On Art Azurdia and Men Without Chests

On Art Azurdia and Men Without Chests July 3, 2018

Trinity Church of Portland, OR just released word yesterday that senior pastor, Art Azurdia, has been removed from his role due to sexual misconduct. Like many of the other recent revelations of nefarious pastoral affairs – Art’s stings a bit. They all sting a bit. I’m just tired. I’m tired of seeing pastor after pastor fall due to sexual misconduct, and Art Azudia is no exception to that. I am weary of seeing those charged with upholding simple qualifications inevitably bow down to the prevailing expression of a sexually impotent culture.

 

I grieve because of the damage this does to the church – especially to the local church these men have pastored. I grieve for Art Azurdia, I truly do. I sympathize simply because I am on the road, Lord willing, to pastoral ministry. I can’t imagine any pastor hopes for the adulterous, career-ending affair. Few men set out to be those whom are old and live with this specific type of regret. Yet we must think beyond to the devastation such an act brings to the local church Art Azurdia pastored. 

 

Think of what message it sends to newly married couples in Art’s church. Their pastor, who led them through marital counseling and cautioned them to sobriety and a high view of the vows they were about to make, didn’t take those vows as seriously. Do they have hope in escaping an extramarital affair? Think of what message that sends to the unmarried. Their pastor, who urged them toward faithfulness and sexual purity, could not uphold his own conviction even with the benefits of a marriage. Do they have hope of remaining pure? That stings. It should sting. 

 

Westerners tend to look at pastoral falls and make it all about the fallen pastor. In one sense, how could we not? Yet scarcely does one think of the ripple effect such things have. Indeed, his fellow elders now must walk in the process of bringing healing to the damage which Art Azurdia brought. I am genuinely hopeful he will undergo the proper process of restoration by seeking repentance in humility. Indeed, the message of repentance Art Azurdia preached on Sundays is fully applicable to him – and I pray the gospel’s balm will ease his soul in knowing the extent of Christ’s forgiveness.

 

For us though, these are always times of reflection. We ought to see the trend of sexual immorality amongst ministers of the gospel as it is: entirely ruinous. Yet such a time also calls for introspection. Who among you are clean from immorality? Who among you do not take the harlot in with your eyes, even though you should be as Job who said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” The married among us ought to be even more resolute. As Solomon says, “Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth!”

 

The pit of the harlot ensnares the foolish. It is the brute of a man who is led by his nether regions. We know this. We know this. The whole world knows this. It is not a bit shocking to any sensible person to understand the pitfalls of adultery, especially those who have a keen eye upon the pastoral qualifications. To what then do we owe this fruit? Relativism.

 

Surely, it could be argued we are sexual anarchists (an argument I find quite compelling in numerous ways). Yet the root of said anarchy finds origin in relativism. It is the lax principles being applied to our entertainment choices, letting sidelong glances go unchecked, perusing through pornography websites like a child in a candy shop – all the while the conscience is deadened and the inevitable road to adultery has long been traveled. Quite simply, it is that slow capitulation of unequivocal, absolute truths regarding sexual virtue. It is moving from matters of black and white to gray – and it produces what C.S. Lewis aptly called “men without chests.”

 

Lewis argued that no justification of virtue alone will enable a man to be virtuous. No, without trained emotion, the intellect shan’t rule over one’s animalistic instincts. The man who only ascends to the truth that sexual immorality is ruinous will not stand. No. Man must feel it is his bones. He must be utterly convinced that a gentleman, especially one in Christ, does not permit himself to be ruled by his brute instincts. He is master over his flesh and he will not permit it to reign, especially when Christ has freed him from such a damnable bondage as this.

 

A “chest” produces that same conviction which fiercely bellows, “YOU DO NOT HIT A WOMAN!” It enables men to stand in the gap and fight – to get pummeled even, for the sake of protecting the weak and vulnerable. It is the wondrously beautiful harmony of reason and viscera. The man “with chest” is the man whose heart is strongly rooted in the truth of God, and in such a manner that his baser instincts are subjected to his authority. Put in a simpler manner: he is the man bearing steeled resolution in moral fortitude with a pure heart and unwavering loyalty to Christ.

