What About the “Other Woman”?

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What About the "Other Woman"?

When a pas­tor falls, he leaves a wake of destruc­tion behind. He hurts his church, his wife and fam­ily, and many oth­ers. When I blog, I often hear from many peo­ple who have been hurt, but I get a sur­pris­ing num­ber of emails from the women who were involved with the pas­tor — they often call them­selves, “the other woman.” You know, the mis­tress. So, what about the “other woman”?

I’ve never liked any of those terms. I guess it’s because I was a pas­tor and mar­ried the woman I had an affair with. I could say, “We shouldn’t tag peo­ple with names accord­ing to their sin.” But I’d be a hyp­ocrite since the name of my blog is “fallen pas­tor.” That, and Scrip­ture accord­ingly tags us accord­ing to the sins we are habit­u­ally com­mit­ting – “mur­derer, liar, etc.”

What About the "Other Woman"?When we use terms to describe peo­ple, we are speak­ing of their sin. When we start speak­ing of peo­ple, we begin to take the role of judge. When we speak of an “adul­terer” to describe the person’s sin, we should always remem­ber that there is hope for that per­son to repent and turn to Christ. When they do, they’re no longer an adul­terer in God’s eyes, they are a for­given per­son, cleansed by the right­eous­ness of Christ.

With that said, what are we to think of “the other woman”?

Let me begin by telling you about what the rela­tion­ship looks like before the pas­tor and the other woman get caught. He’s told her that he’s never met any­one like her. He’s told her that she lis­tens to him and his wife doesn’t. He’s told her that he wants to leave his church and fam­ily for her. He has pledged his undy­ing love for her. He may actu­ally feel that way or he may just think he feels that way. Either way, they are in their own world of for­bid­den love.

Then, they get caught. Next, one of two things usu­ally hap­pen if the pas­tor doesn’t leave his fam­ily for her.

First, the pas­tor gets caught and tells the church lead­er­ship that it wasn’t a phys­i­cal affair or as seri­ous as it looks in order to save his fam­ily and ministry.

He tells the church lead­ers every­thing they want to hear so he can save some face. In doing so, the lead­er­ship demand he stops see­ing her.When this hap­pens, the lead­er­ship will tell him to sever all con­tact with her and often, the lead­ers will con­tact her (espe­cially if she’s a staff or church mem­ber) and tell her to leave the church. They will tell her to never step foot in the church again.

She might be asked to tell her story, but usu­ally, she doesn’t have the chance. Even­tu­ally, the story is passed around and the pastor’s ver­sion of events are told and the mem­ber­ship gets mad at her for “seduc­ing” the pastor.

The sec­ond thing that hap­pens is that the pas­tor falls and tells the church lead­er­ship and his wife everything.

As in the first case, the lead­er­ship tells him to stop con­tact­ing her, they ask her to leave and the pas­tor repents and attempts to rec­on­cile with his wife. In just a few cases I’ve seen over the years, churches have reached out to the “other woman” to help her. But I’ve only seen that in about two cases in 600.

Let’s be clear. Both the pas­tor and this woman have sinned. Both have com­mit­ted adul­tery. Both are guilty of the sin. In just about every case I’ve seen, the pas­tor had a higher moral respon­si­bil­ity to stop the sit­u­a­tion from going any­where. But often, when the sin comes to the sur­face, it’s eas­ier to place the blame on the “temptress.” I think that this is a very unfair bal­ance for sev­eral reasons.

First, there is a moral fail­ure within every human heart that only Christ can address. When we open our­selves to the pos­si­bil­ity of sin, stop actively seek­ing Christ, and cease fel­low­ship with believ­ers of like mind, our hearts begin to wan­der. When our hearts wan­der, our actions aren’t too far behind.

Sec­ond, when moral fail­ure occurs within the church, all aspects need to be addressed. Attempt­ing to restore (or ignore the sins of) a pas­tor while send­ing out another mem­ber of the faith is incon­sis­tent with our call to restore any of those within our fel­low­ship (Gala­tians 6:1). Of course, the call to restore should be con­sis­tent with the desire for repen­tance on the part of those who sin. But when a per­son is cast out with­out even the offer of help, coun­sel­ing, or guid­ance, the restora­tion can­not even begin.

Third, when “the other woman” is cast out, despite her sin, she is in the midst of con­fu­sion and needs a tremen­dous amount of sup­port. Yes, she has sinned greatly. Yes, she has dug her own hole. Yes, she has com­mit­ted adul­tery with the pas­tor. But at the moment of the fall­out, how should the com­mu­nity of faith respond to her?

What are we to think of “the other woman”?

One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pas­tor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many peo­ple to feel any­thing but angst for the per­son who by their actions, took away their spir­i­tual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s under­stand­able if they don’t want to restore such a per­son to Christ. It’s under­stand­able if the church lead­er­ship just wants to put her away from their sight.

