Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
Does Gender Matter? Relationship of Gender, Spousal
Support, Spirituality, and Dispositional Forgiveness
to Pastoral Restoration
Geoffrey W. Sutton ·Kelly C. McLeland ·
Katherine L. Weaks ·Patricia E. Cogswell ·
Renee N. Miphouvieng
Published online: 9 March 2007
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007
Abstract We examined the relationship of gender, forgiveness, and spirituality to restoration
attitudes expressed toward pastors who committed a transgression. In Study 1, participants’
restoration responses favored the opposite gender. In Study 2, men and women responded
differently depending on the offense. Dispositional forgiveness was signiﬁcantly associated
with pastoral restoration following offenses of inﬁdelity, anger, child abuse, and substance
abuse. Measures of spirituality were primarily associated with forgiveness but explained
little of the variance in restoration attitudes.
Keywords Clergy .Restoration .Forgiveness .Gender .Spirituality .Sexual offense
History is replete with examples of leaders who have committed offenses against the peo-
ple they purport to govern. Heads of State, corporate executives, and religious leaders
have typically been men. However, in some societies, women have recently been enter-
ing leadership roles and becoming more involved in decisions that affect the restoration of
an errant leader. Clergy sexual transgressions are particularly damaging to individual vic-
tims and the faith communities they serve. Although the American Association of Pastoral
Counselors (1994) and other professional associations (see Sutton & Thomas, 2005a,fora
review of ethics codes) prohibit sexual contact with clients, problems persist. Following a
review of the relevant literature, we present two studies that explore gender, spirituality, for-
giveness, and restoration following various types of pastor transgressions. In one study, we
included spousal support for the offending pastor as a variable. In both studies, we considered
G. W. Sutton ()
Associate Professor of Psychology, Evangel University, 1111 N. Glenstone Ave.,
Springﬁeld, MO 65802, USA
K. C. McLeland ·K. L. Weaks ·P. E. Cogswell ·R. N. Miphouvieng
Graduate Students in Clinical Psychology, Evangel University, Springﬁeld, MO, USA
646 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
participant characteristics that could affect their attitudes toward restoring a pastor following
a moral transgression.
Transgressions, forgiveness, and restoration
Despite the farrago of forgiveness research, researchers conceptualize forgiveness in different
ways (Sutton & Thomas, 2005b; Thompson et al., 2005; Worthington & Scherer, 2004).
Several researchers view forgiveness as one method that can alleviate the distress condition
labeled unforgiveness (Worthington, Berry, & Parrott, 2001; Worthington & Wade, 1999),
which occurs following an interpersonal offense. In the forgiveness process, victims can
attain a peaceful intrapersonal state in which they let go of anger and negative feelings and
cease to avoid the offender. Some researchers hold that a benevolent attitude is a necessary
component of forgiveness (e.g., Enright & Gassin, 1992; McCullough, Fincham, & Tsang,
2003) whereas others do not (Thompson et al., 2005). Furthermore, most researchers have
identiﬁed what forgiveness is not and in so doing, have separated the concept of forgiveness
from that of reconciliation (Fincham, Beach, & Davila, 2004; Sutton & Thomas, 2005b)and
restoration (Sutton & Thomas, 2005b). However, Kanz (2000) found that a majority of his
student sample viewed reconciliation as a part of forgiveness. Similarly, Aquino, Tripp, and
Bies (2001) considered reconciliation to be a behavioral manifestation of forgiveness.
Conceptually, we agree with those who view forgiveness as an intrapersonal process that
is distinct from reconciliation (Sutton & Thomas, 2005b). That is, a victim can experience
forgiveness toward an offender without engaging in any prosocial behavior toward the
offender. In contrast, we view reconciliation as an interpersonal experience that involves the
development of trust stimulated by prosocial behaviors. We agree with Sutton and Thomas
(2005b) that forgiveness enhances the reconciliation process and attenuates the extent of
Restoration is a concept that can encompass forgiveness and reconciliation. When people
forgive and experience an inner release of negative emotions, they have taken steps toward
a restoration to wholeness. When an offender and a victim display prosocial behaviors
following a transgression that has damaged the relationship, they engage in a process of
restoring a relationship. However, when people have lost their leadership position in a
community along with their sociopsychological status, restoration describes the process of
the tasks required to regain a position and status within a community. In this article, we refer
to pastoral restoration in the sense of a return to a ministry position within a faith community
following a transgression that offended those in the community who have both the power to
remove and restore the pastor.
If a married pastor had sexual relations with a congregant, the research suggests that the
congregant could suffer various problems of distress. Luepker (1999) found that women who
had been sexually abused by a pastor or psychotherapist, experienced such psychological
conditions as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and suicidality. In addition, Disch
and Avery (2001) found that people who had experienced sexual boundary violations by
mental health or medical professionals or clergy experienced such symptoms as emotional
turmoil, isolation, shame, fear, rage, self-blame, and problems with trust. Moreover, the
spouses of married pastors are additional victims, that would likely experience considerable
anger and negative emotions. Both victims, the spouse and the congregant, would likely ex-
perience unforgiveness. In time, they might learn to forgive the offender. One or both victims
might attempt some degree of reconciliation. Beyond the intrapersonal and interpersonal
sequelae, the church leadership would likely remove the offending pastor from leadership
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 647
status. If the pastor completed a rehabilitation plan, the pastor might experience some degree
of restoration within the faith community. Theoretically, the community restoration could be
independent of any forgiveness and reconciliation process that might occur for the victimized
spouse and congregant. That is, if the victims (congregant, spouse) did not forgive the pastor
and if they did not attempt reconciliation, community representatives could still restore the
pastor to ministry. Nevertheless, we expect that if one or both victims expressed forgiveness
and responded to reconciliation, then these actions would facilitate community restoration
for the pastor.
The preceding paragraph is primarily theoretical because we wished to explain the dis-
tinctions we are making among the concepts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.
