Mailbag: My husband is a cheating pastor, and I am at a loss.

wpid-2015-06-19-14.45.57.jpg.jpegtwitching wrote,

My husband is a senior pastor in a Presbyterian (PCUSA) church. He has been having an affair for at least 2 years with a woman in our former church, about 10 hours by car away.

I told 2 elders and they have done nothing but keep his secret. Meanwhile, I left and am filing for divorce. I have stopped going to church there, although my children still go. People in our church here think I am a cold hearted, unsupportive person for leaving him. Nobody really knows why I did.

I’d like not to be front page news. I’d like to keep it quiet for my children’s sake. But what is my obligation to the church? He is not fit for ministry, yet he is still in the pulpit. He is still having an affair. And that whole community thinks badly of me.

But…if I cause him to lose his job, to lose his ministry, he will be less able to provide child support. He has no other skills.

I am at a loss.

wpid-img_20150625_161827.jpgDear twitching,

What a horrible situation full of betrayals of you (and your family)! Thank you for writing in to Divorce Minister. I am honored that you would want my perspective on your difficult situation.

First, I see you trying to control things outside of your control. The cat is already out of the bag concerning his affair (to the two elders, minimally). Even if you continue to keep his dirty secrets, that does not mean the denomination/church will not become wise to his serious sin and subsequently act to defrock him.

Furthermore, you wrote that he is having with a former congregant. This is a major problem. He had power over her as her pastor, and it is an abuse of his office–not to mention a violation of the Ten Commandments–to be involved romantically with this woman. I would suspect denominational officials would be greatly disconcerted to hear of such a grevious moral and professional conduct breach.

Second, you wrote,

“People in our church here think I am a cold hearted, unsupportive person for leaving him. Nobody really knows why I did. I’d like not to be front page news.”

Do you see the contradiction there?

You are already front page news.

The only difference between telling or not telling is that by not telling you are allowing people to believe a lie about you and your cheating husband. Your choice here is not between being front page news or not. It is a choice between having the front page news being truthful or a lie.

Also, is it truly protecting or helping your children if you model lying/keeping nasty secrets? And as I wrote above, you do not have complete control over the release of this information either. Do you want to be explaining to your children why you kept them in the dark? Maybe you have already told your kids? I do not know. But if you haven’t, I would strongly encourage you to do so now–i.e. at an age appropriate level naming their father’s sinful actions leading you to chose divorce.

Finally, you wrote,

“But…if I cause him to lose his job, to lose his ministry, he will be less able to provide child support.”

Two points on this statement:

1) By exposing his sin, you are not causing him to lose his job. His willful moral failure is what is causing him to lose his job. He is not qualified to be senior pastor as someone who is engaged in an ongoing affair with a former congregant. Adultery is not acceptable in the pastorate. Do not believe the lie that you are to blame if he loses his job over this. That is simply what will likely happen as a consequence for a pastor who choses to cheat on his wife with a former congregant. In other words, he should have thought of that before he decided to defy God’s commandments in cheating on his wife and lying.

2) As mentioned before, you cannot completely control whether or not he is exposed. He may still lose his job even if you say nothing more. That is the thing about the truth. It has a way of getting out in the open. God will not be mocked.

In conclusion, the decision remains yours as to how you want to procede. That said, I would encourage you again to be honest with your children as I would not want you harm your relationship with them if/when the truth comes out about their father. Furthermore, remember that you can continue keeping your husband’s secret and lying by ommission, but that is not protecting you from being front page news in the church gossip channels and does not guarantee your husband will not be exposed and defrocked for his moral failure. I encourage standing in the truth here even if that is difficult.

This is not your fault, twitching. And if your husband loses his job over his sin, that is not your fault either. Remember that.

May the Holy Spirit strengthen you, comfort you, grant you peace, and guide you in wisdom as you navigate this mess created by your husband’s sins! And may God protect your children as well. Amen.


Pastor David

14 thoughts on “Mailbag: My husband is a cheating pastor, and I am at a loss.”

  1. twitching,

    Have you approached any other PCUSA official outside of your husband’s church? Do you know any local presbyter from the greater assembly? He/she might be able to give you counsel as to next steps.

    Also, I do not know about the PCUSA, but some denominations have ways of putting a pastor in a restoration/discipline process. I agree with you that he is not fit to pastor right now as an unrepentant adulterer. But perhaps, they could offer this restoration process/discipline for your husband and thereby protect you’ll financially a little. I don’t know.

    Presbyterian polity and the PCUSA, in particular, is not in my wheelhouse. But I would be surprised if they do not have something in place for cases like yours. I doubt this is the first instance of a Presbyterian minister cheating on his wife, sadly.

    Pastor David

  2. i hate to hear you are in this situation I know how difficult it is I was in a similar situation myself. My STBX was a Christian drug and alcohol counseler who had an affair with one of his clients wife (or supposed wife turns out she was married to clients brother so she was committing double adultery) I knew I had to stand for something and he had no business leading others if he was capable of that because so much sin goes along with adultery and his thinking was really messed up and leading others wrong I felt I had no choice but to tell I felt God would want me to reveal his evil so I did and I was very hard and took a long time

  3. I was in you shoes exactly 3 years ago.

    We had just moved to a new city. He was cheating with a co-worker ( both Ministers ) for approx 3 years when the Bishop relocated us. I believe that was the solution to the problem as far as the church was concerned.

