Pastors who commit adultery should withdraw from the pulpit but only temporarily, according to most church leaders surveyed in a new poll.
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Protestant pastors and found that just over a quarter (27%) believe that pastors should be permanently disqualifiied from public ministry if they commit adultery.
The rest believed that adulterous pastors should step away from the pulpit for a period of time only before making their return.
One in 10 say the pastors should be removed from public ministry for at least two years, while others (16%) think it should be at least a year. Seven per cent think at least five years is an appropriate length of time out of the public eye.
Close to a third (31%) said they were not sure of the length of time a pastor should be disqualified for.
Pastors of small congregations - those between 50 and 99 people - were more likely to say that adulterous pastors should withdraw permanently (31%) than those of larger churches with between a hundred and 249 members (23%).
Commenting on the findings, LifeWay executive director Scott McConnell said: "Scripture doesn't mince words about adultery.
"From the Ten Commandments, to the apostle Paul's lists of wicked things, to the qualifications for elders listed in 1 Timothy, adultery is not appropriate for a follower of Christ nor a leader of a local church.
"While the Bible is clear that this behavior does not fit a pastor or elder of a church, there is much debate over how long this act would disqualify someone from pastoral ministry."
He went on to say: "Pastors' opinions on the subject are a good barometer for opinions across churches.
"There is widespread disagreement from pastors across denominations, church size, age, race and education levels to quickly restoring pastors who commit adultery to public ministry positions."