I was walking through Pet Smart this morning when something came to mind with regard to all the controversy regarding Tullian Tchividjian in recent days. I want to focus on one aspect.
Interacting with another PCA pastor he mentioned that Tullian should be able to provide for his family. He also said he should have a church shepherd and love him through this process. Willow Creek, as Rev. Labby mentioned in his Patheos interview, was a good place for this since he worshiped there while in seminary.
First, we certain do need to shepherd who are under discipline or have been removed from ministry. I am not among those who think such a man can never be restored. While no longer a member of a presbytery, he needs to be a member of a congregation (unless a particular pastor recants the faith as my predecessor in Florida did). That session should look out for him, counsel him (or oversee counseling) whether or not this man is seeking to be restored to ministry. He needs to be restored to the Body, so to speak. These men deal with shame and stigma. A church needs to love them.
This gets me to the question of Tullian needing to take care of his family. The staff position seems to be justified by, in part, this need. This morning I went “hmmmm”.
There is no reason, apart from negligence on the part of the presbytery or retribution on the part of the congregation, that Tullian should need to provide for his family so soon. This does not take into account his book royalties. I’m thinking, not simply of Tullian, but any pastor in his position. Congregations and presbyteries, while they may be experiencing many negative emotions for being in this position, need to love these men and their families.
If a man has been in ministry for more than a few years, it is incredibly difficult to find a new vocation with which you can support your family. I was in a transition for over two years. Since I was not under discipline I was able to do pulpit supply. Finding a full-time job, on the other hand, was very difficult. Including pulpit supply, I worked full-time in a hardware store (thanks to former members) and part-time at the local hospital (thanks to a friend) and still didn’t make ends meet. In the case of discipline, the man has serious family issues to work through in the aftermath. Money should not be an immediate concern.
This means that presbyteries should make sure there is an adequate severance package that provides this man time to work through the aftermath and find a new vocation.
If we consider that the average pastoral search takes 18 months, the severance probably ought to be at least a year. The church would not be paying for another pastor yet (unless they hire an intern) so this should not place a financial burden on the congregation (unless lots of people leave as a result). Presbyteries should probably have a fund to fund a severance package just in case.
Our love toward our members should not end because of grievous sin that disqualifies a man for ministry. We must not let anger and pain blind us to our need to love him and his family. Our responsibility to them does not end with their resignation or removal from ministry. If we do this, we remove the temptation to engage in ministry before the discipline accomplishes it purpose (which is not payback but sanctification). This will reduce unnecessary controversy that further damages the Body of Christ. As we consider the new command that Jesus gave to us, to love one another as He has loved us, it all starts to make sense. If we actually love one another, including disgraced pastors, we will care for them in a way that honors Christ and helps them transition without controversy.