Popular evangelical pastor and author Matt Chandler has announced that he is taking a leave of absence after it was discovered that he was inappropriately messaging a woman (not his wife) on Instagram.
The messages were not sexual and there is no allegation of a sexual affair, however, the messages were apparently bad enough for his megachurch to address the issue publicly and place Chandler on a leave of absence.
From Church Leaders:
On Sunday (August 28), The Village Church (TVC) announced that Matt Chandler would be taking a leave of absence from preaching and teaching following an inappropriate direct messaging relationship with a woman who is not his wife. While not romantic or sexual, Chandler described the messaging relationship as being characterized by "familiarity" and "coarse and foolish joking."
Chandler further described his online behavior as "unguarded and unwise," and his leave of absence is both "disciplinary and developmental." He further expressed his agreement with and submission to the elder board's decision, which came after an independent, third-party investigation.
So, while not explicitly sexual, Chandler was having a flirtatious and "coarse" online relationship with a woman.
This is definitely not living above reproach. Since Chandler has been drifting into being a woke-friendly pastor, however, this scandal may pass by quietly.
The announcement was introduced by fellow TVC pastor Josh Patterson.
"I want to share this with you as I welcome you to our time together," Patterson said. "This is the day the Lord has made. And there's great hope in just that small, simple, little sentence, because it's true. This is the day the Lord has made."
"I do want our hearts to be anchored in that truth, because where we're going with our time today is gonna be hard. This is going to be a challenging service," Patterson went on to say.
Patterson emphasized that TVC has always sought to be a welcoming place that seeks to love God, love people, and make disciples, adding, "There's a phrase we have at this church: it's okay not to be okay; we just don't want to stay there."
This is a gracious approach from a church that, I'm sure, very much admires and respects its celebrity head pastor.
Here's the story from Chandler himself:
"Several months ago, a woman… met me out here in the lobby, and she had some concerns about how I was using the DM function on Instagram to message with one of her friends," Chandler said. "At the time when she brought it up, I saw no issue with it. My wife knew about it. This woman's husband knew about it. And so I kind of pushed against that not being okay. She said some things in that conversation, though, that were really disorienting for me."
Chandler said that following the conversation, he immediately walked back into the auditorium of TVC and brought the matter to elder chairman Jasien Swords and fellow pastor and elder Josh Patterson. He then went home and told his wife, Lauren.
"The accusations brought up some concerns that although my DMing with this woman was not romantic, nor was it ever sexual, it was unguarded and it was unwise," Chandler said. "And the way that played itself out was in a kind of frequency and familiarity that is not wise for someone in my position."
Chandler further explained, "The volume of exchanges and the familiarity, which played itself out in kind of coarse and foolish joking, is just not okay for someone who has been put in the position that God has placed me in."
"And so the elders worked through it and decided — and I think they're right — that my inability to see this for what it was revealed something not right, something unhealthy, in me," Chandler said.
Translation: Chandler's behavior had to be pretty bad for them to make this decision.
They certainly didn't rush into this decision, as it took months to place Chandler on leave.
Chandler's contrition and apology received an ovation, which is... I'll say an "odd" response to an apology and admission of sin.
"Forgive me," Chandler said. "I love you. I'm eager to see what God has for us in this and through this, and have just been preaching redemption for years, and I just believe that we're in it again."
After praying for the congregation, Chandler received an ovation. Patterson came back to the center of the stage and expressed that he wanted to "interpret" the applause, saying, "I hear that as, ‘We love you, and we're with you,'; not as, ‘We condone what has happened.'" His interpretation received another applause.
If this had happened in a church I went to, I would have expected dead silence instead of a round of cheers.
Patterson went on to publicly thank the person who brought forward the concern about Chandler's online behavior. He also expressed that Chandler had brought the concern immediately to the elder board and had willingly submitted to a third-party investigation that required he give complete access to his phone and other devices, technology platforms, and emails.
The investigation revealed that Chandler had violated TVC's social media policies. Further, in this instance, he failed to be above reproach, as he "did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior we expect a leader of our church to have."
There is no timeline for when Chandler will be restored to his position after his immature and inappropriate behavior. There are also no specifics as to what exactly happened outside the vague "I messed up."
When powerful, articulate men are publicly disgraced, it is often oh-so-easy for them to use something like this to their advantage, turning sympathy for themselves into more power for themselves down the road. In a culture that emphasizes feminism and empathy over truth and hatred of sin, it is easy for leaders to tap into the oppression fad and come out of such an ordeal with a larger audience than before.
Whether or not Chandler will go down that road or humble himself before Christ remains to be seen.
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