A support group for ministers dealing with pornography

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There was a time when ministers would hole up in their studies, surrounded by commentaries and occasionally distracted by a phone call.

Though I am not a pastor, I suspect that today's minister has a few commentaries or other pertinent thematic texts on the book shelf but that the primary tool is The Internet.

I have only heard of anechdotal evidence about pastors who are tempted to check out websites that are not particularly conducive to theological exploration. Left alone in their studies or church offices for hours on end, the temptation to check out pornographic sites does exist. A few pastors honestly and sheepishly admit to that lure.

While this question and this discussion could properly belong under the Pastors section, the need to address this question may very well fall into the lap of a classis. While I don't imagine a candid discussion on 'pornography in the study' taking place at classis, there may be room for the Classis Ministry Committee or some similar counterpart to provide a support group for those pastors and church leaders within classis who struggle with that temptation.

It will undoubtedly require one incredibly strong minister to 'come out' and admit that he/she is dealing with pornography and "who wants to join me in a support group".

I don't know of any congregation, classis or synod that has acknowledged this new, hidden reality.

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wow, you are brave =)...

what might be a fairly simple solution to start with, is encouraging congregations to put a program such as "covenant eyes" on any church computer (or every member agrees to put it on their computer, so everyone is held to the same accountability, now that would be something =).  It doesn't deal with the temptation or if there is a deeper issue, but it might be a simple place to start. 

http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/about-covenant-eyes/ 

 

Sadly, pornography is more common within our CRC walls than we want to admit. 

Pornography, being one of about seven or eight kinds of sexual addiction, is non-relational sex which is easily accessible and with little to no accountability.  Rewarding themselves because they work so hard or because of boredom they begin to look for something to do, pastors turn to porn. 

There is a nationwide/worldwide organization that developed a support group for those who struggle with sexual addiction.  This group, called L.I.F.E. Ministries, International, uses a book written by Dr. Mark Laaser (A L.I.F.E. Guide) which tells how to structure and run the groups.  Laaser was a pastor, and now owns and operates a clinic for sex addicts.  The idea is similar to AA groups that meet nation/worldwide.

Leadership for classes may be more familiar about this subject than we think.  Dealing with the addicted pastor is hard work.  Prayers are much needed.

I appreciate Bev's comment about having an entire congregation 'covenant' to put filters on their computers to avoid the temptation to enter into pornography, and it would take a bold -- and innovative --  council to take the lead by declaring that the elders are concerned about the spiritual welfare of the entire congregation and it therefore agrees to place those filters on their own personal computers and on all church computers. It further urges every congregation member who has a computer to do the same.

Who is responsible for the pastor's spiritual wellbeing? The elders. And which pastor would object to the notion of having anti-pornography filters on his computer? The problem is, of course, that every person can choose to filter out those sites -- or not -- on their computer. There is the rub.

So, back to the question, to whom does the pastor turn when he/she has discovered an addiction to pornography and wants to do something about it? Perhaps, ideally, a support group of peers.

Thanks Keith... covenant eyes is more than filters (you can choose no filters with it if you want)... covenant eyes  tracks where you go on the internet, and then sends that report  to your accountability partner(s) aka elders maybe  =).  

here's a bit from the link!

Accountability Service

Blocking software is very useful but it has its limits. Over a decade ago we pioneered a new service called Internet Accountability Software to help people fight online temptations.

This service simply monitors everywhere you go online. It doesn’t block anything. A rating is then assigned to every web address based on objectionable material, and the information is compiled into easy-to-read reports. Reports are sent via e-mail to anyone you wish to see it.

Parents can then use these reports to have good conversations with their kids about where they go online. Friends can help friends discuss the temptations they face online and how the Internet impacts their relationships and their lives offline. 

The following note was sent to me by email. This person's identity is protected but what he has to say is helpful to the discussion.

Dear Keith,

Thank you for bringing up this topic. The easy availability of pornography entraps so many men to seek it out as an escape or are already addicted. As a life-long Christian, who kept a portion of my life harbouring an addiction to porn that started with books and magazines as a teen, my addiction really grew with the secrecy, availability and taboo afforded by readily available and cheap porn online. After a drastic confrontation with my addiction, and a steady commitment to be clean, I am thankful the Lord has provided healing and removal of the great pull to act out, as well as nearly all the accumulated memories of words and images. The struggle continues, but freedom is acheivable. Having gone through this, here are my thoughts on this topic:

1) We need to do what you can to avoid shooting the wounded. Strict confidentiality is needed for healing, and should not be seen as hiding. No man wants to come out and admit a sin that means he might lose his job. The sin of pride keeps many sinners from confessing hidden sins, but for pastors we are dealing with an even stronger human nature: basic survival against a threat to employment and family. But it is much better to come clean than be caught. To that end, you need to offer a safe place for the pastor to turn to, and work on a personal specific plan, using both accountability and counselling. Remember, the push of discomfort brings an addict to his knees, and the pull of hope helps him up--both help him make the changes needed.

2) Attacking the problem: Start with a person plan, aggressively acting to help him dry up using filters, accountability software, and accountability partners. I can discuss the goods and bads of filters, including Covenant Eyes and Net Nanny. Remember that you can block the internet, but can't block DVDs and magazines, which is where some guys turn to to get their fix when online is blocked. Accompanying this should be concerted prayer, regular sessions with an addictions counsellor, and men walking beside the healing brother.

I am willing to get involved to help a pastor and council or classis that comes across a problem, within reasonable distance of course. And certainly, bringing another pastor along will help, but the addict needs to want to change, and it won't be easy. But the Lord can heal--His promises are true.

Pastors who are addicted to pornography are out of ministry.  They have violated their role as pastor, lost their integrity, and are deceptive.  They have deep-rooted childhood issues and think they can do both:  stand on the pulpit and live out their dark side all at the same time.  This is hypocrisy. 

Of course, they want their confidentiality, keep their employment, and blame the church by calling it “shooting the wounded.”  But that is the hard part of dealing with porn addicts:  they blame, deny, avoid, and think they are “special.”  Their narcissism can drive any elder board and congregation crazy.   

