On People with Certain Pasts Serving in Ministry

There is controversy online about Hugo Schwyzer and his writing for the Christian Relevant Magazine.  At issue is whether or not Relevant should disclose details to readers about Schwyzer’s past, which includes domestic violence, since Schwyzer writes about women’s issues.  There are also people who question if Schwyzer is truly repentant about his past.  See here, here, and here for more information.

Christians have wrestled with the issue of whether or not people with certain pasts should be allowed to serve in ministry.  Topics that come up in discussions about this issue include: grace, safety, to what extent (if any) people with certain pasts should be allowed to serve in ministry, and the conditions under which they can serve (i.e., they can serve if they are repentant and subject to accountability).

In this post, I’d like to highlight some comments that were made under Elizabeth Esther’s post on the subject, by Falfie4.  I thought that his comments were insightful:

“I really don’t know any specifics about this situation, so I can’t comment on this person specifically.  But I do have a bit of a problem with making a blanket statement that those who have sinful pasts can’t minister out of that.  I think there should definitely some caution exercised and the person should be under accountability at all times.  And, certainly, not everyone should be allowed in ministry.  But I’ve also seen where those who have had issues with addictions, sexual sin, etc. come back to do powerful work with others who struggle.  It’s kind of the basis for the counseling industry.  I would bet that your counselor had some significant personal struggles before becoming a therapist.  I know I did, as did my own therapist and most people I know in the industry.

“I think what it comes down to is the motivation for ministry.  If a person is in ministry out of a genuine desire to help others, that’s one thing.  But, if their desire is for fame and recognition (which is what it sounds like is the issue with the guy in your post) that’s something completely different.  The latter points to a character issue which needs to be dealt with, and is a serious issue.  It sounds like in this guys process of healing, he dealt with the actions but not the underlying heart issues that led him to make those choices.  That is a problem!  But, it’s a completely different problem than what you described here.  Profiting off your sin is not okay.  It’s just another form of sin.  But, healing from it and using your experience to help others out of a genuine desire to see other’s lives changed, in my opinion is not only okay, but should be done.”

“So, after reading some of the comments, it sounds like the real issue is that this guy isn’t repentant at all, or actually in the process of recovery.  That’s the issue that needs to be addressed, not whether or not former addicts should minister.  Please don’t take this man as an example of those who have truly repented and genuinely want to minister to other struggling addicts.”

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to On People with Certain Pasts Serving in Ministry

  1. Liz says:

    Well, by his own admissions over the past 4 weeks, Schwyzer continued to have multiple affairs including ones with porn actresses and his students. Some stories of redemption are just a facade to win over trust and goodwill. It makes fools of those who denied seeing all of the red flags that many people pointed out over the past 5 years.


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