Jennifer Thomas is a bestselling author, psychologist, speaker, consultant & apology critic

An Unprecedented Public Apology. Part II. 5.0 Stars (Out of 5)


Below, you’ll find the draft of a stunning public apology that was delivered to the church of which I’m a member on Friday evening, Feb. 20th, 2009.  I attended and was deeply touched by this ‘forgiveness service.’  When you are finished reading this, please post a comment:  Have you ever heard of such a meeting? What is your reaction?

Note: Robin has kindly given permission for his apology to be shared with any person or group who might be helped by its contents.  I’ve omitted all other names.

Grace Confession

I am going to ask you to bear with me tonight as I haven’t yet been able to talk about these issues without a lot of emotion. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be here. I have been waiting, hoping, longing, groaning really…. for this day for 8 years. I have been distraught by the divide that existed between me and the church since 2000. I was so distraught didn’t take communion for the better part of two years. For good or bad reasons, the divide between us has haunted me. So on the one hand, you can say that 8 or 9 years is a long time. But on the other hand, it is a whole lot shorter than never. Really, I have never known of a service like this… I have certainly never witnessed a service like this and I think that would probably be true for the vast majority of those here. I understand why this rarely happens. It’s not easy. To get to this place has taken a lot on the part of the leadership of the church. You should be proud of your church and its leaders. Reconciliation is a demanding. It takes time, energy and effort to sort through all of the emotions and perspectives. The leaders of the church has taken a risk standing here with me today . I want to thank them for that. I want to thank them for doing this with me so that together we can be true to this gospel of Jesus we proclaim . In particular I want to say thanks to (the leaders) who first approached me two years ago because, “they wanted to be intolerant of the lack of reconciliation that existed between me and the church.”

What I am here to do today is pretty simple. I am here to say I am sorry. I recognize the immeasurable pain, hurt and confusion I brought into this room- into your lives- into your families- into your hearts- and into the hearts of people that you love. My sin didn’t just cause a car wreck. It wasn’t a mere multi car pile up. It was a train wreck and there were a couple of thousand passengers in those cars. A part of what made it so hard was that in that train wreck it wasn’t just you that got hurt. It was you and your spouse, it was you and your kids, it was you and your friends, it was you and your church. By having an affair, I betrayed you in the worst kind of way. I say that it was betrayal of the worst sort….. because I recognize the place I had been given in your life. I was your pastor. For most of you, being your pastor wasn’t just a position I occupied in the church, it was a place I had been given in your heart. It was a place of trust, a place of leadership, a place of love. It was a sacred place. Through my actions, I betrayed your trust, I violated your love and I profaned what was holy….. and for that I am truly sorry. In trying to deal with the wreckage left behind– all of you were affected . It was because of my actions that some of you, in the aftermath, began to struggle with one another. It was because of me that some left the church altogether- no longer getting to hear about this God that I love. I made it difficult for the leadership that stayed behind and for the leadership that followed. Trust isn’t easily given and it is oh so slowly restored. Fear and anger were rampant. Doubt and cynicism hung about your hearts as a part of the damage that remained. I know that we all bear those burdens. I just gave them much more weight in your life. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I could take it back. I wish I could undo the past. I wish that standing here today and saying I am sorry today could somehow rewind the clock but I know that it can’t. All I can do is take responsibility for what I have done and ask for your forgiveness as a church. And I do take responsibility. I want you to know that I know that my sin wasn’t anybody’s fault but my own. I didn’t go there because I wasn’t accountable enough. It wasn’t because I was overworked. It wasn’t an elder board failure or a leadership failure on the part of the church. It wasn’t my wife’s or my family’s fault. It was me. It was my fault. It was my stupidity. Period.

I wish that was where this confession could end but it isn’t. I didn’t just let you down or turn my back on you through my actions. Worse….. far worse….. was what I communicated to my family. I know that I broke My parents hearts. I put my brother in a terrible, unbelievably difficult place. My wife was undone. She never deserved anything like that. And the message to my children was devastating. The pain of my abandonment remains to this day. They were wounded by my choices and those wounds were then deepened and inflamed by my leaving…. both of which I truly, truly, regret. I am the dude that is supposed to protect them and I didn’t. I damaged them instead…… Putting lipstick on that pig doesn’t help it look any better. The truth is that I love my kids more than words can ever say and that I am amazed by and grateful for the forgiveness they so generously offered me years ago.

I wish the damage stopped with them but it doesn’t. It is like an echo that just won’t end. My 2nd wife has born the burden of these events even though she didn’t enter into my life until over 4 years later. When you love somebody, you get all of them… every blessing and every burden. When she married me, she married into the anger and alienation of a community. She married into my dishonor and has worn that mantle since her arrival here. You have no idea how many conversations she has had to endure about my affair 9 years ago. I brought that on her. It was no fault of her own. I brought that on her and I hate it for her.

