A married Texas pastor has taken a leave of absence after confessing he messaged a woman who wasn’t his wife and engaged in ‘coarse’ conversations.
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor at the Village Church near Dallas, told his congregation on Sunday he was temporarily stepping down after church leaders found his conversations with another married woman to be ‘unguarded’ but not ‘sexual.’
At the recorded service, the pastor shared an investigation had been prompted following a woman approaching him several months ago and voicing her concerns about how he was directing messaging ‘on Instagram with a friend of hers.’
‘[Investigators] looked into the conversations between me and this other woman and they had some concerns, and those concerns were not that our messages were romantic or sexual, it was that our conversations were unguarded and unwise.’
Chandler, 48, said he immediately reported the concerns of the woman to another lead pastor, and his wife once he got home. Initially, he didn’t see a need to worry.
‘I didn’t think I had done anything wrong in that,’ Chandler said while holding back his tears. ‘My wife knew that, her husband knew that, and yet there were a couple of things that she said that were disorienting to me.’
The report prompted an investigation by an independent law firm and other church leaders, known as elders. Chandler’s social media history, along with his messages, email, and cell phone were searched. Details of the messages are unclear.
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor at the Village Church near Dallas, announced he is temporarily stepping down amid ‘inappropriate’ messages with another married woman
At a church service on Sunday, Chandler explained to the congregation that he was approached by a woman several months ago who voiced her concerns about his messaging with her friend on Instagram
The pastor said he immediately reported the interaction to another lead pastor and his wife (above). He also said the other woman’s husband was aware the pair were talking via Instagram
PICTURED: Chandler’s family. The pastor married his wife, Lauren, in 1999 and the pair share three children
‘The concerns were really about frequency and familiarity,’ Chandler said. ‘We believe in brother [and] 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.’
Chandler said he agreed with the decision to step aside and noted the messages revealed some ‘unhealth’ in himself that is tied to the ‘difficulty’ of the last six or seven years.
‘I’m just really embarrassed,’ Chandler said as he began to break down in tears. ‘I feel stupid. I feel dumb. I feel like I’m embarrassing my wife and kids. Putting a ton of pressure on our staff. I feel like I’ve fallen short for you.’
Despite his abrupt departure, Chandler said he plans to be the lead pastor for ‘the next 20 years.’
The pastor has preached to The Village congregation of around 4,500 people for about two decades, according to The New York Times.
Two different voices were heard shouting in encouragement for Chandler as he expressed his remorse.
Chandler will also halt his engagement in starting new churches in an organization known as Acts 29. He served as the group’s board president.
Contentious debate on whether Chandler was in the right or wrong has populated social media.
‘All pastors are sinful,’ one person wrote. ‘They deserve the same grace we offer everyone else. Matt Chandler is human.’
Another commented, ‘I want to voice support for Matt Chandler right now. It takes a big man to admit you’ve messed up and let yourself be held accountable for it. May the Lord see fit to restore him after a time of discipleship.’
Other’s were disgusted by his behavior.
‘Matt Chandler is a predator,’ Claudia Salazar wrote. ‘Nothing of his behavior is accidental. He needs to be in jail. The way he is being protected is violent and disgusting.’
Another added, ‘I think there’s a lot more to the Matt Chandler story than we’re being told and if I’m right about what really happened, what he did was despicable – and even more despicable because he’s trying to throw a woman under the bus to use as cover.’
Chandler said he agreed with the decision for him to step down and said his action may have reflected his last six or seven years of hardships
Chandler wept as he gave his message and was met with two voices of support from the congregation. Pictured: Chandler and his wife
Despite his abrupt departure, Chandler said he plans to be the lead pastor for ‘the next 20 years. He will also halt his engagement in starting new churches in an organization known as Acts 29. He served as the group’s board president
The recent scandal at The Village Church is one of many. The church was also apart of a lawsuit alleging a former employee sexually abused a child. The lawsuit was excused earlier this month
Chandler became pastor at The Village Church in 2002 when it was formerly known as the First Baptist Church of Highland Village, according to his profile on the church’s website.
The pastor married his wife, Lauren, in 1999 and the pair share three children.
Another massive investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention denomination, which the Village Church is a member of, also prompted concern.
SBC recently announced its organization is being investigated by the Justice Department after it was revealed the group was mishandling sexual abuse cases for decades, according to The Washington Post.
The Village Church was also apart of a lawsuit alleging a former employee, Matt Tone, sexually abused a child.
Earlier this month, the lawsuit was dismissed after the Dallas County District Attorney’s office said the ‘complainant cannot and has not positively identified’ the employee.
Pastor Chandler is among the handful of pastors that have experienced a downfall in their careers despite their popularity among their congregation, including former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz.