Ashley Madison

After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

For decades, I have been interested in issues linked to clergy stress.

This is, in part, because I grew up in a pastor's home and I understand what that's like. Let me stress that my father knew how to mix pastoral duties and family. He was not a workaholic and I learned, early, to thank God for that. When I got to Baylor University and started talking to other "PKs" -- preacher's kids -- I found that my father was not the norm. (Click here to read my tribute to my father, written before his death.)

So stories about clergy stress hit me right in the heart. I recently wrote a post about the death of a pastor and seminary professor, a story that was in the headlines because of its link to the hacking of the Ashley Madison website for people seeking, they thought, anonymous sexual affairs. Let me stress that this was a tragedy that, by all accounts, started with workaholism, then grew into a hidden maze of depression, sexual addiction and suicide.

That post about the Rev. John Gibson and his family started a sequence of events that led to my "Crossroads" conversation this week with host Todd Wilken. Along the way, I heard from this man's wife, Christi Gibson and ended up talking with her.

The original post focused on a CNN report in which Christi -- herself a member of a major church staff -- and their children were interviewed. I sensed that there was much more that they said, or tried to say, but their words about faith, divine love, repentance and grace ended up on the editing floor. The CNN report did include this:

In his suicide note, Gibson chronicled his demons. He also mentioned Ashley Madison.

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Ashley Madison: CNN snips some grace out of story on seminary professor's fatal fall

Ashley Madison: CNN snips some grace out of story on seminary professor's fatal fall

It may seem strange to start a GetReligion post with a verse from the Bible -- the Gospel According to St. Luke, in this case -- but it seems appropriate in light of a morality tale that continues to unfold in the mainstream press.

Thus, let's turn to the 12th chapter of Luke, verse 3 to be specific.

Let us attend, especially readers who are clergy or who hold positions of power and prestige in religious institutions, such as seminaries or ecclesiastical bureaucracies.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

This leads us, of course, to the infamous Ashley Madison website used by legions of people who were -- they thought -- anonymously seeking sexual affairs. They didn't expect hackers to shout their sins from the digital rooftops.

This is especially true for clergy, of course, a line of work that includes just as many stressed-out sinners as any other. Journalists, if you want to get the big picture on the impact of this scandal in pulpits, check out the recent Christianity Today essays by the online evangelical maven Ed Stetzer, who has been on fire writing about this tragic situation.

The scandal has claimed many victims, but the story GetReligion writers have been hearing about is a CNN report on the case of the Rev. John Gibson, a pastor and professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In his case, this fall from grace left him shattered. The result was suicide. Gibson's wife, Christi, discovered his body.

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