 

I am not saying Art Azurdia is necessarily by implication, a man without a “chest.” I am saying that he, among these other fallen pastors, is the product of a world with men lacking “chests.” It is particularly maddening to see a world of Christians who simply will not wholeheartedly embrace a biblical worldview of sex. No Christian is free to indulge in sexual proclivities of any sort, yet few sins find such excuse in the church today.

 

Every single person in Christ is bound by the imperative to flee from sexual immorality, indeed, even every type of sensuality and impurity. This is not a particularly hard qualification to meet. It is not even a particularly hard command for the general laity to obey and put into practice in every sphere of life – yet Christians a plenty buy into the practice of this world with respect to everyday choices on what is sexually appropriate.

 

I find it synonymous with the plea of my son when called to obedience on simple issues. He cries, “It’s hard!” But it isn’t hard to stop jumping on the couch. Rather, it’s quite easy to jump elsewhere – there’s a whole world made for jumping. It’s appealing to jump where you’ve been forbidden to jump though, and while his intellect has made the connection that it is wrong to jump on the couch, his instinct rules. Why? He is lad – one who has had little time to develop the fortitude and self-control indicative of heartfelt virtue.

 

It is not that my son needs more self-sacrifice, determination, creative outlets, or progress. He needs chutzpah, especially in a culture that demands virtue while removing the “chests” of adolescent boys. You can’t have self-sacrifice, determination, progress, or true, masculine creativity without a well-formed “chest.” In other words, it is a sincere, yet simple faith that produces men of conviction. It is knowing, earnestly knowing, that there’s a whole world of sexual expression to delight in found in the wife of your youth.

 

There’s an entirely wonderful world of God’s good provisions to enjoy – an entirely inexpressible and inexhaustible measure of enjoyment to be had. However, in a manner of borrowing yet another sentiment from Lewis, we are content with making mud pies in the slum. It isn’t hard to avoid the harlot. It isn’t all that hard to make the necessary “sacrifices” when you truly believe they are poisonous rot to your soul, and God demands more of you than this. Yet ascent to this fact is not enough. No. You must feel in it the fullness of your being. It must resonate in your chest if it is to last.

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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    I agree that Christians, especially pastors, should not commit adultery. I agree that when a pastor falls, it is discouraging to other Christians–especially to his flock, for which it can be devastating. I go beyond agreeing that “Few men set out to be those whom are old and live with this specific type of regret” to saying that no men set out to have that specific type of regret. However, I disagree with several other points of this article.

    First, two minor corrections. The admonition “Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth!” is not in Psalms–it is Proverbs 5:18. I think the phrase “capitulation to” should be “capitulation of”.

    The author says “The pit of the harlot ensnares the foolish” and “It isn’t hard to avoid the harlot”. How common is it for Christians to commit adultery with a harlot? I don’t know, but although I’m sure it happens, I’m also sure the problem involves more than harlots. I think that sometimes it involves a lonely pastor who knows a woman whom he perceives–rightly or not–to be more sympathetic, empathetic, understanding, and caring toward him than his wife is. They become friends, and then become gradually closer. Such a pastor may justify to himself his commission of adultery because he has a need for love which no one else fulfills.

    The author also asks “Who among you do not take the harlot in with your eyes”, and says “the imperative to flee from sexual immorality, indeed, even every type of sensuality and impurity” “is not a particularly hard qualification to meet”. I think that not taking the harlot in with one’s eyes can be relatively easy. The problem is that the temptation for a man to lust with his eyes commonly comes from women who are not harlots. They come from advertisements. They come from advertisements in magazines and on television. They come from advertisements on the Internet–including the Evangelical section of Patheos. They also come from people ones sees outside the home, who are not harlots but who want to be recognized as sexually attractive and dress accordingly. They are seen in all sorts of places: streets, parks, schools, and businesses. There are also athletes who may not intend to look sexually attractive as they exercise, e.g. jog, but who wear so little while they are exercising that they do. Temptations to lust with one’s eyes in American society are more common now than ever.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Thanks for the grammatical fix and catch of wrongful attribution – I had multiple windows open and likely looked at the wrong one inputting the verse. Oddly enough, I’ve actually met people that know full well the ramifications to having an affair, yet don’t quite mind suffering those consequences if they can have what they want. Typically, those are relationships doomed from the start and while they may not be the norm, they certainly exist more than many think. To your other point though, I truthfully disagree sharply. While people are inundated with opportunity for lust – it is not particularly difficult to abstain from sleeping with someone other than your wife. Having temptation and falling headlong into that temptation are two different things.

