About 50 percent of Protestant pastors say ministers should temporarily resign if they are accused of adultery, but only a few thought that they should be banned permanently from the pastoral position, a new survey by LifeWay Research found.
Over 70 percent said that allegations of misconduct must be kept a secret until the investigations are complete, but as many as 86 percent said that the congregation must be informed if a pastor is disciplined for committing adultery.
The survey was conducted on 1,000 senior pastors over telephone.
Only about 24 percent of pastors said that misconduct should lead to "permanent withdrawal [of preachers] from public ministry."
About half (47 percent) of the pastors said the minister must refrain from duties until investigations into the allegations are confirmed or proven false.
Almost a third (31 percent) wanted the pastors to leave the pulpit altogether, while some 21 percent said they were not sure what needed to be done.
Older pastors aged 65 and above were more likely (36 percent) to say that it was okay for pastors accused of misconduct to stay in service while investigations were being carried out. Most of the younger pastors (73 percent) between the ages of 18 and 44 did not agree with that.
There was a marked variation in opinion among different denominations, as 35 percent of Baptists, 43 percent of Pentecostals, 24 percent of Methodists, and and 24 percent of Presbyterians said that pastors should be allowed to retain their positions during the time of investigation.
As many as 85 percent of Pentecostals said that allegations must be kept under cover until proved, but 63 percent of Methodists say that congregation should know about the accusations.
More Lutherans (47 percent) did not support reinstating adulterous pastors, while only 30 percent of Baptists, 13 percent of Methodists, 13 percent of Pentecostals, and 11 percent of Presbyterian pastors thought so.
Most of the pastors from all the denominations thought that church members need to know when a minister is disciplined for misconduct.
Kevin Cone, Director of City of Refuge that provides counseling services for pastors and their families in tough times, said that almost half of the pastors who come to them want to seek restoration from moral failure. And 75 percent of them return back to ministerial works.
"Our focus is never to get people back to the ministry. The idea is to get them healthy," he said.
"Whatever your struggle is, if it's anger or lust or greed, it's going to take its toll, and it's going to come out, and you're going to have a rough time," Cone added.
"The Scripture says pastors must be above reproach," said Ed Stetzer, executive director at LifeWay Research. "So it's not surprising that some want to see fallen pastors banned from ministry. Still, pastors are also people who talk about forgiveness regularly and, by and large, they want to see those who fall have a chance at restoration."