The CRC leadership of our churches does not know enough about porn addicts and how they operate.  After having done a 42-page research project on this subject– and having worked as a therapist for many wives whose husbands are porn addicts, having helped two church elder boards address their CRC porn pastors, and having interviewed Mark Laaser (a recovering porn addict – former pastor and therapist – and nationally- known guru in this field) it’s clear that the CRC has to be open and clear about who a porn addict is and what needs to be done when thier church has one employed. - namely - he's out of ministry and require him to get professional, intensive help.

When dismissing a porn pastor from church employment, the church has done the most loving thing for him.  Now the pastor has to face his issues – because his sin in public, he lost his job, and he will be forced to get the help he needs. 

 

... and there's the rub. Yes, those pastors who are 'caught' being addicted to pornography are dealt with in a pastoral manner, as are all church members who are 'caught' being addicted to pornography.

But what about those who have not been caught, those who are struggling with the temptation? There needs to be a safe place to seek help and to share their struggles. That, it seems to me, is the challenge.

Should this become a task of a classis' Safe Church Committee?

The most logical place for such a discussion is within a local congregation .... provided you have a healthy, open, pastoral, honest congregation.

The church is full of hypocrites: members who sin. The pastor serves among them as one of them.

Very few churches have the intestinal fortitude to deal with these kinds of struggles, much less confess them to each other.

This is not about keeping their sin silent.  That is more protection for them.  Pastors need to come forward and admit their sin and resign.  For those who don’t, all the more they display their dysfunction and violation of call of a sacred office. 

This is NOT a Safe Church issue. 

 The comment about hypocrisy – basically says to me “we’re all hypocrites – so it doesn’t hurt for the pastor to be one too” is again protection for pastors in their defilement of office by their sin of pornography.  Pastors are to be held at a higher level of conduct.  If a pastor thinks he has to continue his pornography, then he needs to go be a banker. 

 What I’ve seen (and have been involved in two cases ) – are church leaders dealing with it when it comes forward in their congregation -  one well and one sloppy.

 In a church I know well, the council (to all the credit of that council when their pastor came forward and admitted to pornography) bought books on pornography, called various agencies and offices that helped them understand this, shared books and discussed these books in council meetings – consulted with professionals – all in an effort to understand what the porn pastor is about – and what they should do.  Although over time – after many months the pastor was released from the congregation – then after several years dismissed from CRC ministry – it remains a sad story for him and his family – but one where the pastor did get the help he needed and a story where the church pastored the pastor more than the pastor pastored the church.

 The other case is about a cover up.  It’s sad because spiritual abuse continues in that congregation – along with much confusion and hurt for many.

 This is a serious subject.  Most CRC in my opinion are clueless about what sexual addiction is about or what to do when pastors are addicted.  More education is needed – and we as members need to accept the truth about how pornography is prevalent – and a problem - among the CRC pastors.

I agree more with Concerned than with the email that was sent to you.  I too was involved in a church cover-up over pornography and sexual immorality.  The person was caught, tried to weasel his way out of it, then proceeded to tell facts in such a way that it deceived the congregation when the elders asked him to make public confession, which he did. Council got involved in the cover up too.  Maybe this is a much larger issue than CRC thinks it is.  What I want to know is, where is righteousness in all this? Are we not called to righteousness?  Eph 5:3 - "But sexual immorality and all impurity or coveteousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."  This is for all saints, not just leadership.  2 Cor 5 opens with "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you..."  I could go on, but my point is, we have the Bible as our standard and we need to live up to it. The Holy Spirit in us is how we can live righteously and in holiness.  When will CRC hold pastors and council and members of the church to the standard outlined in the Bible?  We are to seek after righteousness, not grace. We are to live righteous and holy lives.  

During the debacle at my previous church (my husband and I have since left and gone to another denomination), I kept hearing "we are not under law, we are under grace" over and over again.  I wished I had responded with Hebrews 10 starting at v 26: For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses [read we are not under law] dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of Grace? [read we are under grace]

The other thing I kept hearing was, what about forgiveness? Of course he is forgiven.  For if we don't forgive, we aren't forgiven according to the Lord's Prayer.  But does the offender still get to be in leadership?  What about the qualification for elder - which would include everyone on council and all pastors - Titus 1:6 - the husband of but one wife (when a man lusts after a woman with his eyes, he has committed adultery with her)  v 8: ... be self-controlled - habitual viewing of pornography is not an example of exercising self control.  What about teachers, which a pastor is, being held to a higher standard?  Again, I could go on and on.

In the email, I assume it was a pastor that wrote it, he wanted privacy to deal with the issue, and what about job protection? At the risk of sounding harsh, he should have thought about those things before the pornography entered his life. And if the pornography viewing stemmed from childhood or from his teenage years, then how in the heck did he make it into a pastoralship??  This is not about employment, folks, this is about having holy and righteous pastors leading and caring and teaching the Bride of Christ!  How  can a porn addict present a spotless Bride to our Lord Jesus Christ?

I have no problem using my name in this forum, I have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. That which is done in the dark will be exposed to the light.  Your sins will find you out.  

Harsh? Merciless?  Lacking in grace towards a fellow brother?  I can see where you may think that.  But when I read the Word of God, sure seems to me HE doesn't have tolerance for sexual immorality either.  Not even a little.  

Let me add one more thing.  If the internet the main source of the temptation, then get rid of it.  If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, better to lose the hand than the whole body.  We lived without the internet just fine for millenia.  We can do it agan.

 """"       

As to the question of "How can a porn addict present a spotless Bride to our Lord Jesus Christ?” the answer is quite simple…. He or she does it because Christ Jesus died for the sin of porn addiction the same as he died for the sin of contempt. 

