*It is with great disappointment, my dear friends, that I must express this confession to you in a manner that, for me, has always seemed so distant and detached. I would’ve preferred a much more personal and direct means of communication . . . sitting in a coffee shop or at a kitchen table. Unfortunately, however—given the number of people to whom I must acknowledge my failure, as well as the vast distances that separate us—I ask you to graciously recognize this as my best effort to reach as many of you as possible.
July 27, 2018
To my wife and family members, the elders and congregation of Trinity Church, the faculty of Western Seminary, and friends and colleagues both near and abroad . . .
Someone very wise once said: “Pastors must be the chief repenters in a congregation of repenters.” It is important that this proves to be the case now—not because I haven’t yet repented, but because my sin is of such a nature that I need to express my repentance to you.
Several years ago, prior to the inception of Trinity Church, I strayed from my wedding vows, breaking the covenantal bond I made to my dear wife thirty-six years ago. More recently, I again violated my marriage commitment. In both instances I engaged in adulterous relationships that were nothing less than acts of defiance to the will of my God and Father, as well as expressions of profound ingratitude for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that I prize so dearly.
I confess this sin and take full responsibility for it. There are no justifications, excuses, or rationalizations for my behavior. I, in acts of idolatry, chose sin over God. I am profoundly ashamed at the enormity of my rebellion, as well as the hypocrisy of exercising ministry while cloaking my sin in the shadows.
I am broken by the magnitude of my offenses to God, the devastation I have inflicted upon my wife, the grief brought to bear upon my children, and the disappointment I have produced among the people with whom I have been privileged to share ministry. Though it is entirely undeserved, I humbly ask you to forgive me for my betrayal of your trust and friendship. With each passing day the fresh awareness of this betrayal breaks my heart in greater and deeper ways, leaving me with nothing but a hope in the accomplishments of the cross to which I desperately cling.
Despite the profound grief and shame, I am deeply thankful to my heavenly Father for graciously exposing this sin and forcing me to turn from it. The promise that He chastises those He loves so that His children might share in His holiness gives me hope and comfort. My present and painful circumstances have become, to both my wife and me, the gracious verifications of God’s Fatherhood and my spiritual paternity.
Because of my sin I have disqualified myself from the office of elder. Furthermore, I have no desire to pursue ministry of any kind. My focus is entirely directed at making right the very thing I have ignored for too long: the well-being of our marriage. This long-term process has already commenced in meetings with experienced counselors and, under their supervision, will be extended to include a team of qualified people who will also contribute to the reestablishment and strengthening of our relationship.
This reprioritized commitment will require us to relocate—in large part, as a response to my wife’s desires and needs, and also to make ourselves available to care fully for my wife’s elderly parents. Consequently, she and I now resign our membership at Trinity Church, freeing the elders to give their entire attention to carefully shepherding the congregation through this season of challenge. Likewise, we are choosing to relinquish the remaining balance of the severance package so kindly extended to us by the elders so as to free Trinity Church from the burden of caring for our financial responsibilities.
I am certain that my sin has brought about waves of divergent emotions in many of you: hurt, confusion, sorrow, anger. All of these are appropriate responses to my failures that your Heavenly Father understands. Moment by moment I feel the heavy weight of inflicting them upon you. If, however, I may appeal to your mercy in Jesus Christ, dear friends, allow me to ask four things of you:
1) Please direct your anger and frustration at me, while extending love and support to my children (who have responded to my repentance and confession with kindness and compassion), and especially to my wife, who has revealed the depth of the gospel’s influence in her life by extending undeserved grace and forgiveness to me. Lori continues to display the likeness of her Heavenly Father in real and palpable expressions that overwhelm me with tearful humility and contrition. Though I have failed her egregiously, I love her deeply and desperately. With God’s help, our family will survive this season and eventually thrive for God’s glory;
2) Please pray for the elders of Trinity Church. I have wounded these brothers deeply, and now a great and unexpected responsibility rests upon their shoulders. Owing to the gospel and the restorative power of the Holy Spirit, however, they can lead Trinity Church into a stronger and more vibrant congregational life that will bear a unique and powerful testimony to the gospel and what it can accomplish;
3) Please pray for the congregation of Trinity Church. This is an extraordinary gathering of diverse people who are consumed with the priorities of worshipping the Triune God and declaring the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. My wife and I have been the consistent recipients of her great love, support, and generosity. Beyond all compare, these eight years at Trinity Church have been our most joyous days in thirty-six years of ministry;
4) Never doubt the gospel and our great Savior, Jesus Christ. I have failed you profoundly, my dear friends, and I do plead for your forgiveness. I love you—albeit with a love that has been marred by great failure. But the gospel of Jesus Christ will never fail you. The fact is, its greatest glory proves most obvious in the context of sin and failure—in this case, my own great sin and failure.
We, in our brokenness and humiliation, now need your prayers.
God bless you,
Ps…if you would like to contact Lori or me, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. While it is certainly not our desire to be isolated, aloof, or cut off from the body of Christ, we realize our sudden relocation could feel like that. We’d love to hear from any of you, so please feel free to correspond with us as you’d like. While I can not promise a prompt response, as our primary energies are focused almost exclusively on our marriage, family, and caring for extended family, we will read it as time allows. Blessings.