by Virginia Lynn.

“Pastor,” a desperate voice wavers over the telephone lines. “Uh, I have to resign from the elder board.”

A loaded (pregnant??) pause follows. Pastor Jack finds his voice and says tentatively, “Tell me more.”

The tension is palpable. “Amanda’s pregnant. She told us over supper,” the father continues. “I really don’t see any other option, knowing the rules for elders ordering their own households.”

This is a scene not unfamiliar to senior pastors. The young woman in question could be a junior Sunday school teacher, a newly minted worship leader, or even the best friend of the pastor’s eldest daughter.

The next few weeks and months will be spent making decisions, adjustments, and choosing private and public attitudes towards this unseemly situation.

Does anyone care about the father of the coming baby (other than to learn his identity)? Does he escape all shame? All guilt? All financial responsibility? In this era of “equal opportunity,” can an attitude of complacency toward the young man be considered fair? Christian, even? Furthermore, what kind of support is offered to the parents who are plunged into a morass of confusion and rage?

If we as church leaders fumble the ministry requirements at this moment, we will leave scars for a lifetime. My father, then in his 80’s and a long-time elder in a flagship church, wept as he related how his pastor had once made his son confess his premarital romp, which resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, to a Sunday morning congregation. He felt it was a cruel and unusual punishment for an 18-year-old. While such public excoriation may no longer be practiced, I am personally acquainted with a beautiful young woman whose youth pastor not long ago was cool to the point of hostile when he became aware of her predicament. No support, prayer or otherwise were forthcoming.

We are called to be a healing presence in a world battered by sin and evil. The story of Christ’s quiet confrontation with the uptight, sneering Pharisees and the humiliated woman “caught in the act” comes to mind. Glaringly absent was the male partner in this setting. Things haven’t really changed in two millennia.

The reaction of Christ is worth noting. He bent down and scribbled in the sand. He drew a line and then asked the accusers to reflect on their own shortcomings. Today we are likewise asked to choose on which side of the line we will stand. Will we be remembered for condemnation or grace?

Virginia Lynn is minister of pastoral care of Living Stones Church, Red Deer, Alberta.