The idea that a Pastor or leader can not have or should not have sinned is why many men and women suffer from addictions (sin) in secrecy.  The distained and unforgiveness of the congregation is often too hateful to expect a Pastor or Leader to come forward and admit to his/her sins.  The fact remains that these are men and women who are called to Pastor or Lead and as such, they too have human failings.  They are as susceptible to sin as you and I are.

Providing a safe place for a person to disclose sinful behaviour is not providing a place for them to negate their responsibility it is providing what Christ has asked of us but that which most of us as congregants refuse to provide.  Forgiveness and love as Christ did for us.   

I agree that Jesus died for all sins, Shawn - however, I was referring to a pastor who is actively in the addiction.  I'm referring to people who have a habitual sin issue, whatever it may be, and think they are getting away with it, until they are caught, then expect forgiveness and love.  That's not what I read in the Bible.  When we sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin immediately.  Upon that conviction, we confess and repent, receive His forgiveness and move on.  It's when the cycle of sin, repent, receive forgiveness happens over and over and over again  (for the same sin) that it looks like a habit of sinning. The Bible teaches that we are to not make a practice of sinning - 1 John 2 addresses this. What I see in churches today are human reasonings not biblical obedience to how we are supposed to handle sin amongst us.  We need to raise the standard to where God set it.  Not make allowances or excuses for those who continue a practice of sinning.  We are to practice righteousness and holiness according to what I read in the Bible.  And yes, forgiveness and grace also.

If a congregation responds in disdain and unforgiveness, then there are other issues going on also, I would say.

It's one thing to to have porn show up in your inbox, you open it up not paying attention, get sucked into it for a moment, then shut it down in disgust, and confess it to the congregation and/or to God in repentanc,e, and know better next time.  It's a whole other thing when the pastor has been struggling and fighting the porn addiction since childhood, and gets caught, and tries to negotiate so it doesn't go to the elders or congregation and is basically forced to either confess or step down.  THAT'S what I'm talking about.  

When I read the email that was quoted above, apparently from a pastor that has struggled with porn since he was a teen, and I have to ask myself, was he ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit?  Why?  For the healing side of it, I don't see him suggesting to others that one must submit to God, resist the devil, and the devil will flee.  God is a God of deliverance, yet I don't hear about that as a strategy.  A little leaven spoils the whole lump. We need to have zero tolerance from immorality. We women need to dress modestly so we don't provoke the men.  Cable subscriptions need to be canceled, maybe internet connections at home too. We need to guard our hearts and minds! Every person who bears the mark of Jesus in his spirit out to stand out amongst the heathen. We are to be in and not of the world.  

Grace has become defined so broadly that righteousness and holiness are being call legalism. 

hmmm... I would love to see deliverance used as a tool to free these believers in the crc...  I've heard/read many testimonies of where a person's desire for alchohol, smoking, whatever sin dba addiction it might be was immediately and completely gone.   just haven't heard of these in the crc context that I recall...

one of my questions is, how is struggling with porn ("practicing" lust) any different than homosexuality?  We aren't open to having  practicing homosexuals in leader positions, so why would practicing lustful leaders be different?

I'm not saying God can't use these leaders, because in a very small percentage (0-1%), He does work through people that would be the last ones we, in our limited understanding would expect.  But that is rare, and unfortunately, probably most spiritual leaders think they are the "special" one.

I just listened to a message on how traditional churches have limited/quenched/grieved the Holy Spirit.   Sadly, I could relate to it far too well from my own experience with church.  I believe that's why our conservative type churches are struggling/dying... we don't know how to walk in step with His Holy Spirit, other than mainly for conviction of sin which the more we ignore Him, the quieter and  less often we will hear that conviction from Him...  we denied His gifts for centuries, we denied His voice other than through scripture, and now don't know how to use them or even how to recognize and test them.   Even now, when I bring up "listening prayer" aka the gift of prophecy, it is often treated with disdain and skepticism within our denomination.  Yes, there are valid concerns surrounding this gift,  because God even warns us that we will have to test it (I John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:19-22)  , but we are in danger of despising the gift of prophecy if we don't learn how to biblically test and discern and pursue prophecy.  I believe the gift of prophecy is a key gift for the Church, and we desperately need it to get His Bride ready.  We HAVE to get this and EAGERLY pursue it, not just acknowledge it, but EAGERLY desire it, because I don't even want to think about what will happen if we don't start walking in this gift that He gives us on behalf of His Bride.  It's like burying the coin/gift in the dirt or worse.

I believe when we start walking more fully in this gift we will see immediate deliverance for many, we will see drastic change in the level of faith in our congregations; the apathy, unbelief, fear, unholiness, etc.  will disappear to a significant degree, and there will be a new boldness as we walk in the power of His Spirit.

 Oh, God, may it be so...  for Your glory and our good!

 

 

 

Bev, you bring up excellent points and I agree with you.  The one sin that is unforgivable is blaspheme of the Holy Spirit.  When one attributes His work to the devil, that is what one is guilty of.  This has given me pause many times.

You ask the question how is struggling with porn any different than practicing homosexuality?  I don't see a difference in the Bible, it all falls under the heading of sexual immorality.  As it says in Acts 15:28-29 "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality..." If you go to an on-line Bible and search sexual immorality, it comes up a lot, and it is no be avoided in no uncertain terms.  The church as followed the world on the slippery slope of immorality, and it is justified under the umbrella of grace!  Heaven forbid!

Appreciate your thoughts and confirmation, Rachel...  and your prayers on behalf of His Bride.  We are being called to "prepare the Bride".  He is calling us to a renewed level of holiness...

I think the reason sexual immorality dba lust, etc. is mentioned so often in the Bible, is because it will be one of the biggest struggles for believers (I have heard statitistics of 50-80% of spiritual leaders struggle with porn, and almost 40% of the 1050 pastors polled in one survey have had an extra marital affair)...  and because this call to purity is repeated over and over there should be no denying that purity, particularly sexual, is a universal call of holiness to all believers.  There should be no question for believers, because sexual immorality is mentioned again and again.  So instead of hiding it, we need to be honest about it, in the appropriate time and place as led by the Spirit.   When it is "confessed" to one another(James 5:16), the confession brings healing.  The Spirit will help us confess in a way that will bring healing, not hurt, if we follow Him, are in step with Him, and don't do it our own way aka lean on our own understanding.  But we need to be "listening" and aware of His promptings for that to happen.

