Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. has been suspended from Ligonier Ministries after revealing that he visited Ashley Madison, a website which facilitates adulterous affairs, in a "moment of weakness" last year.
"In August 2014, in a moment of weakness, pain, and from an unhealthy curiosity, I visited Ashley Madison. My goal was not to gather research for critical commentary, but to fan the flames of my imagination," wrote the 50-year-old theologian and author.
"I was there long enough to leave an old email address. And within minutes I left, never to return. I did not sign up for their service or interact with any clients. I have always remained faithful to my wife even after her passing," he continued.
"The grace of God's judgment bore its fruit, and by His grace I repented of my sin. By His grace, I have also received His forgiveness, the outworking of His love," he emphasized.
Sproul, who is the son of famed theologian and Ligonier Ministries founder Robert Charles Sproul, revealed that he voluntarily revealed his activity on Ashley Madison to Ligonier Ministries last month, resulting in a year-long suspension.
"I recently informed the board of Ligonier Ministries, which has handled the matter internally, having suspended me until July 1, 2016. I also informed my presbytery which is also handling the matter internally. And now the world is informed," he said.
"My sin, sadly, has impacted those who are innocent - my colleagues, friends, and family. I have and will continue to seek their forgiveness. I covet your prayers," he added.
The pastor went on to argue that the criminal hack of Ashley Madison's database exposing the private information of millions of the website's users has been a blessing in disguise.
"Many Christians have bemoaned the destruction wrought by the Ashley Madison hack. The truth of the matter is that just as Ashley Madison did not create unfaithful hearts, so this hack did not create damning exposure. Rather for some it was a means of His grace," he said.
Sproul's wife died in 2011, and he is a father of eight and grandfather of one.
According to LifeWay Research executive director and Christianity Today blogger Ed Stetzer, Sproul's name is likely among hundreds of other prominent Christian leaders to be released in the Ashley Madison hack. In an article for Christianity Today, he speculates that more than 400 pastors, deacons and more may resign due to the scandal.
"Not everyone on the list signed themselves up," Stetzer writes. "Among those who did, the sin and circumstances will be different. Many likely signed themselves up and didn't actually go through with adultery. Regardless, though, trust has been shattered and hearts have been broken."
Stetzer also provides guidelines for churches affected by the Ashley Madison scandal: "God's grace is sufficient for the shepherd who falls, and the flock left vulnerable," he reminds readers. "We have a Great Shepherd, a Chief Shepherd, who is for us what earthly shepherds can never be: perfect, absolutely trustworthy, and never failing. It is He who leads us beside still waters in and into green pastures. Let us place our faith in Him, and we will find rest for our weary souls."
Meanwhile, Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media, revealed in a statement Monday that its membership continues to grow despite the devastating security breach.
"Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing. This past week alone, hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for the Ashley Madison platform - including 87,596 women," said the statement.
"Last week alone, women sent more than 2.8 million messages within our platform. Furthermore, in the first half of this year the ratio of male members who paid to communicate with women on our service versus the number of female members who actively used their account (female members are not required to pay to communicate with men on Ashley Madison) was 1.2 to 1," the statement continued.
"These numbers are the main reason that Ashley Madison is the number one service for people seeking discreet relationships. We have customers in nearly every zip code in the United States, as well as users in more than 50 countries around the world," it noted.