Few studies have examined the restoration responses of congregants to the sexual transgres-
sions of pastors. Thoburn and Balswick (1998) found that 15.6% of seminarians engaged
in extramarital sexual activity. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research (2002) found
that 23% of 532 Christian congregations experienced a pastor-congregation disruption due
to a pastor’s sexual activity. These data, coupled with the evidence cited above regarding the
impact of pastoral sexual transgressions on victims, demonstrate the importance of the sexual
transgression problem. Opinions vary as to whether pastors should be restored. Hughes and
Armstrong (1995) opined that clergy should not be restored to pastoral leadership. Wells
(2003) found that 44% of his sample believed an errant pastor should not return to an active
pastoral ministry but noted that 74% believed clergy should be allowed to return to ministry
positions where they do not have contact with victims. In an experimental study, Sutton and
Thomas (2005a) presented experienced pastors with case scenarios that varied a pastor’s age
and type of sexual offense. They found that the participants were more willing to restore a
younger pastor who had a sexual relationship with a congregant than a middle-aged pastor,
but age was not a factor for pastors involved in an inappropriate romantic relationship with a
congregant. Pop, Sutton, and Jones (2005) found that undergraduates at a Christian university
who considered self-interest and participated in a group discussion about a pastor’s sexual
transgression were more willing to restore a pastor than those who considered self-interest
and acted alone.
Are some people more forgiving than others are? Researchers have begun to examine
forgiveness in relationship to personality variables. For example, students’ dispositional
forgiveness, measured by the Transgression Narrative Test of Forgiveness was negatively
correlated with anger and neuroticism and positively correlated with agreeableness (Berry,
Worthington, Parrott, O’Connor, & Wade, 2001). DeShea (2003) reported a positive cor-
relation between the Willingness to Forgive Scale and agreeableness in an undergraduate
sample. Brown (2003) reported that the Tendency to Forgive Scale predicted depression,
life-satisfaction, and situational forgiveness in an undergraduate sample. In this article, we
refer to this willingness, or tendency to forgive, as dispositional forgiveness, which appears
to be consistent with the few extant empirical studies.
In the present studies, we examined the relationship between forgiveness and restoration
in two ways. In the ﬁrst study, we measured forgiveness responses and restoration responses
toward married pastors who became sexually involved with a married congregant. In both
studies, we examined the relationship between level of dispositional forgiveness of the
participants and their responses to pastor transgressions.
Gender, forgiveness, and restoration
Researchers have found that women are more empathic than men are (e.g., Gault & Sabini,
2000; Macaskill, Maltby, & Day, 2002). Other researchers have found empathy to be
648 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
positively correlated with forgiveness (Fincham, Paleari, & Regalia, 2002;Toussaint&
Webb, 2005). However, researchers have not found gender differences on measures of for-
giveness (e.g., Toussaint & Webb, 2005).
In studies of interpersonal relationships, Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, and Hannon (2002)
found a tendency for men and women to report differences in prosocial behaviors. Restora-
tion includes prosocial behaviors, and expressed forgiveness may serve as a catalyst for
prosocial behaviors. Some researchers have found evidence that suggested a link between
pastor or participant gender and restoration responses. Sutton and Thomas (2005a) examined
restoration attitudes toward a male pastor who became sexually involved with a congregant.
A few female pastors were among the respondents. Although there were too few women to
assess gender differences, the authors reported a tendency for women to respond differently
to questions about restoring a male pastor and recommended further study of gender differ-
ences in restoration. Pop, Sutton, and Jones (2005) found that group discussion affected the
outcome of pastoral restoration. They used gender as a covariate in the analysis because of
the correlation between participant gender and the restoration measure and suggested that
researchers include gender as a variable in future studies. Sutton, Washburn, Comtois, and
Moeckel (2006) examined referral attitudes toward community agencies where supervisors
had an affair with a client. They found that type of offense negatively affected level of com-
fort with a referral and trust in the agency regardless of supervisor gender; however, social
work students were signiﬁcantly more likely to increase referral follow-up to a male rather
than a female community supervisor.
Inﬁdelity is one of the most troublesome problems a couple can face. Wiederman (1997)
analyzed national survey data and found men reported more extramarital sexual relation-
ships (22.5%) than did women (11.6%). Harris (2000) reviewed research on physiological
responses to inﬁdelity and reported ﬁndings that purported to identify different responses for
men and women. According to the speciﬁc innate modular theory of jealousy, men are more
upset by sexual inﬁdelity and women are more upset by emotional inﬁdelity. Although her
ﬁndings supported greater physiological responses for men than for women, the responses
could not be attributed to jealousy as distinct from general physiological responses to sexual
imagery. In addition, women with sexual experience had stronger physiological responses
to sexual inﬁdelity than to emotional inﬁdelity. That is, women with sexual experience re-
sponded in a similar fashion to men. Given these limited ﬁndings about gender differences,
we included both pastor gender and participant gender in our studies.
Spousal support, forgiveness, and restoration
How does the marital status of a pastor affect attitudes of congregants following a pastor’s
sexual transgression? In a study of 1,865 senior pastors, Barna Research (2001), found that
more than nine of ten pastors were married men and that 13% had been divorced at least one
time. In general, marital stress negatively affects marital satisfaction as well as physical and
mental health (Hoyt, Fincham, McCullough, Maio, & Davila, 2005; McLeland & Sutton,
2005). In addition, level of marital satisfaction was a factor in pastoral inﬁdelity (Thoburn
& Whitman, 2004). Moreover, Whisman, Dixon, and Johnson (1997) found that therapists
considered inﬁdelity as one of the most difﬁcult problems to treat. Clearly, an act of pastor
inﬁdelity is a stressor that has the potential to destroy the pastor’s marriage and to affect many
members within a community of faith. Sutton and Thomas (2005a) found that experienced
pastors believed that the successful restoration of a male pastor’s marriage following sexual
activity with a congregant would be greater for a younger rather than a middle-aged pastor.
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 649
There can be many reasons for a spouse to remain in a marriage following an act of inﬁdelity.
What is the effect on congregants when a pastor’s spouse remains in a relationship that has
been damaged by an extramarital relationship? To answer this question, we included the
response of the pastor’s spouse (remain in the marriage or seek a divorce) as a variable in
the ﬁrst study.