I have a theory on one possible reason why spiritual leaders struggle with this and end up having affairs, because we often confuse the power of the Spirit that is in us ( a spiritual connection between believers, which can be very powerful especially if they are on the same wave of the Spirit), with a physical attraction.    One of the most profound insights I have found  was from Mary Geegh's - God Guides book (Mary was a single lady who served as a missionary in India in the 1930'-50's), on pg 21-22  and she shares how she was strongly drawn to some spiritual leaders and she called it an "attachment", so one time she had to "confess" her "attachment" and what the leader shared was that it was Christ in that person that she was drawn to, so to see Jesus/His Spirit in the person instead of "idolizing" the person.  Hope that makes sense, at least from a female perspective...

Another testimony that I found very powerful was one from Jack Hayford... I found it in an article he wrote on praying in tongues =)... actually there were 2 relevant paragraphs in it... here's the link just in case someone wants to read the entire article  =) !! 

but here's a couple of excerpts relating to struggles with lust...

http://www.tgm.org/hayfordOnTongues.html 

3. Though I speak with tongues, I am a fallible person.

Perhaps few accusations are more unfounded than the oft-quoted criticism of people who claim a new experience of the Spirit's fullness: "They think they're better than everyone else!"

Within the circle of my associations, nothing could be further from the real feelings of charismatic believers: We do not feel we are better than other Christians, but we do feel we are better Christians than we were before.

A genuine work of the Holy Spirit at any dimension in a human soul will inevitably deepen our perspective on Christ's character and Christian purity. This will bring a progressive humility with a heightened awareness of sin and a greater readiness to confess and renounce it.

The truly Spirit-filled experience will more than likely align with Christ's experience: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matt. 4:1). Spirit-fullness is a pathway to a more direct conflict with our adversary than before. So a person who chooses to move into the Spirit-filled exercise of spiritual language should be characterized by more dependence on the Lord--not less.

The realm of spiritual vitality is the realm of spiritual warfare. They're the same arena. And any notion of infallibility needs to be dashed to the ground because it's the surest way to fail: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Perhaps the greatest battle of my spiritual life took place at a time I had made my deepest commitment to move in the realm of the Spirit's fullness. Early in my ministry, though my marriage was strong and my commitment to Christ was solid, I slowly but definitely began to find myself in an emotional entrapment. My involvement with a woman of equal dedication evolved into an affinity that in time moved from friendship to a near- adulterous infatuation.

During those dark days of a temptation to which I never surrendered, I wrestled long in prayer against the emotional tentacles seeking to drag me into sin. I would often cry out to God, frequently with surges of the spiritual language gushing forth in intercession for my own helplessness. It is to the praise of God's grace that I was spared the loss of my integrity, my marriage, my ministry--my life!  

 

6. Though I speak with tongues, I am a sinful person.

To acknowledge this is neither to build a case for future carnal intent nor to argue for a casual indifference toward sin. It's simply to state what should be obvious: No spiritual experience renders any of us above the touch of sin or beyond its reach.

The Holy Spirit has been given to make us holy--it's His first name! But His sanctifying presence, as powerful as it may be to assist me in resisting sin's efforts at invading my life, is only as purifying as my will is to let Him have full sway. In writing a group of people he addresses as Spirit-filled (Gal. 3:2), the apostle Paul points out the way to ensure a walk of holiness: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish" (Gal. 5:16-17, emphasis mine).

A few years before his death, Pentecostal leader David du Plessis was asked a very pointed question by a young man: "Dr. du Plessis, could you tell me about how old I'll be when improper thoughts--especially about women--won't tempt my mind any longer?"

Dear David, whose fidelity to the truth was legendary, looked squarely into the eyes of the young man. "Son," said the 80-year-old minister, "when I get that old I'll let you know!"

There's something about the honesty of that response that commends the greatness of a leader who felt no constraint to pretend piety.

Only in heaven, and ultimately in our resurrected bodies, will there be no potential handle for sin to manipulate us. Until then, "walking in the Spirit" is the pathway to purity, and it is certain that a daily walk of ceaseless prayer in the Spirit can only contribute to that sin-mastering way of life.  eoq

maybe the struggle with porn is different, the only experience I have was from inadvertantly and unsuspectingly opening a porn site a few years ago.   I don't know what it was for sure, but it felt like a demonic force literally hit me, and then I struggled with lust and the tempation to go to that site again, for the next day and a half, like i'd never encountered before.   I listened to praise music constantly and lifted up the name of Jesus,  until whatever it was lifted.  All i can say was that experience was probably on of the most bizarre I've had, definitely not normal. 

so t 

 

 

 

Sorry, my comment got posted before I was finished and I couldn't delete it (so I have to do this way by leaving a remnant)

It seems to me that the discussion so far has centered on how these men and women who suffer in sin need to be removed from their positions regardless of the impact on their spouses and children; and little has been said about providing a safe place for confession, repentance and renewal in the Lord. 

From the description offered here of a Pastor who is taken with sin, the non-Christian reading this would reason that we served an impotent God. 

They have violated their role as Pastors, have no integrity, are deceptive and are hypocrites.  They have deep rooted childhood issues, blame others, deny, avoid and they think they are “special”.  They are adulterers, narcissistic and they defile their office and they must be removed.

Is this truly how we believe God, our heavenly father sees a Pastor who is struggling with sin?  Do we truly believe that this is how He would have us treat his appointed?  These comments describing a Minister are much more a worldly view of psychological and Freudian thought on addiction and “deep rooted childhood issues”.  We as Christians need to speak to the spiritual issues and we need to speak with the power of Christ Jesus.

