When a Church's Pastor Is on Ashley Madison
Hundreds of clergy members could soon resign from ministry positions after their names surfaced on the list of users who use ashleymadison.com, a website that helps married people cheat on their spouse.
According to Ed Stetzer, contributing editor for Christianity Today, "as many as 400 pastors, deacons, elders and church staff members may resign."
The toll has been significant for the 31 million users whose personal information was released in July. Many families are now left to pick up the broken pieces of shattered relationships.
But in its wake, many are likely to ignore the devasating effects this could have on church congregations.
"When the shepherd has violated a sacred trust, it harms the whole flock," Stetzer wrote recently "My Pastor is on the Ashley Madison List". "This is not the time to act as if everything is fine."
Stetzer wrote that pastors are held to a higher standard and cannot take a "quiet resignation."
"I know of pastors right now who are negotiating a quiet resignation after an Ashley Madison related affair-but you don't get to do that if you have taken on the office of pastor," he said.
Dr. R.C Sproul Jr., writer, theologian, and teaching fellow with Ligonier Ministries, was one who had visited the site.
He issued a public statement admitting that he was on the site long enough to leave an old email address but did not sign up for their service or interact with any clients.
"I have always remained faithful to my wife even after her passing," he said.
"I recently informed the board of Ligonier Ministries, which has handled the matter internally, having suspended me until July 1, 2016," he continues. "I also informed my presbytery which is also handling the matter internally. And with this note now the world is informed."
Stetzer says public repentance is necessary for those in leadership.
"Something more is required when a pastor is involved, and this matters just as much as the cautions against accusations," he wrote.
Among the more well-known list of users was "19 Kids and Counting" reality TV star Josh Duggar. Duggar resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in May, after it was revealed he had molested girls as a young teen.
State government officials, police lieutenants, and other public employees are also among those who were found trafficking the site.
Despite the millions of names released in the database breach, Stetzer says a small number are pastors.
"The majority are continuing faithfully, obediently in the ministries where God has placed them," he said.