Spirituality, forgiveness, and restoration
More than 100 years ago, James (1902) wrote about the relationship between psychology and
religion. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in psychology and religion with an
emphasis on the importance of spirituality to human well-being. Richards and Bergin (1997)
provided broad guidance, including a model, for the role of spirituality in counseling and
psychotherapy. Worthington and Sandage (2001) reviewed nine existing studies on religion
and psychotherapy and urged clinicians to be sensitive to the importance of spirituality for
highly religious clients. Other researchers (Hathaway, Scott, & Garver, 2004) found that
clinicians minimally considered client spirituality in clinical practice. Further, Miller and
Thoresen (2003) provided an overview of research on spirituality and health and described
many problems including a lack of a clear distinction between the concepts of spirituality and
religion in the psychology literature. In fact, they noted a common ﬁnding that researchers
reduced spirituality or religiosity to a measure of church attendance. In this article, we follow
the lead of Miller and Thoresen and consider spirituality as a multidimensional concept that
involves more than the practices of religion, but spirituality may include observable evidence
such as church attendance and participation in prayer and other religious activities.
Although there is a long history of interest in religion and psychology, the focus on
discovering empirical relationships between spirituality and psychological variables is recent
(e.g., Hathaway, Scott, & Garver, 2004; Worthington & Sandage, 2001). Therefore, it is
not surprising that we found few studies describing the relationships among spirituality,
forgiveness, and restoration. From a theoretical perspective, forgiveness has been examined
in the context of Christian traditions (Marty, 1998) and Jewish traditions (Dorff, 1998)as
well as in relation to religious coping (Pargament & Rye, 1998). In an empirical study,
Edwards et al. (2002) found a positive relationship between religious faith and forgiveness.
They operationally deﬁned religious faith using the Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith
Questionnaire (Plante & Boccaccini, 1997) and measured forgiveness based on the Heartland
Forgiveness Scale (Thompson et al., 2005). Rye (2005) reviewed the results of religious and
secular forgiveness interventions and found no consistent differences. However, he noted that
participants’ remarks suggested that many drew upon their religious traditions regardless of
the type of intervention they received. Given the rather obvious role of forgiveness in the
history of many religions (Rye, 2005), the advice of Finkel et al. (2002) to include measures
of spirituality in forgiveness and relationship research is timely.
One area of growing interest in the psychology of religion has been the application of
attachment theory (e.g., Bowlby, 1982) to the study of the attachment relationship between
people and God (e.g., Rowatt & Kirkpatrick, 2002; Kirkpatrick, 1997). Extending the con-
ceptual work of Ainsworth (1989) and Kirkpatrick (1998), Beck and McDonald (2004)and
McDonald, Beck, Allison, and Norsworthy (2005) explored attachment to God and attach-
ment to parents using the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI; Beck & McDonald, 2004).
The AGI operationally deﬁned the attachment relationship in terms of avoidance of God
and anxiety toward God. Researchers would be unreasonable to limit the study of person-
God relationships to the attachment model operationally deﬁned by the AGI; however, the
650 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
attachment studies illustrated one aspect of potential multidimensional methods that re-
searchers can employ to explore the relationship between spiritual and psychological vari-
ables. Given this context for spirituality, we elected to examine two direct measures of spir-
ituality in addition to collecting background information. Speciﬁcally, we assessed strength
of religious faith and attachment to God along with measures of forgiveness and restoration.
Research overview and hypotheses
Our purpose was to explore factors related to the restoration of clergy who have committed
a transgression within a faith community that resulted in a loss of position. Speciﬁcally,
we wanted to build on previous research (Sutton & Thomas, 2005a) that identiﬁed type of
offense and age as factors that could affect restoration attitudes. In these studies, we explored
gender, spousal support, forgiveness, spirituality, and various types of pastor transgression.
We also considered several participant characteristics that could affect their attitudes toward
restoring a pastor.
In Study 1, we manipulated youth-pastor gender (man, woman) and spousal support
(remained married, divorced) following a sexual relationship between the pastor and a
congregant. All relationships were heterosexual. We included participant gender as a quasi-
independent variable and measured forgiveness and restoration responses. We hypothesized
that gender (pastor, participant, or both in interaction) would have an effect on restoration,
but we did not predict a direction. In addition, we hypothesized that the participants would
more likely favor restoration if the spouse were supportive (i.e., did not seek a divorce).
Finally, we included measures of spirituality and dispositional forgiveness to explore the
relationship of these variables to restoration. We hypothesized that spirituality would be
signiﬁcantly related to dispositional forgiveness and that both spirituality and forgiveness
would be signiﬁcantly associated with restoration. Lastly, we hypothesized that men and
women would be similar on measures of spirituality and forgiveness because we had no
research to support differences.
In Study 2, we used a correlational strategy to examine gender differences in association
with dispositional forgiveness on restoration. Speciﬁcally we hypothesized that women and
men would have different views regarding support for restoration depending on the type
of transgression and their level of dispositional forgiveness (high or low). In addition, we
hypothesized that people who were generally more disposed toward forgiveness would be
more likely to favor restoration than those who were less disposed toward forgiveness.
As in Study 1, we measured spirituality to explore the relationship between spirituality,
forgiveness, and restoration. We hypothesized that spirituality would be signiﬁcantly related
to both forgiveness and restoration. We continued to expect similar scores for men and
women on the measures of spirituality and forgiveness.
The major purpose of Study 1 was to explore the relationship of gender to restoration
attitudes. Speciﬁcally, we were interested in whether pastor gender or participant gender
would be associated with the restoration attitudes expressed by the participants. Because
the participants were young adults, we prepared hypothetical cases in which the pastor
was a youth pastor. The participants were congregants in a protestant denomination that
includes women as pastors and would have seen both men and women speak in student
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 651
chapels. Thus, we were able to study gender from two perspectives: A pastor’s gender and
the participant’s gender. In addition, we varied the reaction of the spouse within the narrative
as supportive (remained married following the transgression) or nonsupportive (pursued
divorce). Moreover, as noted above, we included measures of dispositional forgiveness,
spirituality, and background variables that may be related to restoration attitudes.