As to the question of whether or not we need support groups for Pastors as a select group, I say no.  A spiritual illness in a Pastor is no different than a spiritual illness in any follower of Christ.  To separate people based on position in the church just feeds the false premise that there is a shame or blame associated with spiritual illness.   I believe we need support groups with a Christ centered approach for Christians as a whole who are suffering from spiritual illness.  Pornography is just one vice in a myriad of sins which thrive in our Christian community today and this needs to be a concern for all Christians.   

I do not accept porn addiction as a physical or psychological illness but as a spiritual illness.  It is the manifestation of self, secrecy and isolation that forms an obsession which is then built upon and fortified by Satan through the vise of fear. 

The latest studies show that in the United States alone, pornography was a 16.3 billion dollar industry.  World wide it is a $107.6 billion dollar industry.

     One in every four internet users enters a pornography site daily in the United States.

     Every second - 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.

     There are 181 Million websites with the “XXX” in its title.

     The demographics on internet search terms such as “sex, group sex and sex chat” are 50/50 in the gender category. 

The numbers tell us that it is not an issue for our Pastors solely.  It is a spiritual issue that is decimating the Christian community because we choose to be blind to the realities of pornography and simply remove the offending individual rather than speak truth into their lives and into our own at the same time. 

The reality is that the only ones being removed are those who are caught in their sin or those who ask for help.  The vast majority of those suffering in this particular sin are sitting in the pews each week terrified that they will be found out, persecuted and rejected.  They are the everyday Christian who not only battle a sinful life of porn obsession; but live with the constant fear that if they confess and reach out for help; the very people who they need to support them would be the people who would turn them away. 

When Jesus met the lady at the well in Samaria did he call her a tramp?  Did he tell her she would never change her ways. That she was unforgiveable?  When the crowds gathered stones to slay the adulteress in the streets did Jesus say go ahead…. she will not overcome her sin or that she will never be good enough to walk with me?   I and my father are powerless to help her?

We are talking as if God is defeated by spiritual illness….  

This discussion is both a healthy one and a necessary one, and it points to a great diversity in thought about how we treat those involved in sin. As has been rightly pointed out, we are all involved in sin and there should not be a separate standard for church leaders involved in pornography and for church members involved in pornography.

The statistics just cited point to the widespread use of pornography, both within society and within the church community.

Question is: What are we as Church doing about it? Even though I began this discussion around the notion of creating a support group for pastors dealing with pornography, it seems as though the discusison needs to be broadened considerably.

What kind of study materials could/should be developed for youth groups, adult education and small groups to help local congregations deal with pervasive 'silent sin' within the body of believers?

Or do we deal with pornography as we deal with pre-marital sex, common law relationships, drug addiction, homosexuality, alcoholism; namely, sweep it under the rug or, at best, deal with each 'case' as they come up?

The Church has a natural tendency to react to issues when it is almost too late. It would be both innovative and creative to proactively develop resources and create suitable safe places where these issues can be discussed.

Start by reading these books:

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction            by Mark Laaser.

Shattered Vows             by Debbie Laaser.

THe Pornography Trap      by Ralph H. Earle and Mark Laaser

Out of the Shadows Understandng Sexual Addiction        by Patrick Carnes, PH. D

Addictive Thinking:  Understanding Self-deception           By;  A. Twerski, M.D.

.

SEveral of these books are written from a Christian persepctive - these books are supported with what God's Word speaks about.  M. Laaser is a recovering sexual addict - did prostitution, porn, and other - while being a pastor and therapist. After getting professinal help, he started his clinic - faith based- where CRC pastors go  -  to help pastors work towards recovery from sexual addiction.

 

 

At the end of the day, the only view that matters on sin, is God's view.  He has given us His word, the Holy Bible, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to help us read it with understanding and wisdom. I believe we need nothing else.  it is indeed a spiritual issue. 

2 Cor 10:3-6."For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."  

James 3:1 "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."

1 Cor 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

I need to keep my nose in the Bible, reading it for understanding and application. Ps 119:11 "I have hidden Your Word in my heart"  Why?  "so that I might NOT sin against You".

But what if a person interprets the BIble to say what he/she wants it to say?  Many have a verse and text that support any sin they want to do.  They keep twistng it - so they are off the hook about wrong doing. 

Is your nose in the BIble - your only interpretation - for what the Bible is saying? 

If so, skip church - get rid of the pastor, forget doctrine, throw out church leaders and teachers - because the only thing that counts is how you want to interpret what Scripture says.

It's risky when you become your own authority on what the BIble is saying. 

Ah yes, I am very familiar with the twisting of Scripture. One has to take in the whole counsel of God to have a hope of understanding it.  Twisting was used liberally at the case I have alluded to, and often is, in such situations. But you know that, as a counselor or advocate, am I correct?

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Concerned, I am concerned about your response. You are coming across almost hostile, and you jumped to a conclusion that is rather accusatory.  Am I reading you wrong?

Romans 12:4-9 "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."

2 Tim 3:16-17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Taking a verse out of the context of the whole Bible can lead one to justify just about anything. That's why one has to read all of it, over and over again, reading it for understanding and application.  When one does that, with the help of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Truth that leads us into all truth, then we are much less likely to twist Scripture.  

No lone ranger Christians in my home. 

I think some of the write - ins lack solid  background into undersatnding  this subject.  There's also a posting that I recevied that you are not seeing on the post. ( I dont' know how that happened)  in my opinion, protecting pornography  = which I find a slack approach to this subject.

It's not hostile - maybe you're defensive.

Now I stop.

so, is anyone interested in pursuing "deliverance" as a viable option?   has anyone ever tried this, whether or not it was succesful, or is dealing with these type of issues/sins primarily through "psychological" type intervention?

Is something holding us back on "deliverance'? 

If it seems I'm "singling" out spiritual leaders, it's because that is the point of this particular discussion... pastors with porn/lust/sexual immorality struggles... we're not discussing gossip/slander on this thread, we're not discussing lay people here, although these maybe should be discussed in some forum as well, but the point of this thread is pastors aka spiritual leaders and porn. 

