Bubba, Secret Sin and the Pastorate
Advance Notice: This blog post is about a man who committed suicide a few days ago. While I recognize both the need for people close to this story to grieve and the tragedy around this story, especially for his wife and three kids, all of whom seem to be innocent bystanders who now have to deal with the aftermath, there are some pretty important themes that warrant examination for the church and it’s Christians.
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. -Proverbs 5:21
With a heavy heart, I have been keeping track of the events over the last 10 days or so of F.L. ‘Bubba’ Copeland. If you’re not familiar with Bubba, he was a pastor and local mayor in the Alabama small town of Smith’s Station. In a recent online news article published by Alabama-based 1819 News, it was revealed that Bubba had an online alter ego named Brittini Blaire, who he used to post pictures of himself in women’s clothing, full makeup, and hair. News reports also indicate that Bubba not only posted pictures of himself in women’s makeup hair but also in women’s underwear. Some of these pictures were pretty pornographic in nature. In addition to the pictures of him in women’s underwear and clothing, Copeland’s page also included several memes with transgender and heterosexual pornography. As more and more details are revealed, it’s clear that Bubba had some very severe mental illness going back to his youth, and while all of this is horrible and revolting, there are two parts of this story that have caught my eye: 1. His apparent surprise at the consequences facing him as this secret life was revealed, and 2. How he was able to go so long being a pastor and still commit such serious sin. How he had no one in his life he could talk to about this and get the help he needed is shocking.
In the day after the article was posted, Bubba seemed to not understand how his role as the Pastor of First Baptist Church Phenix City was intimately related to this alter ego. “What I do in private life has nothing to do with what I do in my holy life,” Copeland reportedly told 1819 News. “Does this have any effect on me being mayor, that I sometimes put on a dress or sometimes put on makeup? Does that have anything to do whatsoever with me being mayor or being a pastor?” In addition to the fact that it has everything to do with him being a pastor, he’s conveniently leaving out a bunch of details around activities he was involved in, including posting pornographic photos of himself in women’s lingerie, authoring memes involving him as a transgender woman having sexual relations with other men and online stories he wrote where he kills a local woman to assume her identity, living her life and being married to her husband.
Again, I understand the need to allow his family and his community to grieve. Everything I’ve read about Bubba indicates he was well-loved in his church and in this community. There are a lot of people in his town who are really hurting. But if we in the church don’t use his life as a way to call attention to pastors with secret sins, we’ll be worse for not doing it. While I definitely could write 5000 words about this, here’s a couple of quick hit thoughts that I have:
- For the entirety of his ministry at First Baptist, he was completely unqualified for any of the leadership positions that he held.
Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 give us 22 qualifications for overseers of the church, including pastors and elders. In light of those qualifications, Bubba did not meet many of these qualifications, including being above reproach, being sober-minded, being self-controlled, and being holy and disciplined. In addition to these biblical qualifications, the depravity of his mind and unregenerate behavior made him completely unqualified. It is shocking to think he could serve in his capacity as a Senior Pastor, and not have anyone in his life know him well enough to know about his secret sin, nor any accountability to have someone in his life he could share it with.
2. His overt sin had a serious hold on him
There’s an old Christian saying that goes, ‘Sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay.’ Given the nature and total depravity of his secret sin, this man was completely consumed by sin, and when it was finally revealed, he realized that a holy calling to pastor was completely incompatible with this depravity.
3. As we rose into a position of leadership, there could have been things he could have done to address this sinful behavior and find a path toward mental and spiritual health
The regenerate believer in Christ will be convicted of sin and will seek healing in areas of depraved sin. Sinful human flesh cannot stand in God’s presence. This regeneration happens through the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer’s life. The fact that Bubba struggled with this since his youth indicates he was stuck in this sin for a long time. If he were to have acknowledged this secret sin and sought help, he could have found victory in Jesus in this area of his life. A simple Google search about overcoming sexual sin indicates there are all types of resources available, and it’s not incompatible to think that as a Lead pastor, he could have taken a year sabbatical to go get the help he would need for healing, and come back to his position as pastor.
If you found this post and you’re dealing with a serious secret sin, please find the healing help you need. And if you need someone to talk through this, please feel free to reach out. I’m here to help.