“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach….”
-I Timothy 3:2, NIV
Situation: Megachurch pastor and author, Darrin Patrick, was recently removed from leadership according to a church statement from The Journey’s elders (click here). He is an author and was/is a vice president of the Acts 29 church-planting network. Throckmorton has collected both the elder’s statement plus a link to the fuller statement in a post here.
What strikes me about this sad story is how so much effort is made to state that Patrick is not being removed for “adultery.” I say this as I read both the statements made by the church as well as how Patrick’s removal is being reported in evangelical media, particularly Christianity Today (see link here and here).
This downplaying of pastoral infidelity is especially strange considering the fuller statement to The Journey church’s members includes wording that indicates he was cheating emotionally–i.e. involved in behavior indicative of emotional affairs–without actually using such wording.
“The initial and now confirmed accusations were not of adultery but did violate the high standard for elders in marriage through inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women. (I Tim. 3.2).”
-From the fuller statement from The Journey’s elders (see link here)
The statement goes on to describe other issues that contributed to the elders deciding to remove Mr. Patrick. Two things worth noting are:
- Mr. Patrick has promised to change in the past and then failed to ultimately follow through with that.
- Mr. Patrick is known to manipulate and lie.
I do hand it to the elders at The Journey that they took disciplinary action on these matters and require a restoration process to be completed. That is more than some would do under such difficult circumstances. However, I am concerned that what is presented says a lot about how far we have to come as an evangelical community in properly handling infidelity and understanding this sort of sin.
The problem is best illustrated by considering a hypothetical question:
What would have happened if the elders had determined Mr. Patrick had committed adultery?
My suspicion is that Mr. Patrick would have been treated more severely. As I have written elsewhere, big incentives exist in the evangelical Christian world to confess “emotional affairs” instead of confessing physical affairs–a.k.a. adultery. Also, remember that this pastor is a known liar according to his own elders. All of that is to say that a healthy skepticism towards the claim that no adultery was committed is warranted and wise considering the circumstances.
Even armed with the more extensive statement, Christianity Today was more than happy to categorize this leadership removal as under “reasons outside of financial or sexual impropriety” (see link here). This troubles me because it sends the message that emotional affairs are not sexual. Only physical affairs–i.e. adultery–seem to count.
That sort of messaging minimizes how devastating emotional affairs are as well as continues to encourage cheaters to utilize the emotional affair confession smokescreen even when they know they have been cheating physically–i.e. committing adultery. Furthermore, I doubt God only views sexual penetration as the only sexual act or interaction that counts under sexual immorality or marital unfaithfulness on such matters (e.g. Matthew 19:9 and Ephesians 5:3).
Another piece that bothers me is Darrin Patrick’s message to the church tacked onto the more elaborate letter from the elders.
…. I am utterly horrified by the depth of my sin and devastated by the terrible effects of it on myself, my family and so many others, including all of you. I am so deeply and terribly sorry for the pain that my sin is causing you, as well as the broken trust that my sin has clearly produced. In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing. The way that the Journey elders have demonstrated their desire to see me restored to Jesus, as well as their love for me, Amie and our family is nothing short of miraculous and beyond gracious. They have put together a thoroughly comprehensive restoration plan for myself and our family, and we have great hope for God’s healing, restoration and reconciliation through this process.
Please know that Amie and I are completely committed to our marriage as well as the well-being of our children and family. We earnestly desire your prayers for us in this terribly painful but hopeful season. We are desperately clinging to God’s promise that He loves us completely in spite of our sin, delights in us when we are at our weakest, and that He is, indeed, the restorer and healer of all brokenness.
-Taken from letter found here
Something just seems “off” to me in this piece from Mr. Patrick. It reminds me of the sort of Christian-speak I would get from my former father-in-law who was a member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which was a flagship part of the Acts 29 church-planting network for a long time. In general, the language has a hollow ring, but that may just be me.
To be fair, I do not know Mr. Patrick’s heart, and he may be speaking this in complete sincerity. Time will tell as the elders, counselor(s), family, and the church look at his actions over his words.
Another piece that bothered me from Mr. Patrick’s letter to the church is how Mr. Patrick speaks for his wife committing her to the marriage in this statement. She may very well be as committed to the marriage through this. He could be just stating what she wants him to state publicly. However, it bothers me in this moment that someone–known to be a manipulator–would speak for his wife in such a vital area considering he has just been publicly outed as having been involved inappropriately with two other women.
Mr. Patrick may not have committed adultery; however, one does not have to commit adultery to be unfaithful in marriage. The Christian community would do well to remember that explicitly and thereby support faithful spouses dealing with such situations instead of minimizing them.
Cheating on one’s spouse is still sin whether or not it was physically sexual.