Disqualification from the ministry

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scottmaciver

Puritan Board Sophomore
Which sins are sufficiently heinous to disqualify a minister from the ministry for life? In other words, when is forgiveness, upon repentance, an option, whilst restoration to office is not?
 

Redneck_still_Reforming

Puritan Board Freshman
I would say public events of discrimination of any sort (past and present), sexual immorality, and abuse of authority (if already in office) stand out for me.
 

Redneck_still_Reforming

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok, so you are disqualified. Since you publicly discriminate against those engaging in sexual immorality who are in ministry.
May I clarify? Discrimination based upon prejudices that deny the imago dei either in word or in practice. Examples: homophobia (hate of those who identify as gay rather than addressing sin and sharing the gospel) and racism (hate of those who God has created in His image but "look" different). Those are popular topics which is why I chose them.

I understand where you are coming from Edward, I discriminate when I choose corn flakes over cheerios. My word choice was more colloquial. Maybe prejudicial bias would be better?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
May I clarify? Discrimination based upon prejudices that deny the imago dei either in word or in practice. Examples: homophobia (hate of those who identify as gay rather than addressing sin and sharing the gospel) and racism (hate of those who God has created in His image but "look" different). Those are popular topics which is why I chose them.

I understand where you are coming from Edward, I discriminate when I choose corn flakes over cheerios. My word choice was more colloquial. Maybe prejudicial bias would be better?
I would strongly urge against using the term “homophobia,” as it is a specially chosen term used by leftists to further their talking points and shut down opposing ideas. The term is literally just a combination of two Greek words to mean “fear of homosexuals.” There is a certain sense in which all Christians should have “homophobia,” since homosexuality is an explicit and severe judgment of God upon godless nations who have very nearly reached their depraved end (cf. Romans 1:18 ff.).

Of course, I know what you mean, since you defined it in your post. We should not treat homosexuals with any less dignity than we do any other image bearer. At the same time, we ought to fear for them, condemn and abhor their lifestyle, call them to repentance and saving faith in Christ, pray for their conversion, and fight the advance of their cause in this and every nation as strongly and urgently as we can.
 

Redneck_still_Reforming

Puritan Board Freshman
I would strongly urge against using the term “homophobia,” as it is a specially chosen term used by leftists to further their talking points and shut down opposing ideas. The term is literally just a combination of two Greek words to mean “fear of homosexuals.” There is a certain sense in which all Christians should have “homophobia,” since homosexuality is an explicit and severe judgment of God upon godless nations who have very nearly reached their depraved end (cf. Romans 1:18 ff.).
Point taken
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
May I clarify? Discrimination based upon prejudices that deny the imago dei either in word or in practice. Examples: homophobia (hate of those who identify as gay rather than addressing sin and sharing the gospel) and racism (hate of those who God has created in His image but "look" different). Those are popular topics which is why I chose them.

I understand where you are coming from Edward, I discriminate when I choose corn flakes over cheerios. My word choice was more colloquial. Maybe prejudicial bias would be better?
Wait a second, I'm homophobic.
 

Sovereign Grace

Puritan Board Freshman
Where would Romans 11:29 come into play in all of this? Now, I may be taking that verse out of context, but if not, and seeing how both the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, and the ministry is a calling, then would it not be irrevocable?
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
I would say public events of discrimination of any sort (past and present) . . .

As others have noted, the concept of "discrimination" is quite loaded and problematic, especially when speaking about sinful lifestyles rather than characteristics such as race.

But even putting that aside for the moment, it seems to me that treating this as something that "disqualifies" from the ministry for life contradicts significant Biblical precedent in the form of Paul: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."

If "discrimination" against Christians just for being followers of Jesus (surely the worst form of "discrimination") did not disqualify from ministry following repentance, why would other forms of "discrimination"? Should John Newton have been barred from the ministry rather than made a trophy of grace?
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
The Bible gives a list:

Disqualifications:
1. Not given to wine,
2. no striker,
3. not greedy of filthy lucre;
4. not a brawler,
5. not covetous;
6. For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
7. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
8. not double-tongued,

Qualifications:
1. the husband of one wife,
2. vigilant,
3. sober,
4. of good behaviour,
5. given to hospitality,
6. apt to teach,
7. patient
8. One that ruleth well his own house,
9. having his children in subjection with all gravity;
10. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
 

scottmaciver

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Bible gives a list:

Disqualifications:
1. Not given to wine,
2. no striker,
3. not greedy of filthy lucre;
4. not a brawler,
5. not covetous;
6. For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
7. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
8. not double-tongued,

Qualifications:
1. the husband of one wife,
2. vigilant,
3. sober,
4. of good behaviour,
5. given to hospitality,
6. apt to teach,
7. patient
8. One that ruleth well his own house,
9. having his children in subjection with all gravity;
10. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The original question was, which sins could disqualify a minister for life, without restoration to office? Are you suggesting that each of these, if committed by a minister, disqualify him from the office?