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        I wrote about being “inundated with opportunity for lust”, and about lusting with one’s eyes. Refraining from committing adultery physically “is not particularly difficult”. However, “the imperative to flee from sexual immorality, indeed, even every type of sensuality and impurity” involves far more than that. In our society, it can mean repeatedly resisting the temptation to lust many times throughout one’s day, both outside and inside the home.

        That is very disturbing that you’ve “actually met people that know full well the ramifications to having an affair, yet don’t quite mind suffering those consequences if they can have what they want”. Have any had this attitude, though, while studying for ministry, or at their ordination? If so, that would be perverse. If they have had it after years of frustration and dissatisfaction in ministry, and when feel drained and lonely, that would also be perverse–but easier to understand. In that circumstance, they may think that if they lost their career in ministry, what they hope to gain in adultery could outweigh their loss. There are ministries which help ministers like that: ones who need refreshment, replenishment, and restoration.

      • elainebitt

        I’ve been wondering all week about how all that happened and seemingly no one noticed something was going on the first time it happened? Are pastors, or some pastors, so proud and full of themselves that they believe they are above certain sins that they let themselves get so close to it to the point that they fall so hard, to the point to not only do it once, but multiple times (they said it happened twice, ok, I will take their word for it)? Isn’t there anyone out there who would care about their pastors and get close to them and keep them accountable? Why not?

        Keeping with your metaphor, Art was not the only one without a chest. All the men around him were too.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Part of the issue is just that some are really good at hiding their sin. Another would be the fear of losing everything once it’s found out – couple those together and I believe there’s a substantial amount someone can do to try and hide it from those who could help lead them to repentance. I don’t know the elders present around him, but I don’t want to bash them in saying they may have known and did nothing to “protect the brand.” That happens, but I haven’t seen anything to evidence that in this case.

          • elainebitt

            Again I agree with you. Maybe I should had been more careful with my words, I wad not pointing my finger at the eldership.

            Thank you for your comments.

        • Jackson Michaels

          I remember as if it was yesterday. I heard a sermon from this man’s church 3-4 years ago. I heard Art Azurdia say, “I am not called to be your friend, I am called to be your pastor.” I also remember hearing from a friend who attends the church who stated that during a new church plant send off, Art Azurdia called one of the Elders wives, “A total babe.” Her response was a godly one. My friend said that some in attendance laughed, others stared awkwardly. Sadly, there are also reports of Humble Beast (Both of the owners are Elders at Trinity) doing bad business with interns as well as former artist (i.e. Eshon Burgundy, J Givens, Lee Green). While some went to Art during this time, it was never dealt with biblically. It was just swept under the rug. Unfortunately, it was during this time that Art had his affairs, which is telling. More recently, a former artist (J Givens) of Humble Beast has just come out saying that he is Gay and that he has been Gay the whole time while under the banner of Humble Beast. All of this has happened within a week of one another. It’s a mess! Because Trinity is a church that is built on Art’s personality as well as Humble Beast! The founder of Humble Beast wrote the statement about Art Azurdia through the Trinity Website. He has not once released a statement about J Givens. Why? It’s all a gimmick. The Church as the Body is not. All in all, sometimes people don’t know. Maybe they did, maybe not.

    • Richard Roberts

      The problem with the “friend” analogy is that friends seek one another’s holiness, not to use them. Both of the women in question were significantly younger and under his spiritual authority. He manipulated them and used them. He is a wolf, not a sheep, and his lack of repentance gives this statement credence.

      • elainebitt

        “his lack of repentance”. Are you privy to all that’s happening? If not, you shouldn’t say anything. If yes, maybe you should be more careful with what you say.

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        I did not intend what you call “the ‘friend’ analogy” to be understood in connection with Art Azurdia. My comment does not address his scandal. The part of my comment to which you refer is a response to the warnings about harlots. There are many instances of adultery among Christians do not involve a harlot–especially a seductive harlot. I think that there nowadays there are very few men who use a prostitute who were seduced by her.

        Thus I said there are other, more common, reasons why a Christian commits adultery. We need to be concerned about more than harlotry.

