In this post I mentioned that the youth pastor at our former church got divorced. A few days ago, we got a letter in the mail (we're still on the membership rolls even though we no longer attend).
As always, names have been changed. All emphasis has been added by me.
To the Brethren at our church,
This last year has brought many challenges to our body. Some are well known; some not as much. We would like to address one of those "not so well known issues". Our youth minister, Jim, has just experienced the breakup of his marriage. It has been a long time coming, but now the day is here.
A brief history at this point would be helpful. It was about 5 years ago that we stepped into Jim's life and challenged some of the sin and failures that had become apparent. Those issues ranged from money issues to family issues. Jim's response to godly correction has been encouraging to watch. Each step along the way, he took the hard path and did the right things. He got his life under control and grew greatly in his walk with God.
Unfortunately, it was not a journey his wife took with him. As the years went on, she became more distant from Jim and the church. Attempts to draw the two of them into godly counsel were not met with a positive response. By last fall the situation had reached a low point. We told Jim it was time to quit living a lie, and for he and his wife to either commit to being married or to separate. Staying together for appearance sake was not what God wanted. The result was that his wife moved out and eventually filed for divorce. In all this, Jim was always eager and willing to mend this broken relationship, but as Romans 12 says, it is only possible to be at peace if both people are willing (12:18). Jim desired to be married, his wife did not.
Obviously this has been an incredibly difficult thing for us to deal with. We take seriously the words of Malachi that "God hates divorce" (2:16). We counseled Jim through it all to not be the one to dissolve his marriage, even though he had biblical reasons to do so. We removed Jim from up front leadership and most of his teaching responsibilities in the body for almost a year. Once again the words of Paul to Timothy (3:4), that an elder/pastor in the church should have his house under control made us counsel Jim to put his energies into his family (even if his wife had no interest).
It is now the conviction of the board that Jim needs to be brought back into the fullness of ministry. He has done all that we have asked of him in accordance with the Word of God, and we are unwilling to allow his wife to continue to restrain his ministry by her unwillingness to seek reconciliation. Along the way Jim has not had only the input of the elders and pastors , but has had the guidance, counsel, and full support of the youth ministry team. It is truly sad that it came to this, but we continue to pray that God's will be done.
To Him be the Glory,
Is it just me, or are they throwing the wife under the (church) bus? Oh sure, they indicate that the problems in their marriage were more Jim's fault, but SHE was the one who was unwilling to reconcile. In Christian circles, reconciliation is a Big Deal. If you don't reconcile, you can be accused of being Unforgiving. You don't have to wear a scarlet U, but if churches could get away with making you do that, I bet they would. After all, nobody's perfect you know!
I should state at this point that while my wife and I do not know Jim or his wife hardly at all, we are close friends with a couple who know them very well. hey were also a part of the small group that Jim led while the issues in his marriage were still developing. This couple is in agreement with my wife and I that this is not a fairly worded letter.
The church accuses her of hampering his ministry. I'm pretty sure Jim did a pretty good job of hampering his ministry all on his own. They say that he had "biblical reasons for divorce". This is most likely Christian code for "she cheated on him". If that's the case, I'm not going to defend adultery, but it's still pretty shitty of them to put that in a letter to the congregation.
I wonder: did any women (other than the one who I'm sure was responsible for typing it up) read this letter before it went out? Possible, but I doubt it. I'm sure it was prayed over extensively, and I'm equally sure the elders are patting themselves on the back for writing such a fair and balanced letter (comparison to Fox News intentional). Of course they don't mention how the problems in their marriage were ongoing for years before Jim was confronted. Or how the head pastor has admitted that he dropped the ball in not confronting him sooner. They also don't mention that the divorce was actually final nine months ago. Or that Jim continued wearing his wedding ring for months afterward (which is at best unhealthy and at worst outright deceptive).
Of course, they had no choice but to write the letter this way, because they allowed Jim to keep his job. In order to cover their asses and assure everyone they were doing things The Godly Way, they had to throw his wife to the wolves.
Of course, there's no way that The Godly Way would include showing his wife some grace, right?