Pastors and sexual ethics

Pastors and Internet pornography:
Four in ten pastors online have visited a pornographic Web site. And more than one-third have done so in the past year. Those statistics from our Leadership survey have drawn startled response. From non-pastors: "So many!" From pastors: "Is that all?"
One out of every seven calls received by Focus on the Family's care line for pastors is about Internet pornography. Another survey of pastors:
Since you've been in ministry, have you had sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse? Yes: 12 percent; no: 88 percent... [Of those involved in inappropriate sexual activity:] Did the church find out? Yes: 4 percent; no: 96 percent. Hmmm.

Designer Sex

Philip Yancey has an excellent chapter called "Designer Sex" in his book Rumors of Another World. A sample:
I believe we Christians bear heavy responsibility for the counter-reaction so evident in modern society. Jesus treated those who had fallen into sexual sins with compassion and forgiveness, and reserved his harshest words for the hidden sins of hypocrisy, pride, greed, and legalism. How is it that we who follow him use the word "immoral" to signify sexual sins almost exclusively and reserve church discipline for those who fail sexually?... I must say a word of compassion to those who already have failed to meet that design - through promiscuity, adultery, divorce. Jesus set the example for the rest of us by responding with great tenderness to those who have failed sexually. Recognizing the depth of their pain, he offered forgiveness and not judgment. The pain that lingers after sexual failure is, oddly, an indirect proof of sexuality's original sex, as in every area of life, fallen humanity gets in the way and keeps us from realizing the ideal.

Some sins are worse than others

My friend Ed has a couple of good posts up on sexual sin. I love Ed's heart, and I agree with his conclusion:
In the end, my point isn't really to criticize the way churches or denominations deal with this matter as much as to say, why don't we try to find better more wholesome, more biblical ways of dealing with this, so that people and churches are restored and the Gospel is powerful in our midst. I'd love for all men to be able to be honest and vulnerable, knowing there is hope, there is a way out, and that they can and will find victory and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and that it's not in keeping this area of their lives hidden and secret. That is my desire for all men.
Ed is right on. We don't always handle the sex topic well, and it's time to start talking about the fact that we are all broken sexually. Restoration is possible. Secrets don't help anybody. As much as I agree with Ed overall, I disagree with two of his arguments. Ed says, "Is one worse than the other - yes in our yes, but not in God's eyes, according to Jesus definition of immorality." I disagree. Some sins are worse than others, both in God's eyes and ours. Although the smallest sin makes us a lawbreaker, it's simply not true that all sins are equal. Jesus talked about the "greater sin" (John 19:11) and "the least of these commandments" (Matthew 5:19) and "the weightier matters of the law" (Matthew 23:23). Some sins are viewed more seriously by God (James 3:1, Luke 12:48). Jesus talks about an unpardonable sin, which implies that it is a worse sin than others. I hate dumping a whole bunch of verses here, but you don't find any teaching anywhere that all sins are the same. When Jesus says that lust and adultery are both sin, he's stating that they're both wrong. He isn't stating that they are equally as bad. One is the seed of the other. Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler were both sinners, but as Robertson McQuilkin writes, one is going to be judged more severely than the other. This isn't just a theological argument. We know this instinctively. Let's get real. Visiting a prostitute, abusing a child, or having an long-term affair is worse than having an impure thought. This doesn't have to make us more judgmental. Actually, it allows us to not make a huge deal over every issue. It allows for more grace. I want to go further than Ed did on one other issue. I think that certain sexual sins do make it necessary to step down from Christian leadership, at least for a while. It's pretty clear that if you're going to be an elder or a pastor, you've got to be monogamous. I know that this seems to make it harder for pastors to come clean, but it can actually help. I'm going to react to a pastor who has had four long-term affairs differently than I will with a pastor who sometimes struggles with pornography. In the end, I agree with Ed's heart and his hope. I think that making a distinction between the level of struggle actually provides hope, because I can come clean with my struggles without someone overreacting. We are all sexually broken, and discussions like this one can help to move us to a point when we're not shocked to know that someone else is struggling too.