I think there's perhaps a distinction between the original post and your own post. Are you thinking more along the lines of what might disqualify a man from entering the ministry, whereas my question related to someone already in the ministry?
 

ryanpresnell

Puritan Board Freshman
Where would Romans 11:29 come into play in all of this? Now, I may be taking that verse out of context, but if not, and seeing how both the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, and the ministry is a calling, then would it not be irrevocable?
There are clearly scenarios in which an ordained minister should step down from his position, with the most obvious example being apostasy. One might respond that someone who is truly called to be a minister will never commit an act that would result in the forfeiture of his position (and I lack the qualification to authoritatively answer whether that be true). Whether or not this is the case, the original post is operating under a definition of "minister" that includes "ministers" who may do something such as abandon their profession of faith to forfeit their office, and, if what you are suggesting is true, would not possess a "true call" to ministry.

The Bible gives a list:

Disqualifications:
1. Not given to wine,
2. no striker,
3. not greedy of filthy lucre;
4. not a brawler,
5. not covetous;
6. For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
7. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
8. not double-tongued,
I agree that these are disqualifications for the office of minister; however, I humbly submit that at least one of these does not fit the criterion of the original post of disqualifying a man from the ministry for the rest of his life. Regarding no. 7, every saint has, at one point, been a novice in the faith. Consequently, this cannot disqualify a man for life; otherwise, no one would be able to become a minister.

I think that Jie-Huli makes a great point about Paul persecuting the church of God. My own hypothesis (take it with a grain of salt - and please correct me if it is incorrect) is that premeditated murder, for which I believe the Scripture prescribes the death penalty, would necessitate a disqualification from the office of minister for life. I don't think that sufficient evidence can be produced to label Paul as a murderer rather than merely an accomplice to provide a counterexample.

Also, I think that if a woman were to enter the office of minister in a Methodist church, for example, and then repent, she would see that, from a biblical standpoint, restoration to that position of authority is not an option without further sin. Obviously, her sin is not being a woman, but holding such an office as a woman. I'm not sure if that would be an example of what you're looking for (or whether she would even be considered a minister proper), but that's all I got.
 

Redneck_still_Reforming

Puritan Board Freshman
As others have noted, the concept of "discrimination" is quite loaded and problematic, especially when speaking about sinful lifestyles rather than characteristics such as race.

But even putting that aside for the moment, it seems to me that treating this as something that "disqualifies" from the ministry for life contradicts significant Biblical precedent in the form of Paul: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."

If "discrimination" against Christians just for being followers of Jesus (surely the worst form of "discrimination") did not disqualify from ministry following repentance, why would other forms of "discrimination"? Should John Newton have been barred from the ministry rather than made a trophy of grace?
I'll admit, I didnt think about either example, those verses neved crossed my mind. My thought process was what would harm the Church's witness from the outside but I should have realized that 1) God's Word is the standard and 2) the world always has changing standards and they arent the judge. Thank you for the correction!
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I guess it depends on how old you are. Meaning if you weren't around at the time you might never have known of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker. In recent years Tullian Tchividjian. So all of these individuals lost their ministries through sexual sin. All of them came back to have active ministries outside of their former denominations due to a refusal to submit to the authority of their Sessions, Elders.

In the 1970s and '80s I listened to Swaggart on TV a number of times and was impressed at that time. I had heard of Bakker, he was a TV personality with a ministry. When these 'crashed and burned' the media was all over it to disparage all believers as hypocrites and dishonored God. In more recent years the Tullian admission of an adulterous affair was a repeat of that phenomenon.

In these high profile cases I've always wondered how they could continue in ministry when they were in the midst or the sin, and certainly after they were exposed. By that I mean, if they really believed what they were preaching, wouldn't the fear of the wrath of God overwhelm them to the point where they'd have to repent, confess, and withdraw from the ministry ?

In Tullian's case, I used to listen to his sermons on Moody Radio, and his series ongoing was something like, "Jesus Plus Nothing Is Everything." Sort of an antinomian philosophy that he received a fair amount of criticism over. In light of what was revealed regarding his sin I suppose he was holding on to that 'doctrine' as a life preserver in a stormy sea.

