Project Documents

Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Douglas R. Kilcher

Second Advisor

H. Peter Swanson

Third Advisor

Jane Thayer

Abstract

Problem. Research among Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists shows that approximately 12 percent of pastors commit adultery while in the ministry. What happens to an Adventist pastor who commits adultery? The North American Division policies are straightforward. An adulterous pastor should lose his credentials and ordination, be disfellowshipped, and never be rehired by any church entity. However, administrative practices are not consistent with church guidelines. Often a fallen pastor is moved to another district without a lapse in the service record. Some are restored to ministry after having had a time out. This apparent discrepancy may be due to eroding standards or because the church has recognized the importance of grace and restoration.

Method. The problem of sexual immorality in pastoral ranks is discussed, a brief history of how the Christian church has responded to this problem is presented, the complexity of the issue is addressed, sound biblical and Ellen White theology for restoration is presented, a survey of one hundred North American Division Adventist leaders was taken to see if the church may be ready for change; interviews with pastors who have committed adultery and been restored are recorded, and recommendations and suggestions for policy revisions and processes that would be more comprehensive and redemptive are introduced.

Results. The Bible and the writings of Ellen White support the concept of restoring fallen pastors to ministry. About three-fourths of the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America who responded to the survey felt that present church policy is inadequate. Eighty-one percent believe that a more comprehensive policy that is redemptive might be implemented. The Pacific Union Conference, the Alberta Conference, and the NAD have prepared policy changes that could help resolve the inconsistencies between practices and policies.

Conclusion. In light of evidence from the Bible and the writings of Ellen White for restoring fallen pastors, and in view of possible support from leaders in the North American Division, the church should move ahead to vote a comprehensive restoration policy that would include procedures for restoring fallen leaders, helping to heal their families, their victims, and the churches they have wounded.

Subject Area

Sexual misconduct by clergy

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