Again, I go back to our walk with the Holy Spirit, or lack there of.   Does anyone agree, we might have missed something here?  or am i alone out in left field or beyond?  I believe this is part of the root issue why something like porn is such a significant problem.  But I'm open to being wrong...

I ask this respectfully, with the hope of having a sharpening discussion... iron sharpens iron, and we need to see if our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and His gifts (and I have encountered resistance to them), might be part of the problem.  Because if it is, and we're not willing to recognize that possibility... we're as good as dead... we can have a man run institution using our intellect and natural ability that we call the crc, but the life and power of the Spirit will not be in it if we are not willing to repent of where we have quenched Him.. we can even make it appear "successful" and "healthy" to some degree, but as we know, our denom. and others like us are dying... and we are still trying to figure out why. 

I apologize, if this seems strong, but to me it's the "white" elephant that needs to be discussed in the denom.    There is so much potential, if we are willing to walk much more fully in the Spirit and His gifts.

 

 

Hello Bev:

Why do you believe the discussion needs to stay with Ministers and Porn only?  When discussing porn we easily move into discussing other sexualy imorrial sin so why can we not move from a Christian Minister to a Christian Man/Woman?  Is there a reason why you believe that we must seperate the individual which is affected by spiritual illness?    Thank you

 

Hello Anonymous:

Recognising that there are five of us participating in this conversation I wonder if you would expand on your comment "I think some of the write - ins lack solid  background into undersatnding  this subject" please.  

Thank you

ok Shawn, I just read Keith's permission to broaden the discussion  =)... which I missed or it didn't catch my attention the first time I read that... 

So I do believe the root of many issues/addictions/sins is our lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.  I would love to see deliverance used for many who are struggling, because our whole awareness of the demonic realm, of spiritual warfare is very limited from my experience in the crc... almost anytime I even bring up the demonic, one of the first comments back is "well some people think there's a demon behind every bush", and to me it seems we might be at the the other extreme, that hey, this is America, they don't exist here.

and the gift of prophecy is something I'm desperate for in His Bride, and our crc as part of that Bride...  this is the key gift that edifies and builds up His Church.  Yes, unfortunately there has been lots of damage with the gift, but I believe that's because we don't know how to test and discern when someone shares an "alleged" word from the LORD.  Again, God is up front with us telling us, we will have to test them.

What if have found in my experience being involved in a local prayer center, is that for a substantial number of believers, time in prayer, worship and in the Word is limited... this was a statistic of 2000 spiritual leaders (sorry, I'm not picking on them, it's just the statistic that sticks in my mind), is that 95% of them spend less than 5 minutes a day in prayer.  Through involvement with the prayer center, we find this to be true at many levels.  Prayer is not valued in our "can do" society, and we/the Bride is suffering because we are not spending time with Jesus.   When the LORD stirred up my prayer life, it made night and day difference in my walk with Him.   That's also when I discovered the Holy Spirit at new levels, I never heard talked about in crc circles, or if the topic was brought up, the subject was quickly changed.  \

The good news is we have young adults in their 20's who do get prayer, and are spending 10-30 hours a week worshipping and crying out to Him.   We are seeing God move through various spheres of society in powerful ways and it's very exciting.  I have been involved with healing prayer ministries... this is something new for many in the crc, and we still have a lot to learn (and we might have to humble ourselves and  learn it from other denominations that have been walking in this much longer than we have).   I run into a lot of intellectual skepticism, but I also get to be encouraged when I find someone like minded who has experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in ways that can only be God.

Hello Everyone:

I just wanted to note that it may be tomorrow evening before I get to come back online.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to reading yoru responses. 

Stay blessed

Bev - you are a kindred spirit, a true sister in Christ. You are right on when you speak of the quenching of the Holy Spirit. The case I alluded to came out because of a prophetic word, I got involved because of prophetic dreams, and we both got thrown under the bus, labeled false prophets and such.  The gifts of the Spirit are still alive and well today.  If a church isn't experiencing it, then I think repentance is needed.  Read The Book is what I tell people.  Read the Bible for what it says, not what others tell you it says.

I sense that we are arguing in circles here. We have different views on who God is, what sin is, what healing is, etc. etc. etc.  Without defining the rules of engagement, as it were, we can talk, discuss and argue until He returns.  

Allow me to share part of my testimony, and perhaps it will give a different perspective on my "intolerance" of sin.  I grew up knowing about God and Jesus through a mom that hated the Catholic church yet adhered to their teachings.  to make a soap opera story short, after two marriages, two children, one of out wedlock and a string of boyfriends and yes, appetite for pornography, I cried out to the Lord in September of 1999, asking Him how long would I have to suffer for my sins, I was tired of my bad decisions from my past affecting new relationships in the present.  After crying it out for three weeks - repentance was very healing for me - while walking along the river where I lived, I stopped and suddenly "got it".  I finally understood, through the help of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was Lord, not Rachel, that if He was my all in all, my Rock, my Savior then I could start over. I understood that He took the punishment for my sins when He hung on the cross, the very embodiment of sin.  I was free!

I remember the day I got baptized - Sunday October 31, 1999, I felt like I was a bride preparing to get married to Jesus.  My demeanor changed. I was indeed a new creation.  A few weeks later I took a personality test to see what my gifts were for ministry, and I literally did not know how to answer the questions. I could answer how I used to be, but had no idea who I was. I asked the pastor leading the class, and he said to give it time, I was a new creation.  A happy day!

A few months later, I met a very charismatic woman who delivered me from various demonic stuff, and the pull of sexual immorality was all but completely removed.  I felt cleansed. She taught me a lot and I was equipped to fight should the temptation come up. And the temptations have, but less and less, and it's been easier and easier to resist.  The greatest tool for me is believing God is omniscient - there is nothing I can see or think that He doesn't know. Thus, I capture every thought to the obedience of Christ, and when my mind wanders, I recite Scripture, I praise Him, I do whatever it takes to get sinful thoughts out of my mind.

