achieve justice and compassion for all participants involved; to correct or restrain wrongdoing in order to bring members to repentance and restoration; to uphold the dignity of those who have been harmed by disciplinary offenses…

    I believe that the church should do what it can to restore a pastor whose sin causes division or otherwise harms the community of faith. Where the pastor’s conduct makes it impossible for the pastor to effectively minister to the church, dismissal is appropriate. But such dismissal should almost certainly be accompanied by a commitment to assist the pastor to restore him or her to full life in the larger church.

    New Life Church, which is not Presbyterian, has a board of overseers, composed by outsiders, that handles these affairs. As I understand the events, the board has dismissed Ted Haggard based on their investigation. And it is also my understanding that Haggard is receiving intensive spiritual counseling to repair the breach caused by his confessed sin. I join with those who pray that this rehabilitation and restoration will be effective.

    New Life Church recently posted the audio from last Sunday’s service, were a member from the board speaks about the process they went through to discipline Haggard. I found it very enlightening, encouraging, and inspiring. The audio can be heard here [MP3].