But this is what makes the com­mu­nity of faith dif­fer­ent, isn’t it? I’ve spo­ken with a What About the "Other Woman"?lot of “other women” who have said, “the pas­tor told me he loved me. He said he would leave his wife for me. He said we would be together for­ever. When we got caught, the lead­er­ship got so mean and told me to leave. Peo­ple started gos­sip­ing and peo­ple who were once my friends are now act­ing ter­ri­bly.”

I get what’s behind the church’s actions and feel­ings. Hurt. Anger. I under­stand that the church mem­ber­ship and lead­ers are in a pre­co­cious position.

That’s when we have to ask what the Christ-​like response would be. What are we to do when it’s hard to love? What are we to do when we are hurt by oth­ers in the worst pos­si­ble way? How are we to respond when we are betrayed by some­one we thought was a friend?

Christ knew the answer and lived it. He was betrayed sev­eral times and in hor­ri­ble ways and for­gave freely.

Now, our for­give­ness might take longer to digest and actu­al­ize, but it’s some­thing worth­while to work toward. In the mean­time, if we are part of a com­mu­nity of faith, we need to view “the other woman” as a fallen per­son, like we are. A per­son cre­ated in the image of God, like us. Some­one worth fight­ing for, worth sav­ing, worth restora­tion. A per­son who has fallen as far as they can and who needs the hand of a fel­low believer.

We are to reach out to any sin­ner, just as Christ did, in an attempt to restore them to fellowship.

And if we aren’t in a posi­tion at that moment to pro­vide that hand, we have to be will­ing to find some­one who can until we can open the door far enough to begin the process of for­give­ness and restoration.

Other arti­cles:

For­giv­ing the Other Woman” by Rebeca Seitz, from Cross​walk​.com

Ques­tions About Affairs From The Other Woman by Anne Bercht” — these are let­ters a Chris­t­ian sem­i­nar group gets from “other women.” It’s an insight to the prob­lems they suf­fer and they’re just like the prob­lems we hear about, show­ing that these women need help.

_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​

Ray Car­roll is the author of “Fallen Pas­tor: Find­ing Restora­tion in a Bro­ken World,” which answers many of the ques­tions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pas­tor who needs to talk or you are some­one who has been affected by a fallen pas­tor and would like to con­tact me pri­vately, please click here. You are the main rea­son this min­istry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, asso­ci­a­tion, con­fer­ence, or news out­let and would like more infor­ma­tion about this min­istry, please click here.

When a pastor falls, he leaves a wake of destruction behind. He hurts his church, his wife and family, and many others. When I blog, I often hear from many people who have been hurt, but I get a surprising number of emails from the women who were involved with the pastor – they often call themselves, “the other woman.” You know, the mistress. So, what about the “other woman”?

I’ve never liked any of those terms. I guess it’s because I was a pastor and married the woman I had an affair with. I could say, “We shouldn’t tag people with names according to their sin.” But I’d be a hypocrite since the name of my blog is “fallen pastor.” That, and Scripture accordingly tags us according to the sins we are habitually committing – “murderer, liar, etc.”

What About the "Other Woman"?When we use terms to describe people, we are speaking of their sin. When we start speaking of people, we begin to take the role of judge. When we speak of an “adulterer” to describe the person’s sin, we should always remember that there is hope for that person to repent and turn to Christ. When they do, they’re no longer an adulterer in God’s eyes, they are a forgiven person, cleansed by the righteousness of Christ.

With that said, what are we to think of “the other woman”?

Let me begin by telling you about what the relationship looks like before the pastor and the other woman get caught. He’s told her that he’s never met anyone like her. He’s told her that she listens to him and his wife doesn’t. He’s told her that he wants to leave his church and family for her. He has pledged his undying love for her. He may actually feel that way or he may just think he feels that way. Either way, they are in their own world of forbidden love.

Then, they get caught. Next, one of two things usually happen if the pastor doesn’t leave his family for her.

First, the pastor gets caught and tells the church leadership that it wasn’t a physical affair or as serious as it looks in order to save his family and ministry.

He tells the church leaders everything they want to hear so he can save some face. In doing so, the leadership demand he stops seeing her.When this happens, the leadership will tell him to sever all contact with her and often, the leaders will contact her (especially if she’s a staff or church member) and tell her to leave the church. They will tell her to never step foot in the church again.

She might be asked to tell her story, but usually, she doesn’t have the chance. Eventually, the story is passed around and the pastor’s version of events are told and the membership gets mad at her for “seducing” the pastor.

The second thing that happens is that the pastor falls and tells the church leadership and his wife everything.

As in the first case, the leadership tells him to stop contacting her, they ask her to leave and the pastor repents and attempts to reconcile with his wife.  In just a few cases I’ve seen over the years, churches have reached out to the “other woman” to help her. But I’ve only seen that in about two cases in 600.

