Overview:

Matt Chandler's departure from the Village Church is just the latest setback for the Southern Baptist Convention. The denomination is also facing a federal investigation.

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The Village Church pastor and Acts 29 president Matt Chandler stepped down from preaching and teaching because of an inappropriate online relationship with a woman.

In an online statement, the Village Church announced that Chandler’s conduct did not meet the church’s expectations: “While the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line. They revealed that (he) did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him.”

Chandler’s departure is just the latest piece of difficult news for the Village Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention denomination of which the Village Church is a member. In early August, it was announced that the Village Church settled an abuse complaint from a woman who alleged a pastor in the church sexually assaulted her when she was 11 years old. The woman’s family left the church over the case, and claimed the church’s initial statement denying wrongdoing was “not fully truthful, transparent, or caring for the traumatized.”

Several of the Southern Baptist Convention’s major entities are also under investigation from the US Department of Justice over sexual abuse related to clergy members. Top church leaders released a statement saying that they would “fully and completely cooperate” with the federal government’s investigation.

Chandler is also president of Acts 29, a group of churches which advocates for men and women having distinct family roles. Acts 29 released a statement acknowledging that Chandler would be not be speaking for the group for the time being. “Considering the findings of the TVC investigation and consistent with the leave of absence from preaching and teaching that the Village Church has placed Matt on, the Acts 29 Board has asked Matt to step aside from Acts 29 speaking engagements during this time.”

close review of the history of Acts 29 dating from the founding of this reformed evangelical church planting network in 1998 points to a history of pastoral abuse by their former presidents that extends well beyond the SBC. For example, the Acts 29 board ousted Steve Timmis in 2020 due to multiple allegations of spiritual abuse. Timmis was appointed after Mark Driscoll stepped down in 2012 from due to multiple abuse allegations leveled against him. 

As global church blogger Andrew Jones documented, this abuse can be traced back to Driscoll’s move to oust Acts 29 founder David Nichols. Along those lines, Brad Sargent details in his research how both Driscoll and the US Emergent Church sprang from the Young Leaders Network in the mid-90s. These two factions later splintered along different evangelical tracks though both groups continued with a long history of on and offline abuses.

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As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School/Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith &...