Way back in September, I posted the story far below about the arrest of a local pastor, Paul B., on charges of forcibly touching three women who were attending his church. My wife and I were members of the church in question for eight years back in the 80s and early 90s when Paul’s father was pastor. But we could see signs of spiritual unhealthiness at that church twenty-seven years ago, which precipitated our leaving. These charges against Paul stemmed from abuses in 2016 and 2017, but there had also been allegations of abuse in 2013 and 2014.
What has happened since the arrest in September? Our justice system does not work quickly and sometimes that is by design. Paul appeared in town court with his lawyer on October 26th, November 27th, January 18th, and February 26th and each time the trial was postponed. But on Paul’s next court date, this past Wednesday, March 14th, the town prosecutor announced that a plea deal had been struck. Paul pleaded guilty to only one of the four counts of sexual abuse and in exchange he will be sentenced in two months to one year of probation and will be permanently registered as a sex offender. What? Probation? Not even one week in jail? My, some people have to spend a month in jail for much less than Paul’s “offense.”
Once again the local media focused on the news of Paul’s guilty plea and his upcoming sentencing and once again the Gospel witness in our town received a black eye, not to mention all of the emotional pain suffered by the victims of this serial abuser and the deep betrayal felt by the church’s members.
A few things came to mind after the news of Paul’s guilty plea:
- Some people are just not fit for ministry. Nepotism got Paul his initial position on staff at the church despite admitted scandalous conduct, which caused a split. Spirit-filled members sensed the danger, but Paul’s father steamrolled all opposition.
- Paul became pastor of the church in 2011 after his father had suffered a small stroke. He obviously had to study the Bible frequently in order to preach all of those sermons he delivered in the six years prior to his arrest. But what was his private prayer life like? No Christian is perfect, but how could a man walk closely with the Lord in daily prayer and also regularly prey on victims? Was Paul even saved? We all need to stay close to the Lord in daily prayerful communion and we need to regularly lift up our pastors in prayer. There’s no doubt that Satan especially targets pastors.
- I can’t tell a church I am not a member of how to operate, but the new pastor that’s now in place should ask for the resignation of every deacon who unequivocally supported Paul from 2011 to 2017 in the face of many allegations of impropriety. I was an outsider, but even I could see the flashing warning signs regarding Paul’s lifestyle. Many church boards are comprised of “yes men.”
- If you are a member of a church in which the pastor exerts unhealthy control over the membership and there appears to be no oversight regarding the pastor, find a spiritually healthy church.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8