Participants and design
Sixty-seven volunteers (23 men, 44 women; mean age=18.84 years; SD =.91) participated
in the experiment. They were mostly of European descent (73%) with 22% reporting other
and 2% not reporting. Most (91%) were undergraduates in their ﬁrst two years of college.
Less than half (37%) reported knowing a pastor who had a problem that affected ministry
and 26.9% reported knowing a pastor who had a sexual problem while in the ministry. Two
participants were ministers, and 15 were children of ministers.
We used a between-groups design and presented four narratives that varied pastor gender
(man, woman) and spousal support following transgression (marriage continued or ended in
divorce). The third variable was the gender of the participant.
Materials and procedure
In Midwestern Christian university classrooms, participants completed consent forms, read
the hypothetical narratives, and completed the dependent measures. They were debriefed
and thanked by a research assistant.
We manipulated pastor gender by referring to the pastor as a man or woman in the ﬁrst
few words and by using appropriate pronouns throughout the one-paragraph narratives. In
addition, we manipulated spousal support of the pastor by explicitly stating whether the
marriage continued or ended in a divorce. We identiﬁed variables that could affect attitudes
toward restoration and held them constant in the narratives (e.g., pastor age , length of
extramarital relationship [three months], apologetic response of the pastor). Following is the
narrative for the male youth pastor whose wife agreed to remain in the relationship:
A 26-year-old man worked as a youth pastor. He worked closely with a young woman
on several special projects. On one occasion, he took her home and left her residence
just as her husband came home unexpectedly during a workday. After speaking to
his wife about the unusual visit, she confessed to feeling terribly upset about how
things had changed between her and the youth pastor in the last three months. They
had often worked together on special projects and discussed how much they had in
common. Their visits had become distinctly romantic and sexual in the past month. The
husband was both angry and devastated when he learned of the relationship. Fearing
what he might do if he confronted the youth pastor, he called a church board member
who subsequently met with the full board and the pastor. The youth pastor appeared
overwhelmed by guilt and confessed to having an affair with the woman. He afﬁrmed
the woman’s story in essential details and apologized for his behavior. He had no prior
history of unfaithfulness. Initially the youth pastor’s wife of three years was distraught
and was advised to seek individual counseling. She spent a month away at a relative’s
home before returning to her husband. After two months, she agreed to participate with
her husband in a rehabilitation program.
652 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
Each participant read only one narrative and completed a global rating of overall restoration
and Likert-type items that addressed attitudes of forgiveness and restoration toward the youth
pastor. The items were similar to those used by Sutton and Thomas (2005a). The global item
read: “Based on the situation presented, please give us your overall rating of the most
reasonable outcome for the youth pastor.” The ratings for the global item ranged from a
rating of one (no restoration to any public or nonpublic ministry) to seven (full restoration
to the same public ministry). Following administration, we organized the Likert-type items
into two groups based on content and correlational analysis. All items were rated on a seven-
point scale from one (very strongly agree) to seven (very strongly disagree). Three items
included pastoral forgiveness and restoration (PFR; coefﬁcient alpha =.92) and three items
referred to pastor restoration (PR) without including the concept of forgiveness (coefﬁcient
alpha =.60). An example of a PFR item is: “The victim or victims offended by the person
need to forgive the person before the person can be restored to the same public ministry
position.” An example of a PR item is: “The person should be restored to a similar ministry
position with supervision.” High scores (e.g., 6, 7) indicate a highly favorable attitude, and
group scores were averaged for ease of comparison.
Following the recommendation of Finkel et al. (2002), we measured spirituality because it
may be a factor affecting forgiveness ratings. We used the abbreviated edition of the Santa
Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (ASCSRFQ; Plante, Vallaeys, Sherman, &
Wallston, 2002). The ASCSRFQ is a ﬁve–item scale by which participants rate their level
of agreement with statements such as “My religious faith is extremely important to me” or
“I look to my faith as a source of comfort.” In previous studies, coefﬁcient alpha had been
reasonable. For example, Hoover and Sutton (2005) reported the same alpha value that we
obtained (.83). In the four studies reported by Plante et al. (2002), the means ranged from
13.56 to 19.2. The 5-item measure correlated with the longer 10-item measure in the range
of r=.95 to .99 among four samples. For the 67 participants in our sample, the scores were
negatively skewed (M=18.06, SD =2.37, skew =−1.89) and leptokurtic (4.71).
In addition, we assessed forgiveness as a dispositional trait using the DeShea Willingness
to Forgive Scale (DWTFS; DeShea, 2003). The DWTFS requires participants to read and
respond to 12 scenarios based on their willingness to forgive the offender in a given scenario.
The scenarios included a range of situations that would be familiar to young adults (e.g.,
unpaid loan, rejection by dating partner) and thus was suitable for our participants. The scale
response options range from zero (not at all willing to forgive) to six (completely willing to
forgive). DeShea (2003) found that the results of factor analysis supported one factor. She
reported coefﬁcient alphas of .91 (M=26.96, SD =13.12) and .89 in two studies. In our
study alpha was .92 (M=38.60, SD =12.86).
Results and discussion
Measures of skew and kurtosis were acceptable for the dependent measures. Table 1con-
tains the means and standard deviations by gender for the dependent measures. In addi-
tion, we examined the relationship between several demographic variables (participant age,
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 653
Tab l e 1 Study 1: Means and standard deviations of dependent variables by gender
Female participant Male participant
Pastor Male (n=24) Female (n=19) Male (n=9) Female (n=14)
variables Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
PR 3.15 .82 2.83 1.03 2.22 1.01 3.43 .99
PFR 4.01 1.18 3.39 1.53 4.11 1.86 4.19 1.92
Global 3.12 1.39 2.95 1.35 2.78 1.64 3.22 1.63
Note. PR is a 7-point measure of pastor restoration. PFR is a 7-point measure of pastor forgiveness and
restoration. Global is a single 7-point rating of overall favorability toward restoration.
relationship status, experience with a pastor who had a problem [including type of problem]
in the ministry, and whether the participant was related to a minister) that we thought might
affect the outcomes and the dependent measures and found no signiﬁcant relationships
We examined the measures of spirituality (ASCSRFQ) and dispositional forgiveness
(DWTFS) for gender differences. For the ASCSRFQ, men (n=23, M=17.48, SD =2.52)
were similar to women (n=44, M=18.36, SD =2.26), t(65) =−1.46, p=.15. In addition,
for the DWTFS, men (n=23, M=37.24, SD =15.44) were also similar to women (n=44,
M=39.30, SD =11.42), t(65) =−.62, p=.54.