        It sounds like you agree, because you refer to Azurdia as a “wolf” who manipulated women–not as a sheep who was a victim of harlots.

        Regardless of him and what he did, there are indeed pastors–and other Christians–who come to commit adultery in the way I mentioned: a way which involves loneliness within marriage, and a longing for relief from it.

  • gabebogdan

    I’ve been listening to his sermons for years and every time I had a chance I went to his church and encouraged other brothers who were looking for a church to go there. That being said, Art was involved in a 2 year long affair. God gave him plenty of time to reconsider his actions and he refused. I can understand a pastor who is addicted to pornography or sex which makes him hire prostitutes. Addictions are hard to break. But this was not the case here. He was involved in a affair , willingly, while he was standing in the pulpit preaching against it.that’s a totally different ball game. The pain he inflicted in his church can not be described. The entire church was on tears last Sunday.
    Ironically, his last sermon was about the Samaritan woman and her many husbands, probably the best sermon on that passage I heard.
    Art is a thief and the church should put a restriction order on him. Most likely God will forgive him and the people should forgive him, but I don’t think he should step in that building ever again….

    • Jackson Michaels

      Gabe, Maybe he was addicted to having affiars. #justsayin

    • Jackson Michaels

      Gabe, why did they elevate him so much that they were so hurt when a fallen man fell? And if God will forgive him, and the people should forgive him, why should he be so restricted from entering that church “ever again?” Psh. How do you think it looks to the world when they see Christians so quick to ask God to forgive and forget them and yet so quick to resent and condemn others?

    • Richard Riley

      Trinity Church is to be commended for responding quickly and with transparency. Western Seminary on the other hand is silent on the issue, even though the immoral relationship occurred through Prof Azurdia’s position at the seminary. One can not yet tell if he has been removed by the seminary or not, other than he is no longer listed among their faculty, nevertheless his messages continue to be promoted on their web site, I believe in the interests of integrity, transparency, and honesty, Western Seminary needs to make some kind of public acknowledgement. I am an alumnus of the Seminary and it pains me to see how they are dealing with this issue

  • Paperboy_73

    The tone of this article describes a decent man who, due to a lapse of judgement and character, fell into the snares of a beguiling “harlot”. Maybe an unfair judgement on a woman we know very little about. If we’re willing to give his character the benefit of the doubt, perhaps we should do so for her as well. Painting her as a tempting prostitute is perhaps a long bow to draw?

    • Gilsongraybert

      Not painting her as if she’s the only one who has done wrong, though arguably it does take two to tango – I’m drawing off of his sin as a leader as a means to point Christians to avoid sexual immorality, using the same language of Proverbs to do so. I also don’t know him personally, but I don’t believe I painted him in some light as to suggest he made a minor kerfuffle. He tarnished the witness of Christ, brought ruin upon the church in general – but specifically to his local flock, and neglected to practice what he preached. Those are no small things for a preacher to do. I sympathize in the sense that he has thrown his whole life and ministry away in a foolish decision – but then I simply use that as a means to say: be a man of conviction and flee from immorality, Christian.

      • Paperboy_73

        It does take two, and every party in an unfaithful situation knows that they are doing something wrong. And, of course, someone in a position of moral leadership has an even greater responsibility for their own behaviour than most.

        I felt that was something a little distasteful about the allusions in your article about a woman of whom we know little. But I do now appreciate that you clarified that were using the language of Proverbs to make a point, rather than making material claims about how the situation transpired. You can see how it could be read that way though.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Of course – I completely get it. Thanks for being charitable!

    • gabebogdan

      I think the woman fell into the snare. The church statement revealed that the pastor confessed to multiple affairs.

      • Paperboy_73

        Hmmm. One affair can often be the blindness of affection, but multiple affairs is a thrill-seeking game – the use of power to draw people in, and the thrill and excitement of a secret that can’t be exposed.

        I hadn’t noticed that there were multiple affairs. In that case, it does suggest that he was the one setting snares, rather than falling into them. Of course, one can never know for sure.

        • Jackson Michaels

          “the use of power to draw people in, and the thrill and excitement of a secret that can’t be exposed.”

          Hmmm, I don’t know. Perhaps there was no use of power. Maybe there were no snares. Maybe they walked in there willingly with eyes wide open like many do.

