Texas pastor steps aside over messages with woman that ‘crossed a line’

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Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, appeared to be fighting back tears when he told his congregation on Sunday that he was taking leave — a move prompted by what his church leaders saw as inappropriate messages. between him and a woman who is not his wife.

The leaders determined the messages were not “romantic or sexual,” Chandler explained. “It was that our conversations were unguarded and unwise.”

Chandler and Church officials went into little detail about the nature of the messages. He said both his wife and the husband of the woman he messaged were aware of their communications. But church leaders found the messages too frequent and too familiar, resulting in “crass and silly jokes,” Chandler said.

The pastor said the reports were called into question “several months ago” when a friend of the woman approached him and expressed concern. Chandler, 48, said he raised the concerns to fellow church leaders, who reviewed the messages and advised him to step aside.

Chandler’s abrupt departure is the latest setback for Village Church, about 30 minutes northwest of Dallas, and the Southern Baptist Convention denomination — the nation’s second-largest faith group, of which the Village Church is a member. Earlier this month, the SBC announced that the Justice Department is investigating various branches of its organization. The investigation followed the release of an internal report that found that SBC leaders had been exploiting cases of sexual abuse for two decades.

Also this month, the village church announced that it had settled a lawsuit alleging that one of its ministers had harassed an 11-year-old and that the church was negligent in handling the situation. The criminal case against the minister was dropped. The Church insisted that she had “done no wrong.”

While the church was vague on the details of Chandler’s misconduct, officials made it clear that the leading pastor was not charged with sexual abuse.

His departure is nevertheless a blow to the church where he preached for two decades and became a central, admired figure. The church is home to about 4,500 people, the New York Times reported.

Chandler will also pause his speaking engagements on behalf of Acts 29, an organization dedicated to starting new churches. Chandler serves as chairman and chairman of the board of Acts 29.

In a statement, the church said that Chandler’s “leave is both disciplinary and developmental” and that his return will be determined by the “expectations the elders have set for his development.”

Speaking to the congregation on Sunday, Chandler explained that several months ago, a woman approached him in the church foyer with concern about “how I was [direct messaging] on Instagram with a friend of hers.”

He didn’t think he had done anything wrong because his wife and the wife’s wife were aware of their chats, he said. “Still, there were a few things that [the woman’s friend] said that was disorienting to me,” Chandler said without fleshing out the friend’s comments.

So Chandler took the issue to a few church leaders, who, after reviewing the Instagram conversations, determined that the communication was too frequent and too familiar, Chandler said.

In a statement, the church said it had hired a law firm to review the direct messages, along with Chandler’s full social media history, including text messages and emails. The lawyers concluded that the pastor had violated the church’s social media policy. They also determined that he did not meet the church minister’s standard of being “perfect.” The leaders found that Chandler’s behavior was “a sign of ill health in his life.”

“In this case, although the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line,” the church said. “They revealed that Matt was not using language appropriate for a preacher, and that he was not exhibiting the behavior we would expect from him.”

Even when Chandler announced his leave of absence, people in the crowd shouted their praises for him. Chandler nevertheless expressed regret.

“I’m really ashamed, feel stupid… feel stupid,” Chandler told the council on Sunday, adding: “I’m held to a higher standard and not lived up to that higher standard.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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