We conducted a three-way (pastor gender ×supportive spouse ×participant gender)
MANOVA and found signiﬁcance for the pastor gender×participant gender interaction,
Wilks’s =.871, F(2, 57) =4.23, p=.02, η2=.13. The main effects and other interactions
were not signiﬁcant (ps>.05). Because the supportive spouse variable contributed so little
to the model (η2=.02) and reduced the cell sizes, we reanalyzed the data to focus on the two
gender conditions. The two-factor (gender ×gender) MANOVA revealed little change from
the three-factor MANOVA for the signiﬁcant gender ×gender interaction, Wilks’s =.866,
F(2, 61) =4.72, p=.01, η2=.13. Follow-up ANOVAs indicated the interaction effect was
not evident for items that measured both forgiveness and restoration (p>.05), but was
evident for those items that measured solely restoration, F(1, 62) =9.39, p=.00, η2=.13.
Women were signiﬁcantly less willing to restore a female pastor (M=2.83, SD =1.03) than
amalepastor(M=3.43, SD =.99) and men were signiﬁcantly less willing to restore a male
pastor (M=2.22, SD =1.01) than a female pastor (M=3.15, SD =.82). An ANOVA for the
global restoration item did not yield signiﬁcant results (p>.05).
In addition to the experimental manipulation, we wished to explore the relationship of
two participant characteristics (spirituality, forgiving disposition) to restoration. Thus, we
began by examining the correlations between the measures of spirituality (ASCSRFQ),
dispositional forgiveness (DWTFS) and restoration (PR: See Table 2). For our sample,
spirituality was strongly related to a general willingness to forgive (r=.37, p=.002) and
remained so (r=−.38, p=.002) after data transformation (square root and reﬂection) to
attenuate skew and kurtosis. One ASCSRFQ item (item 3) may be more desirable than others
because the skew and kurtosis did not require an adjustment and it was strongly associated
654 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
Tab l e 2 Study 1: Correlations, means, and standard deviations
Measure 1 2 3 MSDn
1. Abbreviated Santa Clara Strength
of Religious Faith Questionnaire
– .366∗∗ .174 18.06 2.37 67
2. Willingness to Forgive Scale
– .305∗∗ 38.60 12.86 67
3. Restoration (PR) – – 2.99 1.00 66
Note. ∗∗Signiﬁcant at .01 (one-tailed). Measures: 1. Abbreviated Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith
Questionnaire, 2. deShea Willingness to Forgive Scale, 3. pastor restoration.
with willingness to forgive (r=.35, p=.004) even when we used a more stringent pvalue
(.01) to reduce the risk of a Type I error. Neither the 5-item ASCSRFQ nor item 3 was
signiﬁcantly associated with restoration (p>.05), but willingness to forgive was signiﬁcantly
associated with restoration (r=.31, p=.01). At this point, we computed regression equations
with restoration as the criterion variable and the gender ×gender interactions entered in the
ﬁrst block followed by willingness to forgive and spirituality in the second block. As expected,
based on the MANOVA, the ﬁrst model with gender ×gender interactions explained a
signiﬁcant portion of the variance in restoration (R=.38, R2=.14, R2
adj =.10) although the
female-pastor to male-participant group interaction was dropped from the model. Only the
male-pastor to male-participant group term was signiﬁcant (B=−.321, t=−2.5, p=.02).
In the second model, willingness to forgive was retained (R=.46, R2=.21,R2
adj =.16) and
the change in R2was signiﬁcant (R2=.07, Fchange (1, 61) =5.45, p=.02). In model 2,
both the male-pastor to male-participant group term (B=−.28, t=−2.27, p=.03) and
willingness to forgive (B=−.27, t=2.33, p=.02) were signiﬁcant. As expected from the
intercorrelations, spirituality did not signiﬁcantly contribute to the model.
The data indicate that gender contributes to an understanding of restoration attitudes toward
pastors who had a sexual relationship with a congregant. However, the relationship is not
simple because congregants are generally less favorable toward pastors of their same gender.
We used the phrase less favorable because the ratings were on a 7-point scale and all means
were below the scale midpoint of 4.0. In addition, the congregants appeared to discern
between forgiveness and restoration in that when they rated items that included both the
concept of forgiveness and the concept of restoration, there were no differences among the
groups. In contrast, differences were evident when the items only contained the concept of
restoration to ministry. In terms of the hypotheses, we were able to ﬁnd support for a gender
effect, but this was as an interaction effect and not a simple effect. We did not ﬁnd support for
our hypothesis about spousal support. The failure to ﬁnd an effect for spousal support could
be related to the limited marital experience of the predominantly single-student sample.
The results from our additional exploration indicate support for our hypotheses regarding
a signiﬁcant relationship between spirituality and dispositional forgiveness and between
dispositional forgiveness and pastoral restoration. We did not ﬁnd support for our hypothesis
regarding a signiﬁcant relationship between spirituality and restoration. The data supported
our hypotheses regarding gender similarity on measures of spirituality and forgiveness.
Finally, we found that both gender and dispositional forgiveness contribute to an explanation
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 655
of restoration. The gender emphasis seems to be weighted toward the attitudes of men toward
men rather than other gender combinations.