My pastor has mentioned in a sermon that we should 'abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,' and mentioned he has known of pastors who fell due to sins of the flesh. He did not identify any specific individuals, and I've never asked, though I doubt if he would name any out of a respect for their privacy. Point being that it happens, and ministries are lost because of it.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior

In other words, when is forgiveness, upon repentance, an option, whilst restoration to office is not?

I'm sure it has been over 45 years since I read the quote from Spurgeon below. But because of one word that I remembered--"notorious," it took me less than a minute to look it up in Logos.

From - Lectures to my Students, vol. 1, Lecture 1,

The Minister's Self Watch

Charles Spurgeon had an extremely high view of the Godly character a minister of the Gospel is called to. The quote remembered turns out not to be Spurgeon's, but Spurgeon quoting John Angell James.

The highest moral character must be sedulously maintained. Many are disqualified for office in the church who are well enough as simple members. I hold very stern opinions with regard to Christian men who have fallen into gross sin; I rejoice that they may be truly converted, and may be with mingled hope and caution received into the church; but I question, gravely question whether a man who has grossly sinned should be very readily restored to the pulpit. As John Angell James remarks, “When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin.” Let those who have been shorn by the sons of Ammon tarry at Jericho till their beards be grown; this has often been used as a taunt to beardless boys to whom it is evidently inapplicable, it is an accurate enough metaphor for dishonoured and characterless men, let their age be what it may. Alas! the beard of reputation once shorn is hard to grow again. Open immorality, in most cases, however deep the repentance, is a fatal sign that ministerial graces were never in the man’s character. Cæsar’s wife must be beyond suspicion, and there must be no ugly rumours as to ministerial inconsistency in the past, or the hope of usefulness will be slender. Into the church such fallen ones are to be received as penitents, and into the ministry they may be received if God puts them there; my doubt is not about that, but as to whether God ever did place them there; and my belief is that we should be very slow to help back to the pulpit men, who having been once tried, have proved themselves to have too little grace to stand the crucial test of ministerial life.​
 
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CathH

Puritan Board Freshman
There aren't any hard and fast rules, in the sense of a list of specific sins, because the key is in "notoriety" (and associated concepts like "high profile" and "public scandal"). So if Minister A commits a certain sin, the combination of (a) the circumstances surrounding it and (b) his response to church discipline may mean that it would be appropriate to restore him not just to membership privileges but also to office. But if Minister B commits ostensibly the same sin, yet in a different context and with a different attitude to discipline, it could easily be completely inappropriate to restore him to office (whatever may be said about church privileges).

Interesting point on the list of qualifications for admission to office vs restoration to office though. I'm not sure there should be extra criteria for restoration. If you take the analogous situation of an ordinary church member -- whatever criteria there were for accepting them as a new member in the first place, if they are then disciplined and come under censure or have privileges withdrawn, the criteria for removing the censures and restoring to privileges cannot really be different.

I don't know if you've ever looked at James Durham's 'Treatise on Scandal.' He makes the point about the circumstances of an offence in Part 1 of the treatise, the section on how people's behaviour causes 'scandals' (stumbling blocks) of various kinds. Then he makes that point about criteria in Part 2, the section on church discipline. The original work has been republished by Naphtali Press, and an easy-read version is trickling out in installments from Reformation Heritage Books (Part 1 is out already, eg here, and i believe Part 2 is forthcoming soon, edited by, well, you'll know when you see it).
 

scottmaciver

Puritan Board Sophomore
In addition to the above, I came across the following from John Piper...
What sins disqualify a pastor for life? (Here)

He specifically mentioned the sin of adultery, in the ministry, and said that there is a vast difference between being forgiven and being trusted:

"Adultery committed against one's wife is just about as bad a blow against a man's trustworthiness as could be delivered. He should be in no hurry to expect or demand the restoration of trust with his wife or a church, but go the extra mile to demonstrate his self-control, devotion to Jesus and his heart felt commitment to his wife."

He made a distinction between sins committed before and after conversion, particularly in relation to a pastor committing the sin of adultery, which he calls a multi-layered betrayal:
"Adultery after conversion is more serious than sins committed prior to the new birth and the new creation. He's sinning against God, his wife, the glory of a Gospel ministry and the trust of a people of God and against the reputation of the Gospel in the community...it is evidence of such profound unfitness for Gospel ministry that the time and process to prove himself a radically different man is long and painful."

He ends with, "a man who commits adultery in the ministry should immediately resign and look for other work and he should make no claim on the church at all. He should get another kind of job and go about his life, humbly, receiving the discipline and the regular ministries of the church, whether in his former church, or another church. If he returns to ministry, it should be after a long time of humble, contented acceptance of a new way of life, outside of the official ministry of the church."
 
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