David Loveless has resigned as the lead pastor of Discovery Church in Orlando, Fla., after admitting that he had an extramarital affair.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the immediate resignation of our lead pastor, David Loveless, following his acknowledgement of his participation in a wrongful relationship over multiple years with a woman not his wife," a statement from the church's elder board reads. "While David indicates that the relationship was ended approximately three years ago, we were only made aware of it when he informed us in recent days. David offered his resignation and the elders prayerfully and unanimously accepted it."
The Church Wounds co-author and his wife, Caron, have been married for more than 37 years, and they have three married sons and seven grandchildren, according to his blog. The church he is leaving has been recognized as "one of the 10 healthiest churches in America," his blog formerly stated, and he was recognized as "one of the top 20 Christian leaders in the U.S. to watch."
Discovery Church elders have asked their congregation to pray for them as they seek to "administer biblical accountability with the appropriate balance of grace, mercy and truth." They have also requested prayer for the Loveless family and the "church family" as a whole, and have asked churchgoers not to rush to judgment and to avoid gossip and speculating about the situation.
"These are difficult circumstances for any church, regardless of size, and serve as a poignant reminder of the frailty of man and the need to live in honest community and accountability with other believers," the statement says. "While we believe David Loveless can be restored to Christian fellowship and productive Christian service, we do not believe he can serve as a pastor at Discovery Church."
The statement was first shared with the church's staff last Wednesday, followed by the rest of the congregation over the weekend. Filling in for Loveless on an interim basis is Don Cousins, the director of ministry for Discovery Church.
Two other pastors of major Orlando-area churches also resigned in the last six months because of affairs, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Isaac Hunter of Summit Church stepped down in December, and Sam Hinn of The Gathering Place Worship Center did so in January.
Social media users have had mixed reactions to the news of Loveless' affair and resignation.
"When will the church take responsibility for it's actions. This is pitiful." Twitter user Taja Fox tweeted.
"Prayers go out to David loveless and all the families of Discovery Church," tweeted Ely Young.
Brent Bailey, lead pastor of Direction Church Orlando, told The Christian Post that his congregation will be praying for Loveless and Discovery Church during their regular Tuesday night gathering this evening.
"He's done so much great work here," said Bailey. "Discovery Church is just such an incredible place, and lots of lives have been changed. And we're just going to be praying for him, that God restores him and God puts him back to where he needs to be and that this ministry can go on and still touch as many people as it can."
Bailey, who has been in ministry for 20 years but founded Direction Church just seven months ago, says hearing about the moral failure of other pastors saddens him and causes him to reflect on his own vulnerabilities.
"It also makes us realize how vulnerable every human being is no matter how long they've been in ministry or how many lives they've touched," he said. "There really is an enemy out there that's trying to do his best to take every one of us out."