In Study 2, we used a correlational strategy to examine the relationship among gender,
dispositional forgiveness, and restoration attitudes. We assessed the disposition to forgive
using the DeShea Willingness to Forgive Scale (DeShea, 2003) and divided the women and
men into high- and low-forgiveness groups using a median split. Each participant read and
rated ten scenarios containing common transgressions likely to affect a pastor’s leadership
within a faith community. We analyzed the data using a between-groups analysis of variance
procedure where participant gender (man or woman) and level of forgiveness (high or
low) formed a 2 ×2 design and the restoration ratings following the various scenarios
were the dependent variables. As in Study 1, we gathered additional information about
the participants’ spirituality and background to explore relationships among spirituality,
forgiveness, and pastoral restoration.
Participants and design
The participants were 78 undergraduate students in introduction to psychology classes. Two
students did not complete the demographic information and were removed from the study
leaving 76 volunteers (36 men, 40 women). Four of the participants were clergy and 24 were
children of clergy. The mean age of the participants was 18.78 years (SD =.97). The mean
education level of participants was 13.08 years (SD =1.58). Of the 76 participants, 11 were
from minority ethnic groups, including African American (n=3), Asian (n=1), Hispanic
(n=5), and Native American (n=2). Less than half (29.5%) reported knowing a pastor who
had a relationship problem that affected ministry and 20.5% reported knowing a pastor who
had a sexual problem while in the ministry.
Materials and procedure
Participants, who signed a consent form, completed the packet of measures and a de-
mographic form at the end of a class period. They were debriefed and thanked for their
As in Study 1, we measured dispositional forgiveness using the DeShea Willingness to
Forgive Scale (DWTFS; DeShea, 2003). In this study, coefﬁcient alpha was .88. We used the
median DWTFS score to divide the participants into two groups (high and low willingness
to forgive). We also included the ASCSRFQ (Plante et al., 2002) to measure the strength of
religious faith. In this study, coefﬁcient alpha was .83.
We added the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI: Beck & McDonald, 2004)asanad-
ditional measure of the spiritual relationship between a participant and God. The measure
has two subscales with acceptable alpha values (Avoidance .85 and Anxiety .83). Each
subscale has 14 items rated on a Likert-type scale ranging from 1-Disagree Strongly to
656 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
7-Agree Strongly. In their student sample (Beck & McDonald, 2004), the AGI means (Anx-
iety M=47.03, SD =13.11; Avoidance M=41.06, SD =11.42) were higher than for their
community sample (Anxiety M=36.74, SD =15.03; Avoidance M=36.91, SD =13.83).
We measured restoration by scoring participant responses to ten transgression scenarios
in which a pastor violated a common social norm (Sutton & Thomas, 2004). There were
no indications of pastor gender in the scenarios. The Likert-type ratings ranged from one
(no restoration to ministry) to seven (full restoration to the position previously held). The
transgression scenarios included violations of personal character norms (anger management
problem, pornography), substance abuse (alcohol abuse, pain medication abuse, marijuana
abuse), interpersonal issues of inﬁdelity (inﬁdelity lasting a year, a second offense of in-
ﬁdelity, an inappropriate romantic relationship), child abuse, and ﬁnancial irresponsibility
(one item about embezzlement).
Results and discussion
Measures of skew and kurtosis were acceptable for the dependent measures. Table 3contains
the means and standard deviations by gender and level of forgiveness for the restoration
measures. In addition, we examined the relationship between several demographic variables
(participant age, experience with a pastor who had a problem in the ministry, and whether
the participant was related to a pastor) and the dependent measures and found no signiﬁcant
We explored the relationships between the measures of spirituality, a forgiving disposi-
tion, and restoration (see Table 4). First, we computed the intercorrelations between the mea-
sures of spirituality (ASCSRFQ, AGI), dispositional forgiveness (DWTFS) and restoration.
Strength of religious faith (ASCSRFQ) was not signiﬁcantly related to an anxious attachment
to God (AGI Anxiety subscale) but it was inversely related to an avoidant attachment to God
(AGI Avoidance subscale; r=−.309, p=.003). Strength of religious faith (ASCSRFQ)
was not signiﬁcantly related to dispositional forgiveness (DWTFS; r=.04, p=.35) or any
of the restoration measures (all ps>.05). As expected, the AGI subscales of avoidance and
Tab l e 3 Study 2: Group means and standard deviations of dependent variables
High forgivers Low forgivers
Men (n=19) Women (n=19) Men (n=17) Women (n=21)
Offense Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Adultery 1 year 3.68 1.70 3.37 1.77 2.65 1.80 2.52 1.50
Adultery 2nd offense 3.16 1.77 2.95 2.09 2.12 1.45 2.05 1.50
Romantic affair 4.95 1.51 4.63 1.42 3.94 1.64 3.52 1.66
Alcohol 4.58 1.46 4.63 1.54 3.65 1.77 4.52 1.86
Pain Meds 5.16 1.61 5.26 1.28 3.65 1.77 4.52 1.78
Marijuana 4.79 1.71 3.79 1.81 2.65 1.66 3.81 1.91
Embezzlement 3.84 1.74 4.42 1.77 3.24 1.44 4.19 1.69
Anger 4.68 1.60 4.00 1.76 3.29 1.76 3.95 1.80
Pornography 4.53 1.87 3.74 1.97 3.18 2.10 3.52 1.86
Child Abuse 4.11 2.11 2.68 1.86 2.29 2.08 2.16 1.50
Note. All 10 offense scenarios were rated on a 7-point Likert type scale where high scores reﬂected
favorable restoration ratings toward a pastor whose gender was not reported.