Am I perfect? Far from it.  Do I tolerate sin? No. Do I have compassion for those who sin and seek repentance? Absolutely. I am right there to walk a sister through a sexual addiction if she wants my help.  Would I be judgmental of her? Not if she is humble and repentant.  If she takes on the attitude that she is under grace and thus God "has" to forgive her, then she would get Scripture as a rebuttal. Gentle but firm.  But if a brother or sister is hard hearted, refusing to repent, or thinking it's ok because of grace, then 1Cor 5 teaches that we need to remove the person from fellowship until they repent. Later (my husband reminded me) that the man who was thrown out was forgiven and restored eventually.

Even though I am no longer a CRC member, I am a member of the Body of Christ and am willing to do my part in helping the Bride learn who she is in Christ, and how to have victory over all sin, not just this one.

His will be done.

beautiful, Rachel, bless your heart for sharing this very personal testimony... God's been emphasizing that scripture to me this year... we are new creations in Christ, the old is gone!  PTL!!

OK, I need to comment as I have been following this discussion ever since Keith's original post. In fact, I am the man whose letter Keith shared on Feb 2. I am a lifelong CRC member, and despite some assumptions made in the comments above, I am not a pastor. And no I am not hiding from my past, but for the current situation I am not yet ready (in the opinion of my accountability persons) to go public with my name, at least in an online forum.

Overall, I want to say that the attack on sin, and the help we give, should dealt with on an individual basis, and sometimes that does not require the teacher or leader to be removed from his post. Porn, prostitutes, chat lines, voyeurism, and sex outside of marriage are all recognized by Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) as acting out behaviours. What I was saying is that we need to care for that individual, and the people he leads, offering a safe place to help him escape the path of sin. And I'm not advocating a cover-up, as some of you share in your experiences. Who knows how many pastors want to come clean about their sin, but the sin of pride and the expected "shotgun--take him out" attitudes make that coming out not so appealing? And then the addict just gets deeper on his own, rather than surfacing with the help of a rescue party.

If I may reply to a few of you who have been carrying on the conversation so far:

Bev: Yes, deliverance prayer is very welcome and has worked! I have seen that. But for those reasons where God does not provide that instant (or 3 week, Rachel--glad for you!) release, we still need to attack this struggle in ways that can also work.

Concerned: Yes I did find some of your comments to be hostile, especially as someone who has struggled, confessed, and largely overcome my porn addiction, and in the journey have met other men who have been "shotgun-sacrificed" in what becomes a purge by others. Condemnation gathers few sinners. And I appreciate the experience and work of Dr Laaper, and there are more resources out there. In my experience it helps to have counselling, resources, and an accountability group. It is hard to start or build a group for a sin that is so individual and shame-based, so a general group like SAA or a Christian SAA would be a good start.  

Shawn: Thank you for your comments. I think you do understand more what I am talking about.

Rachel: Wow, so much from you, and what experiences you have had--glad you still are fighting in God's team! I am not looking for forgiveness without accountability, by no means. What I want to see is seperate the sinner from his sin and help him not go back (filters, accountability groups & one-on-one partners, and continued vigilance), and as he dries up and lives soberly the desire to sin will diminish and trusts can be restored. And to answer your question on Feb 7, yes I did ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit and willingly followed the call of my flesh--but no longer. Yes, I too am amazed how long I kept that up. What was definitely absent was an immersing in the Word and submitting to God in all areas of my life.

As I say at my weekly meetings: I am "Alex", a follower of Christ, basking in His grace, and recovering porn addict. Thanks for letting me share.

WOW!  PTL!!!  I don't know if you had made those 2 significant confessions before, but because you confessed these "sins"  to other believers, I wouldn't be surprised to hear your healing to significantly increase and pick up speed and you have some significant breakthroughs soon!  For His glory and our good!!!!

Faith Alive Christian Resources, the publisher for the CRCNA, has a book that addresses a number of the issues that have been brought up in this discussion. We would encourage you to take a look at the Just One Click and our ministry partner Covenant Eyes for a Free 30-day trial of their software by using promo code JustOneClick

Just One Click is also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore in paperback and ebook formats.

 

Hello Everyone:

Thank you Bev for taking the time to share your reasoning with me, I appreciate it very much.  I am sorry that we have not had a reply from Anonymous (Concern) to my question for clarification but it most likely would not have changed my position on spiritual illness and the one healer being Christ Jesus.  While I respect and can appreciate mans involvement in the process, he can often time be a barrier to allowing God to work his healing.  When we start to put psychology first then someone or something has to take a back seat.

I wanted to share with everyone some questions that a Christian friend sent to me following both a verbal, and email conversation which I had had with him regarding the question of providing support groups for pastors who had issues with pornography.  I believe his questions bring to light many of my concerns I have with the black and white responses that we have been sharing. 

Have a blessed day everyone and I pray that each of us will strive to live the life of the blessing which we individually and collectively are.

Here is the scenario which he presented.

"Let's say you were on the elder board of your church. Your pastor, who has been serving your congregation for the past 4 years, comes to your elder board and confesses that for the past 3 months he/she has been viewing pornography online. He/she believes that the Lord has convicted him/her of this sin, felt led to confess it to those in authority over him/her, and believes the Lord has called him/her to seek out support from the body of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in efforts to overcome this sin. The pastor is married (and has confessed and sought forgiveness from their spouse) and has 3 children.

1) How would you provide pastoral care for this pastor? How would you come alongside them and their family? What support would you offer them?

2) Would you release this pastor from ministry from your church? If not, how would you respond to some of the Scripture texts that have been noted I.E. the standards of holiness required of teachers and leaders?  If you would release them, would the financial needs of the pastor and the family no longer be your responsibility because they are no longer employed by your church? Would the spiritual needs of the pastor and her/his family still be the responsibility of the church? If not, why not? If so, how would you suggest the church provide for the pastor and her/his family?

3) Would it be your desire to see this pastor restored back into ministry, if at all possible or do you believe he/she has disqualified themselves permanently from ministry because they viewed pornography for three months and, therefore, it is not allowable for them to return to ministry?

