The 17 Year Old Sin of A Staff Member… How Would You React?

Orginally published on Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 7:02 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Here’s the scenario… you just found out that one of your staff members had molested his son.  What would you do?  There’s more.  It happened seventeen years ago.  Oh, and the staff member has assured you that you have confessed this sin to God and your family; and that they all have forgiven you.  Would that change anything?

That’s the dilemma that Pastor Steve Gaines has faced at the huge and popular Bellevue Baptist Church (yes, the same church that Adrian Rogers pastored for years).  For those of you who have followed a couple things we’ve written here at MMI about Bellvue over the past couple months, they are in the midst of a congregational mutiny… with a group in the congregation actually starting a blog called “Saving Bellevue” that seeks to reform the church of it’s new contemporary ways.

Anyway, it looks like this blog helped break this story; that has, of course been picked up by all the media.  (You can watch one report here:  http://www.wmcstations.com/Global/story.asp?SX30492.

When word began to get out; Pastor Gaines admitted that he had a conversation with the long-time staff member in June… yes, June of this year.  But he said that he was assured that the situation had been properly cared for.  This past weekend he read a statement saying that the staff member had been put on leave (paid leave) while an investigation could be conducted.  All this because it had come to his attention that maybe hte situation wasn’t fully closed and forgiven yet.  (Not to mention the scuttlebutt on the internet and in the media).

Hindsight is always 20/20; but how would you have handled that one?  New Life Church (Ted Haggard’s old church) just let go another staff member for a sexual indiscretion that happened (I believe) seven years ago.

Here’s my question… is there a cutoff?  Does/should sexual sin disqualify you for ministry?  (Most of us, I guess, would say yes) But what if that sexual sin now admitted to was 17 years ago?

How do you think you would have reacted?  And how would and should have your church (or Bellvue in this instance) react when word gets out, not only of hte sin, but that you knew about it and by doing nothing, seemingly covered it up?

I’d love to hear your input on this one…


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  There are 16 Comments:

  • Posted by

    This particular kind of sexual sin is one that, from what I know, is an indicator in most if not all situations of very serious problems. Many convicted child molesters will themselves tell you that they must never be alone with children again.

    I’m not sure I would have been able to let the staffer continue… for the sake of the church and the other children around.

  • Posted by Leonard

    If this were sexual mis-conduct I would ask.  Did this happen while he was on Belview church staff?  If so I think dismissal is in order.  Did this happen while he was on another staff and was he properly confronted, restored and did he go through a process of counsel and confession?  Lot’s of unanswered questions.  Sexual abuse is different for the following reasons.

    This kind of sin is first of all criminal. 
    This kind of sin is rarly a one time slip, it is repetitive and 85+% of abusers abuse. 
    This kind of abuse or sin is so destructive to trust in leadership, character and ministry it is impossible (nearly) to resume normality. 
    This kind of sin leaves behind a much wider cut against our perceptions of God.

    I think he should leave pastoral ministry and seek to use his gifts in other ways.

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades

    Yes, my understanding is that he was on the Bellevue staff during the time this happened.  And I’m with you; when things like this happen, they need to be dealt with swiftly.  Gaines now finds himself in a pickle becuase he knew and did nothing.  It would be interesting to know if previous leadership (i.e. Rogers) knew about it and chose the same action (or inaction).


  • Posted by

    Steve Gaines has a real tough job out there and I am really ashamed at the bloggers lust for take over that has awakened this issue.  My guess is that they knew it all along, that it was addressed 17 years ago privately and that now it is a tool to deal with what thay don’t like in Steve.  I have now pastered in 3 churches all of which had some major issues unaddressed. I had to deal with the issues in 2 churches. I have asked the Lord to keep me with enough corage and confidence in Himto deal with issues as they arise so no one has to clean up my messes!

  • Posted by kent

    No matter what Steve Gaines does he is going to get hammered. Also because the information is sketchy there are more questions than answers.
    Was the original incident reported and dealt with?
    What is the statue of limitation legally?
    Todd you had a great question about Adrian Rogers, did he know?
    How thorough was the investigation currently and what is the question as to the completeness of the forgiveness?

    Obviously you have to determine if this has been repeated with anyone else in the past 17 years. If so then he is gone and reported to the authroities. If not what do you do about redemption? Given the church atmosphere currently either way it is going to be painful. I would let him go with a generous severence and assistance to move into another professional arena.

    Unfortunately this is not going to end well.

  • Posted by

    Okay, let’s step back a moment.

    For what it’s worth… to me… here’s how it plays.

    If we were talking about an affair with a consenting adult, and if healing and restoration in the marriage had taken place (or even if divorce had ensued) and a pattern of behavior obviously changed, that might be one thing.

    If we were talking about pornography or alcohol or drug addiction, that indeed would be one thing.

    We are talking about child molestation… and his own child. It’s a horse of a different color. Sure, he may be forgiven and restored to his family, but this is one of the rare instances, in my opinion, where someone needs to be removed from pastoral ministry… permanently. It may be possible for this individual to teach or administer somewhere in a university or such… but pastoral ministry in a church? No way.

    He needs to be removed quicklyl… THEN those in his circle can help him find a new professional avenue… But pastoral ministry? No.

  • Posted by

    If there is hope for restoration and forgiveness, then we are all doomed. I realize that a Pastor is held to a higher standard, but as an example to onlookers, if there is true repentance to everyone involved, and forgiveness is given and a life is healed, are we not also to be grace givers? What does this represent to the average layman, that there is no forgiveness or restoration so keep your sins a secret. I believe there ought to be a stepping down from ministry for the healing process, but to say there God cannot restore one to ministry is a little harsh.