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 657
Tab l e 4 Study 2: Intercorrelations for the Measures
Measure12 345678 910
1. AGI Anx – .428∗∗ −.077 −.117 .160 .085 −.061 .198∗.183 .035
2. AGI Avoid – – −.292∗∗ −.309∗∗ .026 −.021 −.157 .074 −.032 −.063
3. DWTFS – – – .044 .446∗∗ .348∗∗ .270∗∗ .272∗∗ .327∗∗ .346∗∗
4. ASCSRFQ – – – – −.017 .084 .099 .072 .059 .090
5. Inﬁdelity – – – – – .489∗∗ .279∗∗ .456∗∗ .882∗∗ .692∗∗
6. Substance – – – – – – .489∗∗ .590∗∗ .635∗∗ .544∗∗
7. Embezzle – – – ––––.279
∗∗ .418∗∗ .266∗∗
8.Anger––– ––––– .419∗∗ .518∗∗
9.Porn––– ––––– – .558∗∗
Note. ∗Signiﬁcant at .05, ∗∗Signiﬁcant at .01 (one-tailed). Measures: 1. AGI Anxiety, 2. AGI Avoidance, 3. DeShea Willingness to Forgive, 4. Abbreviated Santa Clara Strength
of Religious Faith Questionnaire. Items 5–10 are restorations ratings from the restoration scenarios: 5. Inﬁdelity, 6. Substance abuse, 7. Embezzlement, 8. Anger, 9. Pornography,
10. Child abuse.
658 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
anxious styles of attachment were positively correlated with each other (r=.428, p=.00).
Avoidance was negatively associated with dispositional forgiveness (r=−.292, p=.005),
but there was no signiﬁcant relationship between anxious attachment and dispositional
forgiveness (r=−.077, p=.25). In addition, avoidance was not signiﬁcantly associated
with any of the restoration measures (all ps>.05). In contrast, anxious attachment was sig-
niﬁcantly associated with responses to pastoral problems of anger (p<.05) and pornography
As in Study 1, we examined the measures of spirituality and dispositional forgiveness
for gender differences. On strength of religious faith (ASCSRFQ), men (n=36, M=17.46,
SD =3.45) were similar to women (n=40, M=17.63, SD =3.27), t(74) =−.22, p=.83.
Likewise, on willingness to forgive (DWTFS), men (n=36, M=47.39, SD =11.80) were
similar to women (n=40, M=45.13, SD =12.00), t(74) =.83, p=.41. Moreover, there
were no gender differences for the scores on the two subscales of the Attachment to God
Inventory. The results for the AGI Avoidance subscale were: men (n=36, M=41.67,
SD =13.04) and women (n=38, M=38.16, SD =10.80), t(72) =1.26, p=.21. Finally,
the results for the AGI Anxiety subscale were: men (n=36, M=42.78, SD =13.57) and
women (n=40, M=45.08, SD =12.92), t(74) =−.76, p=.45.
We conducted the main analyses using analysis of variance models to extend our exploration
of gender in a between-groups design. We included two levels of dispositional forgiveness
(high and low based on a median split of the DWTFS scores). We examined the role of
spirituality in the model using two measures as covariates (ASCSRFQ, AGI Anxiety). We
did not include the avoidance subscale because it was not signiﬁcantly associated with
any restoration measure and because we wanted to avoid problems of multicollinearity and
confounding caused by the shared variance with the Anxiety subscale.
The MANCOVA for the three measures of inﬁdelity (affair one-year, second affair, ro-
mantic relationship) revealed a signiﬁcant overall association between level of forgiveness
and restoration (Wilks’s =.871, F(3, 68) =3.37, p=.02, η2=.13) but no association for
gender and no signiﬁcant interaction (ps>.05). Follow-up ANCOVAs indicated signiﬁcant
differences between high and low forgivers on their restoration ratings for the three inﬁdelity
scenarios (all ps<.05). The covariates did not signiﬁcantly contribute to the model.
The MANCOVA for substance abuse revealed signiﬁcant differences for level of forgive-
ness (Wilks’s =.850, F(3, 68) =3.99, p=.01, η2=.15) but not gender (p>.05) or the
interaction. The covariate measure of religious faith was signiﬁcant (Wilks’s =.891, F
(3, 68) =2.77, p=.05, η2=.10). Follow-up ANCOVAs indicated that the type of substance
abuse made a difference. The participants were similar in their responses toward alcohol
abuse (p>.05). Level of forgiveness made a signiﬁcant difference for abuse of pain medica-
tion (F(1, 70) =6.73, p=.01, η2=.09) and abuse of marijuana (F(1, 70) =8.69, p=.004,
η2=.11), but there were no signiﬁcant differences for gender. Although forgiveness level
accounted for differences in responding to marijuana abuse (p<.01), the gender-forgiveness
interaction was signiﬁcant (F(1, 70) =5.39, p=.02, η2=.07). As can be seen in Table 3,
women classiﬁed as high or low forgivers were not very different in their restoration scores;
however, men were signiﬁcantly divergent. Men in the high forgiveness group were more
favorable toward restoration than women were, and men in the low forgiveness group were
less favorable toward restoration than women were.
We used four 2 ×2 ANCOVAs to examine restoration responses toward pastors in-
volved in other behaviors that may affect ministerial effectiveness (embezzlement, anger,
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 659
pornography, and child abuse). There was a marginal gender association for embezzlement
(F(1, 70) =3.61, p=.06, η2=.05), but no signiﬁcant differences for level of forgiveness
or the interaction and neither covariate contributed to this model. Level of forgiveness was
marginally related to restoring pastors following a report of pornography (p=.058), but there
were no signiﬁcant differences for gender or the interaction (ps>.05). Anxious attachment
to God was marginally signiﬁcant (p=.09). Level of forgiveness was signiﬁcantly related
to restoring pastors with an anger problem (p=.05), but there were no signiﬁcant differ-
ences for gender or the interaction (ps>.05) and neither covariate contributed signiﬁcantly
to the model. Both level of forgiveness (F(1, 70) =8.91, p=.00, η2=.11) and gender
(F(1, 70) =3.99, p=.05, η2=.05) were signiﬁcantly associated with restoration responses
toward a pastor involved in child abuse but, there was no interaction effect (p>.05). Neither
covariate achieved signiﬁcance.
