A Texas megachurch pastor is taking a leave of absence after his church learns of frequent messages between him and a woman who is not his wife.
Matt Chandler, the senior pastor of the Flower Mound village church, about 30 miles northwest of Dallastold his congregation on Sunday the move was prompted by what church leaders called inappropriate messaging between the two.
In the statement recorded and shared on church website, the beleaguered pastor explained that a few months ago a woman approached him in the church hall with concerns about “how I was [direct messaging] on Instagram with one of her friends.
That same evening, Chandler shared those concerns with his wife, Lauren, and two elders, in an effort to remedy the situation, The Village Church wrote in an August 28 statement on its website.
The alumni, the statement continued, then commissioned an independent law firm to review Chandler’s messaging history on social media platforms, his cell phone and his email.
The investigators’ report led the elders to conclude that Matt had violated internal church policies regarding the use of social media, and “more importantly, although the general pattern of his life was ‘beyond reproach’, he failed to live up to the (Biblical) standard for elders to be ‘above reproach’ in this case,” the statement read.
“While the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line,” the statement continued. “They revealed that (he) did not use the appropriate language for a pastor, and did not model behavior that we expect of him.”
The statement said his leave is “both disciplinary and developmental, allowing him to focus on raising awareness in this area.”
The timing of his return will be determined by the expectations the alumni have set for his development, the statement said.
“I’m really embarrassed, I feel stupid…I feel like I’m embarrassing my wife and kids,Chandler told the congregation Sunday. “I’m held to a higher standard and I haven’t reached that higher standard.”
Lindsey Eenigenburg, executive director of church administration, told USA TODAY on Tuesday that “a strong team of pastors” will be preaching in his absence.
“The Village Church elders decided that Matt’s leave would be teaching and preaching. The Acts 29 board decided to follow TVC’s lead and ask Matt to away from his Acts 29 speaking engagements during this time.Executive Director Brian Howard, who has provided day-to-day leadership of Acts 29 since May 2020, will continue to lead Acts 29 in our commitment to plant disciple-making churches worldwide .”
According to his online church profile, Chandler married his wife in 1999 and they have three children. In 2002, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Highland Village, now called The Village Church.
In 2009, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, underwent brain surgery and was declared cancer-free in 2010.
The last setback of the church
The pastor’s furlough is the latest blow to the church and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) denomination – the second largest church group in the country, of which the village church is a member.
“Individually and collectively, each SBC entity is committed to cooperating fully and completely with the investigation,” said an SBC statement issued on August 12.
The investigation followed the release of an internal report which revealed that SBC executives mishandled sexual abuse cases for two decades.
Also on August 1, the village church announced on its website he had settled a lawsuit in 2019 alleging that one of his former children’s ministers molested an 11-year-old girl. The criminal case against the minister was dropped in 2020, Religious Information Services reported.
The church wrote that after a long and thorough judicial investigation, we maintain and firmly believe that we have done no wrong.”
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.