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.
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.