The results support our hypothesis regarding a general positive relationship between partic-
ipants’ dispositional forgiveness and their level of support for restoring a pastor to ministry
following common transgressions. In contrast, we obtained mixed results for hypotheses
about signiﬁcant gender relationships, which were limited to certain situations and in some
cases interacted with level of forgiveness to qualify the restoration response. Women were
more favorable than men were when considering restoration of a pastor involved in embezzle-
ment. In contrast, women were less favorable than men were when considering restoration of
a pastor following child abuse, but level of dispositional forgiveness was the primary source
of inﬂuence. The gender response toward substance abuse issues is complex. Gender does
not make a difference regarding alcohol abuse or abuse of pain medication. However, men
were polarized in their reactions toward a pastor who abused marijuana. The men were more
favorable toward restoration than were women in the high-forgiveness group and less favor-
able than were women toward restoration in the low-forgiveness group. Men and women
were similar in their attitudes toward restoration for pastors involved in inﬁdelity, pornogra-
phy, and for those with an anger problem. Overall, the measures of spirituality contributed
little to understanding the relationship among gender, forgiveness, and restoration attitudes.
We suspect this limited contribution is due to at least two factors. First, the sample is from a
conservative evangelical population that may have a more restricted range of values on the
spirituality measures than would a more diverse sample. Second, the dominant role of a for-
giving disposition may have incorporated an aspect of spirituality. Although the forgiveness
scale is not explicitly spiritual or religious, the concept of forgiveness is clearly a common
religious value (Rye, 2005). The data supported our hypotheses that men and women would
score similarly on measures of spirituality and forgiveness.
Our general purpose was to extend previous work on attitudes toward restoring pastors
following acts of transgression within faith communities. One speciﬁc focus of these studies
was to explore the relationship of gender to the restoration outcome. We examined this in
two ways. First, we examined pastor gender and participant gender in an experiment that
allowed us to manipulate pastor gender through case narratives, and second, we examined
participant gender related to several types of offense in a correlational design. A second
660 Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663
focus was to examine the relationship of the participants’ spirituality, forgiving disposition,
and their restoration attitudes.
Does gender matter? The short answer is, yes. Of course, a more reasoned answer requires
us to consider the conditions under which gender makes a difference in pastoral restoration.
In the ﬁrst study, we found that given the same transgression, young men and women respond
differently depending on the gender of the pastor who committed the transgression. There was
a cross-gender effect. Men were less favorable toward men than toward women, and women
were less favorable toward women than toward men. However, in the second study, the gender
differences were limited. Although we found differences between men and women, the strong
association of a forgiving disposition with restoration was the primary factor accounting for
the score differences. That is, a forgiving disposition was signiﬁcantly related to restoration
ratings and accounted for more of a difference than did gender. Furthermore, we found that
gender is not associated with a difference for spirituality as assessed by religious faith or
attachment to God, nor is gender associated with a difference for a forgiving disposition.
What is the role of spirituality in forgiveness and restoration? The data for spirituality are
mixed. We obtained different ﬁndings for the relationship between the measure of religious
faith (ASCSRFQ) and dispositional forgiveness (DWTFS) depending on the study. The
samples were both drawn from students at a conservative Christian university and may
be expected to report high levels of strength of religious faith that could have attenuated
the correlations. One possible reason for the difference between Study 1 and Study 2 was the
exposure in Study 1 to different experimental conditions before completing any measures.
It could be that the differential exposure to the case narratives served as a priming stimulus
that encouraged students to draw on their spiritual resources when responding to the pastor’s
transgression, and thus the experimental manipulation may be the third variable in accounting
for the signiﬁcant relationship between spirituality and forgiveness. This would be similar
to Rye’s (2005) ﬁnding that people report drawing on their religious resources when in
forgiveness interventions. Another explanation for the lack of a signiﬁcant relationship
between religious faith and dispositional forgiveness in Study 2 could be due to the collection
of measures. In Study 2, the participants completed the AGI in addition to the religious faith
measure (ASCSRFQ). The completion of multiple spirituality measures could have affected
the results in an unknown way. Finally, we note that the means in our samples were similar
to those reported by Plante et al. (2002) for their religious faith measure, but the means in
our sample were considerably higher on the Willingness to Forgive Scale than in DeShea’s
(2003) original sample. This difference in means may suggest that for our samples, the
Willingness to Forgive Scale reﬂected a dimension of spirituality. At least the difference
suggests that the samples are dissimilar in this respect and suggests the importance of
routinely examining psychometric data of the measures used in different studies. Study 2
did reveal signiﬁcant relationships between another measure of spirituality and dispositional
forgiveness. Participants who were more avoidant toward God in their attachment style
(AGI attachment subscale) were less willing to forgive (DWTFS). Thus, there remains
an association between spirituality, albeit based on a different dimension of spirituality,
and dispositional forgiveness. Clearly, the constructs of spirituality and forgiveness are
multidimensional constructs and the available measures are relatively new. On the one
hand, the data from our samples support the strong internal consistency ﬁndings reported
by the scale developers. On the other hand, both of these constructs require considerable
research before we can build adequate models of the relationship between spirituality and
The positive relationship between dispositional forgiveness and restoration attitudes was
consistent for both studies. This makes intuitive sense and lends support to the construct
Pastoral Psychol (2007) 55:645–663 661
validity of the measures. In addition, the ﬁndings support those researchers who have
attempted to distinguish among the concepts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restora-
tion (e.g., Fincham, Beach, & Davila, 2004; Sutton & Thomas, 2005b). That is, our studies
support the existence of a positive relationship between dispositional forgiveness and restora-
tion, which suggests that dispositional forgiveness may lead to the development of an attitude
that favors restoration, which could eventually lead to restorative action. However, the mod-
erate correlation suggests that the concepts of forgiveness and restoration remain distinctive
enough that other variables, such as gender (this article), type of offense and age of the pastor
(Sutton & Thomas, 2005a), and social inﬂuence (Pop, Sutton, & Jones, 2005) account for
additional variance. Other studies are needed to explore the relationship of forgiveness to
restoration in other samples, with other participant and situational variables, and with other
Our studies are limited by the usual concerns of using undergraduate participants and
self-report measures. Nevertheless, this age sample has intrinsic value because they are part
of various faith communities. Some had experience in churches where pastors had a problem.
In addition, some were children of pastors. Moreover, the situations in Study 1 described a
youth pastor to increase the relevance of the issues for the sample. We do not speculate that
these ﬁndings would generalize to other age groups or to populations who do not share the
conservative values of our sample.
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