4) Would your response to the above questions change if the variables in the situation changed?

 What if the pastor had been viewing pornography for the last week?  

What if the pastor had been viewing pornography for the last 5 years? 

What if the pastor had repented of a different sin?

What if he/she confessed to yelling/being rageful at their spouse for the last three months?

What if he /she confessed to being addicted to their work and neglecting their children for the past five years?

 What if she/he confessed to loving money and purchasing lottery tickets for the last year?

What if he/she confessed to entertaining lustful thoughts towards those they provided pastoral care for though they had not been physically intimate with anyone but their spouse, yet for the last 6 months?

What if it was the youth pastor?

What if it was the office administrator?

What if the person was single?

What if she/he was caught in the sin, confronted on it, and agreed with you and confessed their sin?

What if they were caught in the sin, but were unrepentant of it?

 

5) What steps might we take as councils and classis to encourage, nurture and build up the spiritual health and vitality of our pastors and church leaders in an effort to confront the works of the devil and to spur our church leaders on to greater acts of love, service, obedience, humility, and righteousness?

6) What does "expel the immoral person" mean in our context today? Assuming a sinful person is unrepentant in their sin of pornography, does it mean that we rescind their membership in our church? Does it mean that we do not allow them to participate in the Lord's Supper? Does it mean we no longer welcome them into our church building, whether for programs or worship services? Does it mean we nolonger speak to or associate with the person? Does it mean we call the other non-CRC church down the road (where the wayward person is now attending) and inform them of the person and his/her shameful behaviour?

  

Praise the LORD, Shawn, that's why we have the Holy Spirit, so He can guide us through each situation with its unique variables and unique people that are involved.  What might work well for one, might not work for the next even if the situation is similar, due to different personality issues or where they are in there walk with Jesus, or what the root issue is that caused the sin in the first place.   But the Holy Spirit knows each person/situation intimately, and knows exactly what is needed to bring healing, wholeness and restoration.  It will not be a "cookie cutter" answer.. if a, then b... that's man's way...   that's why I keep encouraging us (the crc) to EAGERLY DESIRE this gift of prophesy.  We cannot know every situation we will encounter, but He does!

God is a creative God, and I believe He is encouraging us to "listen" for His specific guidance in each situation.  His guidance will always line up with His Word. 

Hmmm... as I was thinking about this, maybe there should be an anonymous type prophetic "council" that receives the facts and then listens for guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to bring healing to the situation.    So, maybe there is a "go to" person in each classis, where pastors can "confess" their unholiness, whatever it might be, and then the "go to" person can bring the facts without the names/place to this "council", and they "process" the facts as they listen to the Spirit, and then it goes back through the classis guy, and then to the pastor and his accountability group, which there will most likely be one recommended, if there wasn't one before.   But one of the keys to healing is that the person needing healing is "listening" with the team as well...

I have been involved in inner healing ministries (not in the crc though), and these are powerful.  As a team, we listen to the Holy Spirit together, and help someone get to the root of their issues.  It's profound.  We have had people share, that what they have spent years in counseling for, we get through in several hours, as well as other amazing testimonies of helping bring healing from a difficult situation .  It's hard, and it's intense, but it's incredible.  That's the Holy Spirit, and He's the Counselor!!!

maybe we need to implement the Catholic confessional  ; ) !!  or maybe we should just send our "problems" to them for confessions?

well, our battle is not with flesh and blood, and when we recognize that it's the enemy that the "sinner" has allowed themself to come in agreement with, that often takes the hostility away from being directed toward the sinner.   It's just if their heart is hard and unrepentant, and they don't take any responsibility themself, then it's harder to be gracious =/...  well, then they usually aren't ready for help, and one of the more extreme "excommunication" type responses might be necessary.    Again, the Holy Spirit will know what level of being "expelled" will bring the repentance.

I believe if the person is being convicted by the Holy Spirit, they will also usually be convicted to step down for a while, because they know their leadership at that time is probably not in the best interest of the Bride.

and we can only do any of this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I believe with all my heart, that the LORD is calling His Bride to holiness, particularly the leaders.   If the leaders are not walking in holiness, they are hindering the entire assembly/congregation/denomination/whatever sphere of influence they have,  and this is just one issue.   I'm not sure we understand very well why holiness is so important...anyway, lots of thoughts...

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine...   He's purifying His Bride.

How Firm a Foundation/Malachi 3:2-3

Thank you Bev for your inspired and eloquent answer to Shawn's questions.  Indeed, the answer to any situation lies with the Lord. And we access the answer through the Holy Spirit, our Counselor.  

My experience with the gift of prophecy in the CRC church was not a good one. I think, ok I know, there are misunderstandings about prophecy. One can have a prophetic word, and not be a prophet. One can have the prophetic gift and not carry the office of the Prophet.  If the Lord gives one a word, and that person speaks the word out loud, they've had a prophetic utterance.  At least the way I understand Scripture.  We can use the same example with evangelism. We are all called to be ready to share our faith, or evangelize, but we don't all carry the office of the Evangelist like Dr. Billy Graham.

 I believe, at a basic level, we all "operate" in the five fold ministries - Apostle, Prohet, Teacher, Pastor and Evangelist inasmuch as we carry the Spirit of Jesus in us, and inasmuch as we are being conformed into His likeness.  In these, the Body cares for the Body, as we are the hands and feet of our Lord to each other.

The more we ALL read Scripture for understanding, bathing our spirits in His healing words, pray, pray, pray, and have repentant and humble hearts, the more we will be merciful, compassionate and loving when a brother or sister confesses a sin.  The more we as individuals prayerfully read Scripture for understanding and application, the more He can use us to help those caught in the enemy's web of deceit, lies, addictions and so on.

Simple solution for the sin in the Body of Christ? Yes. Difficult to carry out? Yes. Possible? Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely.

An example of help for pastors, for whatever addiction or background they have:

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=18&articleid=20120303_18_A13_CUTLIN768541

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