Q What do I do? When I was fixing the church computer (used by the secretary and deacons), I ran across correspondence between the secretary and our pastor. The messages indicate at least an emotional affair, at worst a physical one.
A You are right to be concerned, and I commend you for seeking to do something rather than ignoring it. At the same time, I understand that you want to ensure that people’s reputations are not falsely smeared.
The pastor, being in a position of authority, has the professional, ethical, and spiritual responsibility to prevent any crossing of boundaries in relationships. Regardless of whether both parties are consenting adults, the power imbalance creates a scenario for sexual misconduct or harassment. Hence, this case falls under Safe Church ministry practices.
If your church has a Safe Church policy and a Safe Church team, you should follow the policies and procedures that are in place and contact the Safe Church team. I strongly urge you to consult with our denomination’s Safe Church Ministry. They have resources to help you and your church (crcna.org/SafeChurch/resources; click on “Abuse by Clergy or Ministry Leaders”).
Your church needs to take this seriously and investigate the matter. Certainly, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and healing are important parts of the process. And if the pastor is found guilty, special discipline, as provided for in our Church Order, may be necessary to rebuild trust and safety for the entire congregation.