Let’s be clear. Both the pastor and this woman have sinned. Both have committed adultery. Both are guilty of the sin. In just about every case I’ve seen, the pastor had a higher moral responsibility to stop the situation from going anywhere. But often, when the sin comes to the surface, it’s easier to place the blame on the “temptress.” I think that this is a very unfair balance for several reasons.

First, there is a moral failure within every human heart that only Christ can address. When we open ourselves to the possibility of sin, stop actively seeking Christ, and cease fellowship with believers of like mind, our hearts begin to wander. When our hearts wander, our actions aren’t too far behind.

Second, when moral failure occurs within the church, all aspects need to be addressed. Attempting to restore (or ignore the sins of) a pastor while sending out another member of the faith is inconsistent with our call to restore any of those within our fellowship (Galatians 6:1). Of course, the call to restore should be consistent with the desire for repentance on the part of those who sin. But when a person is cast out without even the offer of help, counseling, or guidance, the restoration cannot even begin.

Third, when “the other woman” is cast out, despite her sin, she is in the midst of confusion and needs a tremendous amount of support. Yes, she has sinned greatly. Yes, she has dug her own hole. Yes, she has committed adultery with the pastor. But at the moment of the fallout, how should the community of faith respond to her?

What are we to think of “the other woman”?

One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pastor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many people to feel anything but angst for the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s understandable if they don’t want to restore such a person to Christ. It’s understandable if the church leadership just wants to put her away from their sight.

But this is what makes the community of faith different, isn’t it? I’ve spoken with a What About the "Other Woman"?lot of “other women” who have said, “the pastor told me he loved me. He said he would leave his wife for me. He said we would be together forever. When we got caught, the leadership got so mean and told me to leave. People started gossiping and people who were once my friends are now acting terribly.”

I get what’s behind the church’s actions and feelings. Hurt. Anger. I understand that the church membership and leaders are in a precocious position.

That’s when we have to ask what the Christ-like response would be. What are we to do when it’s hard to love? What are we to do when we are hurt by others in the worst possible way? How are we to respond when we are betrayed by someone we thought was a friend?

Christ knew the answer and lived it. He was betrayed several times and in horrible ways and forgave freely.

Now, our forgiveness might take longer to digest and actualize, but it’s something worthwhile to work toward. In the meantime, if we are part of a community of faith, we need to view “the other woman” as a fallen person, like we are. A person created in the image of God, like us. Someone worth fighting for, worth saving, worth restoration. A person who has fallen as far as they can and who needs the hand of a fellow believer.

We are to reach out to any sinner, just as Christ did, in an attempt to restore them to fellowship.

And if we aren’t in a position at that moment to provide that hand, we have to be willing to find someone who can until we can open the door far enough to begin the process of forgiveness and restoration.

Other articles:

Forgiving the Other Woman” by Rebeca Seitz, from Crosswalk.com

Questions About Affairs From The Other Woman by Anne Bercht” – these are letters a Christian seminar group gets from “other women.” It’s an insight to the problems they suffer and they’re just like the problems we hear about, showing that these women need help.

_____________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

 

4 comments

  • As I was reading this article, the following section concerned me:

    “What are we to think of “the other woman”?

    One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pastor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many people to feel anything but angst for the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s understandable if they don’t want to restore such a person to Christ. It’s understandable if the church leadership just wants to put her away from their sight.”

    You state, “…this woman has taken away the pastor…” and “…the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader…” I must emphatically and respectfully disagree with these statements. The pastor took himself away; the pastor disqualified himself.

    Possibly, these statements were made to reflect the way some congregants processed the situation. If so, that is understandable, as there is certainly an initial emotional reaction and the need to place blame, although not necessarily based in reality.

    • The latter is how it is to be read and I appreciate the comment for clarity. This blog is full of statements pointing to pastoral responsibility in adultery.

      • Thank you for your clarification. Having read the beginning of your article, where you speak about the pastor professing his love for the “other woman,” his desire to be with her, etc., this section confused me a bit, so instead of assuming what you meant, I asked.

        I speak as the “other woman,” because I am her. I was told these things by my pastor. I believed that he loved me, and I believed that I loved him. After discovery of our affair and his removal as pastor, I placed upon myself guilt that was not mine to carry. I knew some people would view me as the “temptress,” and quite frankly, I am sure some still view me in that way. If I am honest, it is easy for me to talk about being forgiven by God, that God has redeemed and is restoring me, and while I am largely able to walk in those truths, the guilt and shame is still able to paralyze within moments of a trigger.

        • I’m sorry you’ve been in that situation. I have talked to many women in your situation and that’s why I write about it. There’s very little help out there for women in your situation and I hope one day that changes. Take care.

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