          • Paperboy_73

            One can certainly never know from the outside. Even a pattern like that is circumstantial evidence at best.

          • Jackson Michaels

            It looks evidential, not circumstantial.

      • Jackson Michaels

        Maybe there were no snares. Maybe they walked in there willingly with eyes wide open like many do.

    • Richard Roberts

      I know one of the women. She was a younger married student. This is not only sexual immorality, but abuse of authority and spiritual abuse. Art is a master manipulator who preyed on two younger women under his authority without anyone suspecting him.

      • Paperboy_73

        I am deeply sorry to hear that. I hope she is able to recover from this situation in time.

  • Nick

    I loved listening to Art’s sermons for years on end and considered myself blessed by having met and known him personally and being pastored by him for some time. I feel betrayed by finding this out about Art’s recent affairs. I pray for his daughter Katherine, son Johnathan and wife Lory and all other relatives, friends and acquaintances who know Art and are hurt with me to find out these news and some comfort during these dark times. I pray for Art’s sincere repentance at the same time as I pray for the Father to demonstrate justice here and not let sin go unpunished. Just another reminder for us not to put our hope and trust in men or even a man, except only trust the Man himself Jesus Christ, Son of God, who earned your trust by dying for you on the cross, ironically whom Art has preached to me about for all of these years. I will continue praying my prayer, would you join with me?

    • Jackson Michaels

      I’m sure King David wanted “the man” punished of whom he heard the story of given by Nathan the prophet before he was told that he was “the man.” Put in any position of our greatest weakness we may all fall to something disqualifying ourselves temporarily or indefinitely.

    • Jackson Michaels

      You have just posted private information that wasn’t so public on a public forum. That was not cool. You could’ve just said, “I know him.”

      I’m curious though, why do you feel betrayed. Did he stab you in the back, or did he just fall like many others? Why do you feel betrayed by that? Are you related? I get why his wife and kids would feel betrayed, but not you. You feeling betrayed tells me less about your relationship with him and more about your elevation of him in your heart brother.

  • CBM

    There’s much more to the story. Azurdia’s recently exposed immorality is not the beginning of something; it’s the end of something…reaping what he has sown for decades. Lust was not the culprit as much as pride was. Do the research….cbm

    • Jackson Michaels

      Point us to the resources CBM.

    • What CBM says is the most truthful thing I’ve seen posted so far. I’ll give you a resource, me and hopefully others who have been wounded by him. He was my pastor at Christ Community Church for many years. I served in the Women’s teaching ministry there and served on the worship team with him. In the past month, I have seen example after example of people just falling all over themselves to forgive Art’s current transgression and I say current, because there have been so many leading up to this one, that he has never repented for. The only difference is, he didn’t have sex with most of these other people. He just destroyed them with his lies and emotional abuse.

      When you call people out from the pulpit, when you secretly ask members to leave and go to other churches, when they speak out, and then warn them not to tell anyone about it, when you share things told to you in pastoral confidence with other people to try and ruin their reputations, well, that is emotional abuse. Art did all those things, driven by pride and ego. When he used the communion table to manipulate people to keep quiet because what he had been doing, was about to be revealed, (It was like Jim Jones without the Kool-Aid). Again, that’s abuse. He was also very skilled at the silent treatment, done in front of other members, which he inflicted on people if he felt they “crossed him.” It devastated people. It irreparably harmed so many. I hurt for all of them. He should never pastor a church again. It scares me to think he might get the opportunity in the future. Yes, you can forgive an abuser, but you don’t let them back in the house.

  • elainebitt

    Grayson, what do you mean by “restoration”?
    “I am genuinely hopeful he will undergo the proper process of restoration by seeking repentance in humility.”

    • Gilsongraybert

      Hi Elaine – I mean that he would undergo the proper disciplinary course and be restored as a fellow Christian in repentance (i.e. fully accepting what he did as sinful, no longer being an adulterer, and seeking forgiveness of all he has wronged) in his church, but not as a pastor. I have written on the last bit previously, but in short, once a pastor disqualified himself on the basis of sexual immorality, I don’t see the text making allowance for him to go back into ministry. That’s where the humility aspect would come in, and he could be a great example of a faithfully repentant individual.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/fallen-pastor/

      • elainebitt

        I agree. Thanks for clarifying.