Though I definitely want you here to read this, I'm not trying to sell a story. I want to find and offer solutions to the problem that faces many churches, pastors, and congregants, some which are seemingly invisible, and some destined for the headlines.
I'm not going to re-hash the whole story I've alluded to here. If you Google it, you will find it and can conclude what is fact, opinion, perspective, etc.. Heaven forbid I report "fake news." But let's learn from what is not disputed:
- A youth pastor had a sexual relationship with one of his students. He was 22, she was 17. He says it was consensual, she says she was coerced. Whether an actual law was broken (because the age of consent in Texas is 17 where they resided at the time), a moral, ethical, and spiritual law definitely was. I'm a bit disillusioned that Pastor Andy went from making a public confession to his church admitting his sin and sorrow over the situation, and committing to help foster healing and moving forward for all involved (which is what the church was really applauding, not the indiscretion itself, and the fact that they love him caused them to give an ovation), to going on a radio talk show and claiming it was a consensual act. He abused his spiritual authority over this girl. Calling it consensual minimizes his responsibility in it and places blame on her. He was the 22 year old pastor, she was the 17 year old student. Law or no law, he bears way more of the burden here, and churches and pastors need to take the following into consideration:
Texas. Penal Code Chapter 5. (22.011)
Title 5. Offenses against the person.
Chapter 22. Assaultive Offenses.
Sec. 22.011. Sexual assault.
(b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:
10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser…This leads to the next teaching moment:
- Pastors, leaders, churches, know what your state law is regarding sexual offenses by clergy AND volunteers. The young lady claims she went to a pastor on staff at the time and told him what happened. Eventually, Andy was let go from the church, but the authorities were never called. Many church leaders are paralyzed by fear when an allegation comes to light and, thusly, take matters into their own hands thinking they can handle it. As a result, many churches have had to deal with massive legal ramifications because they didn't know the law and they didn't call the authorities. The pastor the young lady reached out to has been, 20 years later, placed on leave from his current church position as an investigation has started regarding how he handled the situation at the time. Know the law and obey the law. Repenting of sin isn't going to pay your legal fees.
- Pastor, if your church isn't addressing sexual issues beyond saying "Don't do it," it is high time to start. 7 out of 10 of your male congregants are struggling with pornography. 1 out of 3 women are visiting adult websites. And it affects the spouses. And teenagers are forging the chains of addiction through their cell phones. The vast majority of your congregation is being harassed by this silent epidemic. Here's another way to come to the realization that this is an imperative issue: If you have a staff of 6 male pastors, 3 of them, give or take, are struggling with sexual acting out behavior, most commonly porn and masturbation, and sometimes beyond (I've heard it all until I hear something new).
Make no mistake, I love Andy Savage as a brother in the Lord. As much as I want healing for his former youth kid, I want it for him as well. This is what I do. I work with pastors, missionaries, and their spouses who have been tripped up by these devastating issues. And I also want to be part of the solution to the problem. A friend on Facebook replied to a post of mine and said he wished something like this wouldn't happen again. It will, but we can remedy it by addressing sexual bondages in the church BEFORE it becomes a headline. If you yourself are struggling with sexually acting out through porn, fantasy and masturbation, or beyond, please email me: email@example.com, or call 408-890-6306. All correspondence will be kept confidential. And if you're ready to show your church there is help and hope for dealing with this problem, contact me to come speak and I'll share my story of brokenness, recovery, and healing. Check out my wife's and my story at missionariestoministers.com. There is hope. I'm living proof.