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Lonnie Latham, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee and pastor of a large Tulsa, Oklahoma, church, resigned from both positions in January after police arrested him for allegedly attempting to solicit a male undercover officer for oral sex. Earl Paulk, pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch, has dodged allegations of sexual impropriety for years. But in August 2005, a female employee sued him, alleging he arranged for his brother and visiting pastors to have sex with her. The International Communion of Charismatic Churches (ICCC)—an association Paulk developed—forced him to resign as archbishop in October.

Such cases may be extreme, but stories abound of pastors snared by sexual transgression. The problems transcend theology and ecclesiology. A pervasive culture of sensuality and disregard for communal accountability guarantees that some pastors will struggle with all sorts of sexual temptation. Toss into this mix the internet's availability and anonymity, which have spread the reach of pornography and clandestine sexual encounters. The challenge to help our pastors resist temptation demands a wise church response. First, we must enact clear and enforceable standards that will guard against temptation. Then, our churches must implement plans for discipline and restoration when possible.

Know the Temptations

In 1927, Sinclair Lewis struck a nerve during an era of flamboyant evangelists with his fictional Elmer Gantry. Lewis's model of a huckster preacher long endured in the American mind, occasionally affirmed by salacious real-life examples.

Years later, evangelist Billy Graham knew many leaders who succumbed to temptation on the preaching circuit. That's why in 1948, Graham met with his evangelistic ...

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Before the Next Sex Scandal
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April 2006

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