Most fearful of all, I discredited the God that I love. For some unfathomable reason, God chose to associate his name with mine and I dishonored Him. I have wished I could apologize to every pastor in this city for making their work that much more difficult.

I know that some of you have questions still. I know that some of you don’t know whether to believe what you hear. If it would be helpful to you, if it would make any difference, I am open to meeting one on one. That may be a place of deeper healing. I don’t know about you but I was listening carefully when John Edwards came out last fall to admit the truth of his long standing affair. These were the words he said after confessing, “I am reconciled with my wife, I am reconciled with my God and I am never going to speak of this again.” I thought, are you kidding? If you were reconciled with your God, if you knew that your sins—- “though they are like scarlet have been made as white as snow”, If you knew– in your heart of hearts that you were a restored son of the sovereign king… you would never quit talking about it. All that is to say, that at the end of the day, a story about another fallen leader isn’t much of a story. But the welcoming heart of the father that runs to embrace his total failure of a son, that is a story that needs to be told again and again and again. So if you want to talk, if it matters, if it would help, if it would mean something, we will find a way, we will make a time.

There is really nothing else that I have come to say but that I hope that you can find your way towards forgiveness. Please forgive me for how I hurt you and all those around you.

Dr. Jen’s Analysis:  I know the source of this apology and I have heard the sincerity in his voice.   Robin’s is the best public apology I’ve ever heard.  He expressed regret about the hurt he has caused, admitted wrongdoing without passing blame, offered to meet 1:1 with people to hear what they need from him, made a commitment to go forward remembering and talking about his mistakes as needed, and requested forgiveness.  To those who have been deeply hurt and who deserve (but may never receive) an apology such as Robin’s, we hope that in some way, his apology may bring you refreshment.

Note:  Robin has given full permission to share the text of his apology with anyone for whom it would be helpful.  Also, Robin and I are available to speak with interested groups.  You can reach me at this e-mail address:   drjen@drjenthomas.com

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10 Responses to “An Unprecedented Public Apology. Part II. 5.0 Stars (Out of 5)”

  1. Kirsten

    Jen,
    Thank you for sharing this powerful testimony. It is an exceptional thing. I would love to know more about the role you played in this. And forgive me if you told me this was happening back in February. I don’t remember you mentioning it, and if you did, I certainly didn’t give it the weight and attention in my mind and memory that it deserved! I’d also love to know how the church responded (or is responding). Kirsten

    Reply
  2. Karen

    Wow. I remember that day 9 years ago like it was yesterday. Unfortunately I sort of put Robin on a pedestal. Grace was the first church I really ever felt at home at and was new to it all. Having a distant relationship with my own Dad (who cheated on my Mom and left) I looked up to Robin sort of like a Dad even though I didn’t know him personally. I was just another person in the congregation. I had been going there since 96. When the announcement was made about Robin I was so broken hearted. I was reminded that no man is the head of the church, but God is. We were unable to attend the apology since we had already planned to be out of town so it was good to read the apology here. Thanks Jen and thanks Robin.

    Reply
  3. Marsha Judy

    I can’t imagine what that meeting must have been like for all concerned. The range of emotions is overwhelming to think about. Praise God that we serve a Christ who died that we might be reconciled to God! You should write a book on the dynamics of true repentance and the role apology plays in Godly sorrow. It would be a help to many of us! Thank you for sharing! Thank Robin for sharing! Thank God for making the foot of the cross a level place to stand regardless of our sin.

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    What a blessing to have church leaders that acknowledged the weight of unreconciliation and approached the former pastor regarding it. And then prayed for two years until it came to pass!

    Reply
  5. drjenthomas

    Thank you for your comments and I welcome your questions.
    Several people have asked me if and when Robin resigned from the pastorate. He did resign from the church as soon as the affair was discovered. He now works at a real estate agent. As you can see, he has a real way with words and I hope he’ll be called upon to share his lessons learned with others- he’s willing to do just that, he says.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    JUST FOUND THIS. IM CURIOUS WHY DID HE NOT PURSUE INDIVIDUALS HE KNEW HE HURT THAT WERE VERY CLOSE TO HIM. HIS WAITING FOR THEM TO PURSUE IS WHAT HE ALWAYS DID.

    Reply
  7. Jennifer Thomas

    Replying to Anonymous (above). It might be helpful for me to add this information: When the forgiveness service was planned, Robin contacted and personally invited many people to attend the service. He offered to meet with them leading up to or following the service.

    Reply

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