On Sunday, author and pastor Matt Chandler announced that he would be indefinitely stepping aside from preaching and teaching at The Village Church following revelations of an inappropriate online relationship with a woman.
Chandler said the relationship was not romantic or sexual in nature. Nevertheless, church elders who reviewed Chandler and the woman’s online communications were “unguarded and unwise.” In an address to his church on Sunday morning, Chandler said he agreed with the elders’ assessment that the communications revealed “something unhealthy.”
“We cannot be a church where anyone is above the Scriptures and above the high heavenly call into Christ Jesus,” Chandler said. “The Word of God holds me to a certain standard. And I fell short.”
The Village Church is large and carries enormous importance among the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is currently undergoing a Department of Justice investigation over its own mishandling of sexual abuse claims.
Chandler says that months ago, he was approached by a woman in the church building who expressed concern about his communications with a friend of hers. According to Chandler, his wife was aware of his online communications with the woman. The woman’s husband was aware of the communications as well. But the friend still thought the conversation was bad and, after recruiting a fellow senior pastor and elder to take a look at the messages, they agreed.
Moreover, a law firm was called in to investigate Chandler’s use of social media, getting full access to his direct messages, emails, texts and calls. That firm hasn’t been identified, but a church statement posted online said they found that Chandler had violated the Village’s policy on social media.
“The concerns were really about frequency and familiarity,” Chandler told the congregation. “We believe in brother-sister relationships here. And yet there was a frequency that moved past that and there was a familiarity that played itself out in coarse and foolish joking. It’s unbefitting to someone in my position.”
The Village congregation met Chandler’s emotional announcement with a lot of verbal affirmation, including a standing ovation when he concluded. At one point, someone shouted “we love you!”
“If I’m honest I’m just really embarrassed,” Chandler said. “Feel stupid. Feel dumb. Feel like I’m embarrassing my wife and kids. Putting a ton of pressure on our staff.”
You can watch the full announcement here.