Morals FAIL

I recently had a conversation with a member of a Baptist church. The pastor there had been removed fora “moral failing” (Code for an affair.) In the Lutheran Church we speak of “being removed for cause.” When such a thing happens, the man is deemed “unfit.” No comment is ever made about his morals, simply his fitness for ministry. In my first parish the pastor had been forced to resign because of unfitness, yet some members of the congregation thought that he should remain.
Therein lies the difference between an historic and a baptistic understanding of office. The historic understanding of office is that a man is either fit or unfit. The qualifications are laid out in scripture. If he violates those, he is unfit. No talk of moral failure for a very simple reason : If that were the qualifier, no one could serve. Not that every man cheats on his wife, but every man is a sinner.
The idea that a pastor is removed for a “moral failing” means that, with the right sort of sorrow over sin, the church must let him back in. Why? Because he has gotten past his moral failure, and been forgiven. No more moral failing.
The historic understanding is that certain actions disqualify a man from office, and therefore make him ineligible to hold that office. Regret, confession, absolution, all fine, but the fitness is still not there.
That’s the difference between being removed for moral failure and being removed for cause.
You see, words matter. We speak the way we do because of the things we believe.

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