Half of Protestant pastors say their colleagues should step down from the pulpit for a time if they are accused of misconduct.
Most say such accusations should be kept in confidence until proven.
And few think pastors who commit adultery should be permanently banned from ministry.
Those are among the findings of a new telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
“Pastors believe church leaders should be held to high standards,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “They also want to protect themselves against allegations that could be false.”
LifeWay Research asked pastors four questions about how to handle allegations of misconduct. They included whether a pastor should step down during a church investigation; when, how, and whether the congregation should be informed about allegations of misconduct; and whether a pastor who commits adultery can return to the pulpit.
No consensus on stepping down
LifeWay Research found disagreement over whether a pastor should step aside when accused of misconduct.
Forty-seven percent of those surveyed say a pastor should step aside while church leaders investigate the allegations. About a third (31 percent) say the church should leave the pastor in the pulpit. One in 5 (21 percent) is not sure.
Older pastors (those 65 and older) are more likely to want the pastor to stay in the pulpit (36 percent). Younger pastors (those 18 to 44) are less likely to hold that view (27 percent).
African-American pastors (50 percent) are more likely to want the pastor to remain in the pulpit than white pastors (30 percent).
More Baptists (35 percent) and Pentecostals (43 percent) want the pastor to remain than Methodists (24 percent) or Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (24 percent).
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SOURCE: Lifeway Research