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Oh Pain, Where Is Thy Sting?

Dr. Charles Stanley is a biggie in the Southern Baptist Convention, of which he’s a former president. He pastors a 14,000-member church, is a best-selling author, and has his own sizeable TV and radio ministry. Indeed, we’ve heard him on the radio from time to time, and he’s impressed us as someone who presents a solid Christian message.

By tradition, his 162-year-old church, First Baptist of Atlanta, has refused to allow a divorced man to be a pastor (no woman may be a pastor), a stance Stanley has publicly upheld. Indeed, he has publicly said he would step down from his pastorate if he ever divorced.

Well, you guessed it. Stanley recently announced that he and his wife of 44 years have divorced. Will he be looking for another job, another line of work? Will he retire? You guessed it again: Dr. Stanley will remain as senior pastor of First Baptist.

No doubt, Stanley’s situation is tragic. We could muster more compassion for him were it not for the psychobabble and weird theology used to justify his staying on. The church’s administrative pastor, Gearl Spicer, offered this pearl of wisdom to the congregation for this spicy situation: “…God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us” (so reports a Christianity Today editorial with a straight face [Sept. 4]). The congregation felt Dr. Stanley’s pain, and so he stays on.

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