    It did nothing but send my husband into a giant crisis and he went into monster mode. I had no rights to the rectory and he ranted and raved about how the marriage was a bad marriage and he was DONE!!!

    With the help of a women’s shelter I got out. No one listened or cared about the truth in my case.

    He still has his position and so does she.
    The congregation never skipped a beat and barely acknowledged my absence !

    However, I do want you to know you can get through this!!!!

    I have a decent job now, a little house and peace and quiet. No drama.

    They just have each other – and that’s the booby prize as far as I can see.

    Don’t expect your church to do the right thing. I have switched denominations over this. I have found better people to pray, love and laugh with.

    You cannot control others, but you can move forward and be fabulous. It’s the best revenge!

  4. “But…if I cause him to lose his job, to lose his ministry, he will be less able to provide child support. He has no other skills.”

    1) Him having money doesn’t mean he’ll pay child support.
    2) Yes he does have other skills. It’s not up to you to find a new position for him, it’s on him. His choices to repeatedly choose adultery landed him in this spot, not your decision to divorce (which is YOUR decision by the way. You are fully within your rights to divorce him).
    3) He should be defrocked. Whether or not the church responds appropriately and does rightfully defrock him is another question. Many churches don’t have the balls to do what’s right. Sounds like your Elders fall into that camp. I’d advise not keeping his secret. You’re not his PR agent. If someone asks what happened you go ahead and tell them he cheated and you won’t tolerate it. No shame in that. It sounds like if you pursue things further with this church you’re gonna have to go all the way up, find a different denomination official b/c the elders are slacking. Get your evidence set too. Photos, phone records, whatever you have.

  5. Sadly, many mainline denominations don’t really rely on biblical truth. On divorce and adultery, I daresay they have bought the world’s take on it….people just “drift apart” and hey, get with the program…your spouse found someone else? Deal with it. Shameful.

  6. If I may, I was/am in this exact situation. Husband has been having an affair with another pastor since at least 2012. He was told he must complete a particular 3-month counseling program to see if he is fit for ministry. He refused so he lost his pastorate. She was lightly slapped on the wrist and sent me a letter “forgiving” me for trying to ruin her career. He is now making a third of what he used to; she moved to another conference within our denomination. They are trying to get him employment where she works (3 1/2 hours away). In our divorce papers he is required to send me his W-2 within 30 days of receiving it each year. If he has a job paying closer what he used to make, my alimony goes up.

    However, I am struggling with whether or not to report the relationship to a higher authority than the one that last punished her. Another pastor in the denomination feels she should be reported and put through a fitness for ministry review. This pastor has offered to report for me but I just don’t know. Yes, I think it needs done but I don’t know if I want the hassle. Last time, spouse also accused me of trying to ruin “her life.”

    I let everyone think what they want – it’s none of my business BUT if they ask, you’d better believe I tell them exactly why we’re divorcing. My kids are in college and they have both known since I found out.

    On the bright side, I must have angered him in some way because he moved out of the house while I was helping my elderly parents last week!

    1. bepositive,

      The truth is their careers were ruined by their own lack of character in these matters. Now, that does not mean they will agree and grow up owning their sinful choices plus the consequences. However, they made choices, and those choices have consequences.

      What do you feel like God would like you to do in this?

      Obviously, the decision is up to you. Personally, I would lean towards allowing that pastor friend to report her to the next conference. Don’t buy the line that this is about revenge or “ruining” her career. That’s what she did by committing adultery. It doesn’t sound like she gets that. She needs to confront the sinful mess she made, or it is likely to repeat. Plus, this is no good for those under her leadership. They call it disqualifying sin for good reason.


  7. Thanks, DM. I think I will agree to the reporting. My spouse is already angry for supposed slights and unacceptable behavior from me, what’s one more thing?! I think I will have the house door locks changed first.

    1. Bepositive,

      Just be careful. When I changed locks on my cheating ex, she threatened to put the police on me if I did not change them back (which I did). So, be sure that it is legal.

      Also, “supposed slights and unacceptable behavior” is rich coming from a pastor-husband who is commiting/committed adultery. He should be spending more times focusing on his own “unacceptable behavior” than “yours” for the good of his own soul. Keep that in mind if he freaks out or if she does. Adultery is what is unacceptable here; not exposing the sin. To blame you is like punishing the whistleblower as opposed to correcting the wrong behavior. It’s the wrong focus.


      1. DM, Thank you for your concern. He’s already filed a quit claim on the house. I think I’m in the clear, legally, to change the locks.

  8. An additional consideration for the faithful spouse of a cheating pastor:

    A pastor might be legally vulnerable for an affair with a congregant. The congregant could possibly sue or bring criminal charges against the pastor at some point — due to the pastor’s position of authority in the congregant’s life.

    I’m not sure about all the legal ramifications for every state. However, the possibility is worth considering from the standpoint of protecting the assets of the faithful spouse.

  9. I am sorry for your pain – I have been in a similar situation. Please keep telling anyone who will listen about his betrayal until you find someone who will listen and take action against him. You are not guilty – he is – he needs to be exposed for the sake of everyone.

Comments are closed.