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Kay Syvrud, Published January 29 2011

Apply biblical standard to pastors

Like many Forum readers, I was among those shocked by the report of two pastors from Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo being arrested for “driving under the influence.”

The council and members at Olivet have treated the two pastors with amazing grace and forgiveness; neither will lose his job, and apparently after a few words on a Sunday by both of them and a standing ovation from church members, life will go on for both of them who stated that they “had made a bad decision and we regret that. We’re sorry and we apologize.”

End of story? I think not.

It is fashionable to excuse bad behavior or outright sin by calling them “bad decisions” or “mistakes” and then saying “I apologize” and leaving it all behind.

The time was when Christian churches actually addressed the subject of sin and confession and repentance, but it seems to be missing from this incident, as it is missing from so many modern fellowships. Casual treatment of Scripture seems to be another hallmark of too many mainline modern churches. Most mainline churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America of which Olivet is part, have dropped the doctrine of inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture as stated in many places in the Christian Bible, most notably 2 Timothy 3:16.

“Smorgasbord Scripture” selection has replaced believing all of God’s word to be inerrant and infallible; pick and choose those Scriptures that serve your agenda, and forget about the rest of it. It has had serious consequences for those churches that have adopted such a position.

Since both pastors have served as youth ministers, according to Pat Springer’s reporting (I trust Springer), I think it is useful to quote from an essay written in response to a question that asked, “What does the Bible say about the role of youth pastor/minister?”

Before discussing the role of a youth pastor/minister, it is important to first discuss qualifications. Generally speaking, anything said about the role of bishop/overseer should be applied to the qualifications of a youth pastor. Therefore 1 Timothy (one of the Apostle Paul’s pastoral epistles), 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 apply here. The youth pastor/

minister “should be above reproach, the husband of one wife (if married), temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, managing his own family well, having obedient, respectful children, not a recent convert, and having a good reputation with outsiders.”

If the Olivet council and the members applied biblical standards to their erring pastors, perhaps all would be well. Giving them a standing ovation as if they were some conquering heroes seems odd.

Forgiveness, yes. Casual, non-biblical responses to serious charges, no.

The pastors are examples to the youth they have led or are leading. They are examples to those outside of the church, even to unbelievers who are so eager to grab on to such offenses to prove their contention of hypocrisy within churches.

It is not a casual thing to receive a DUI, no matter who you are or what your occupation, but for those who have been entrusted to lead other Christians, it is critical to obey the instructions for being a pastor or a bishop or an overseer as the Scriptures cite.


Syvrud is a retired teacher and occasional contributor to The Forum’s opinion/commentary page.