    I think a look at this particular situation within a family, it was not someone outside; to say that God cannot restore, is wrong. Just as a homosexual must have God help him to overcome desires, or we need help to overcome our lusts. “Let he who is without sin”

    Practice church discipline, but it is supposed to lead to restoration not ruin.

  • Posted by

    I believe that in this situation we must use our heads as well as our hearts. The church must be redemptive. That does not mean that it has to be stupid as well. Putting children in danger in NEVER a proper way to prove your ‘graciousness’.

    Should a 2nd occurance EVER happen with that staff member on staff, the emotional/psychological harm to the child would be enormous and the damage to that church’s reputation would be irreparable. The ramafications of a lawsuit could run 10’s of millions as well as certain jail time for the senior pastor if he was complicit in allowing that staffer to remain on staff after the 1st incident.

    A shepherd’s 1st priority is to protect that flock, even from itself.

    I would recommend letting this staffer go while helping him to find gainful employment elsewhere, perhaps even supporting him financially while he does.  That would be a very tangible act of forgiveness and restoration without endangering either the children of that church or its reputation in the community any more that it already has been.

  • Posted by Leonard

    I think there are sins that disqualify someone from ministry.  We should not confuse ministry with faith.  When someone molests a child, I can sit with that person again and fellowship with that person but follow that person as a spiritual mentor in ministry.  I don’t think so.  Abuse is different that having an affair or looking at porn.  It goes to something else seeded within the internal make-up of an individual.  It smacks of victimizing someone else for your own needs, it is a crime, it is evidence of other issues that run deep too.  Because ministry if so often people intensive someone and its rate of recovery is incredibly low I think that person should not be in ministry.  To be restored is not necessarily to be returned to ministry.  In Godís economy all sins disqualify equally and all sin is forgivable, but in Godís economy not all sin is treated the same socially or civilly.  I do not think we as believers in Christ must restore a pedophile to ministry in the name of forgiveness.

  • Posted by

    There is no cutoff for CHILD MOLESTATION, period. I don’t thing sexual sin between consenting adults, pornography, etc., as long as there has been forgiveness and repentance, should disqualify a man from a pastoral position, but child molestation should disqualify him.

    Bellevue desparately needs a leader for they clearly don’t have one now. Gaines may have the title, but he’s no leader.

  • Posted by

    I’m with Peter on this one.  Child molestation is a crime and should permanently disqualify this person from pastoral ministry.  The fact that Gaines did not take this action when he first learned of it now, unfortunately, makes his own leadership \questionable.

    Disqualifying someone for pastoral ministry does not preclude restoration.  I recall sitting with a young man in a membership interview who had been both molested and then a child molester (it is often passed from generation to generation).  He had found the Lord and been healed, done his time and now building a new life determined to break the cycle.  However, he had much fear that he would not be allowed to join our church.  We assured him that we welcome him with open and loving arms.  However, he would never able to have ministry with children, and that we would (as much for his sake as to protect children) guard against having him serve in ways that might cause someone to question him.  He not only understood this, but was grateful.


  • Posted by

    Wendi...well said!  I don’t know the statute of limitations on child molestation in Tennessee but the behavior seems to be deeply ingrained thus we need to protect the flock.  I’m more concerned about the pastor who exercised poor wisdom in this matter with the staffer.  He should resign.  Had this molestation happened within the past year and he know about it without acting...he would have been arrested, too.

  • Posted by

    I don’t think that we can address the specific situation at Bellevue.  To judge the leadership of the pastor of that church without speaking with that Pastor first is wrong.  While it may seem like we have all of the details Proverbs reminds us that one side of the story often seems right until the other side of the story is heard also. 

    However, in dealing with a situation in general where a staff member molested his own child then regardless of the time that has passed I would remove that person from pastoral ministry.  As a children’s pastor I screen every person that comes into contact with our children.  I take that very seriously and if anyone had an incident of child molestation in their past, no matter how it had been dealt with, I would not allow that person to work with our children.

  • Posted by

    I have read many of the comments on this situation and I see very little concern for the victim / victims involved.  It seems that most of the effort has been to see that the perpetrator is comforted and that his reputation and job is protected, just as in the Catholic problem .  There is no mention of the children put at risk due to this pastor’s failure to act.  I agree that a public disclosure of a confidential converstion would not be proper but other immediate action (such as removal from position of authority) would have been.  This is prevelant throughout the church world today.  Many pastors and elders are more interested in salaries than in souls and view themselves more as potentates than as pastors. If you do not believe this is true just bring up the subject and see how they react.  This has been demonstrated in the current Bellevue problem.

  • Posted by

    As a former member of Bellevue, I would like point out that Adrian Rogers’ wife Joyce has gone on record with the local media saying that Paul Williams told her directly that Pastor Rogers had no knowlege of his past sin and family situation. No one here in Memphis has stepped forward to refute this, including Paul Williams or his legal representation. It was always well known around the church that Pastor Rogers dealt swiftly with any impropriety by his staff. I would have a hard time believing that he had any knowlege of this matter. By the way, even though my last name is Rogers, I have no known relation to the Adrian Rogers or his family. Also, my family and I left Belleve before the first round of controversy and had no problem with Steve Gaines’ preaching or management of the church. I just though I would make that clear.

  • Posted by

    I like Pastor Gaines, and I hope that he survives the storm, but he should have examined these three words in making his decision.

    gay incestuous pedophile

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