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Pornography is a blight on contemporary life and a threat to Christians and non-Christians alike. As future leaders in the church we need to know about it,” said Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) President Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in an invitation to a “town hall” meeting.

The meeting was sponsored by the seminary’s student senate, as well as the Josiah Initiative—a student group that is working to raise awareness about the problem of pornography.

Panelists in the conversation on “Pornography and the Pastorate” were Dan Vander Steen, a counselor at Calvin College’s Broene Center; Duane Visser, director of CRC Pastor-Church Relations; and Ruth Boven, a pastor at Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Vander Steen described the devastating effects pornography has on relationships. He spoke about how addictive it is and the way secretiveness compounds the problem. Because of the shame associated with pornography, people who need help are reluctant to ask, he said.

Boven spoke of the devastating effects of pornography use, especially on women. God created male and female in his image, she said, but pornography “objectifies a woman, and makes her less than a whole human being. It creates insecurity and damage to relationships when women think they are seen as objects.”

Visser said the number of calls to his office about pornography problems is increasing. When a pastor is discovered to be involved with pornography, Visser recommends immediate suspension so that the extent of the problem can be discovered and the pastor can be confronted.

Is there grace for such situations? “Yes,” Visser said, but often it takes time for a person to admit the problem and get help.

He said that people who struggle with pornography may also be involved in other types of Internet abuse. Many pastors are introverts, he said, and spending time online can be a way of dealing with stress and avoiding the very relationships that are important to ministry.

He told seminarians that problems need to be dealt with as soon as possible. “The earlier you deal with it, the better. There’s progression, addiction, escalation, desensitization, and it usually ends up in sexual acting out too. Deal with it now. Know that we are all tempted and have the potential of getting caught.”

Boven said churches often don’t know how to address the issue of pornography. She recommended “creating a culture of safety so that someone can come forward and admit to an addiction,” and offering an accountability group for those addicted. She stressed the need to care for all the members of a family affected by pornography.

That evening, CTS joined with Calvin College’s student life division to sponsor speaker Craig Gross of who gave a powerful presentation about the dangers of pornography addiction.

He challenged the 225 people attending, mostly college and seminary students, to look to Jesus for the power to overcome temptation. He also called them to address the issue through accountability groups and partners and by downloading accountability software.

The Josiah Initiative and the Broene Counseling Center offer accountability groups for students and others.

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