The pastor of a Texas megachurch has stepped down after it was discovered he had an “inappropriate” online relationship with a woman who was not his wife.
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, fought back tears Sunday as he told his congregation he would be taking a leave of absence, effective immediately.
The church’s leaders found that Chandler, who has been the lead pastor of the church since 2002, had been exchanging private Instagram messages with an unidentified woman that “crossed a line,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
“In this case, while the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line,” the Village Church said in a statement Sunday.
“They revealed that (he) did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him.”
In an emotional speech shared on the Village Church’s website, Chandler told congregants he was embarrassed by his conduct.
“If I’m honest, I’m just really embarrassed,” he said. “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.”
The pastor added that his wife and the other woman’s husband knew of their friendship, which he described as something greater than a typical brother-sister relationship due to their “familiarity” and “foolish joking.”
He said the relationship was never romantic or sexual in nature, but rather “unguarded and unwise.”
The Village Church, located northwest of Dallas, said it learned of the messages several months ago after the woman’s friend went to Chandler and expressed concern over their communications, the Star-Telegram reported.
Chandler took her concerns to the church elders, who hired a law firm to review the messages.
The review concluded his conversations violated internal social media use policies, prompting church leaders to recommend the pastor step away from the role indefinitely.
“Matt’s leave of absence is both disciplinary and developmental, which allows him to focus on growing greater awareness in this area,” the church said in the statement.
“The timeline for his return will be dictated by the expectations the elders have laid out
for his development.”
It is unclear if the unidentified woman was a member of the church, or when Chandler is expected to resume his role as lead pastor.