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June 21, 2017 Q & A

Minister Living in Unrepentant Sin

Question

I am in a situation where I am in the life of an OPC minister who is living in unrepentant sin. I need advice, and I do not know how to proceed. I know this isn’t a lot of information, but I would prefer not to reveal information about the situation through this medium of communication.

Answer

Thank you for your inquiry. With the general nature of your inquiry, I will have to give a general reply. Let me begin with a reminder that no Christian is without sin. So I would encourage you to pray and consider carefully whether this is a sin of ignorance or weakness, or whether it is one that is of such a serious nature that it must be confronted.

I am also assuming that you are a Christian and a member of the OPC. If not, the circumstances are easily so complicated that I fear to give any advice. Specific situations would entail different avenues to follow in dealing with the matter. So the following advice is based on these assumptions.

First, there is only one biblical stricture about confronting a minister “living in unrepentant sin.” Scripture requires that an accusation against an elder/minister can only be done on the testimony of two or more witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). This is, in large measure, so that wicked men cannot invent baseless charges and destroy their ministry out of simple malice.

Assuming the requisite witnesses, the question then divides on this point: is it a public or private sin? That is, is it a sin generally known or one that is known only to a few people?

If it is known only to a few people, the first step would be to confront the man himself as a brother, just as you would any other sinning brother (Matt. 18:15). The following verses spell out the process if there is no repentance.

If the offense is a public one, then the call to repentance would also be public. The way that this is implemented is spelled out in our constitution, specifically in the Book of Discipline, Chapter III.

Let me point out to you especially paragraph 6 of that chapter. If the court (in the case of a minister, the presbytery) determines that the charge does not warrant judicial process, the accuser can be censured for making indefensible accusations.

Entering into the arena of confrontation and possible judicial discipline is a costly one: not in money but in sweat and tears. It is not one that can be abandoned lightly once begun. On the other hand, it is God’s appointed means of recalling a wandering sheep (or shepherd) to the way of repentance and obedience.

If you go forward, I would encourage you to receive counsel from the clerk of your presbytery. He can guide you in the proper steps.

 

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