Bishop Jim Bolin, founding pastor of Trinity Chapel Church of God in Powder Springs, Ga., was re-installed this past Sunday as senior pastor of the congregation after being forced to step down in 2008 due to confessed "inappropriate sexual behavior" with an adult woman.
Standing amid applause and hoots and hollers from congregants, Bishop Bolin and his wife and fellow pastor, Robin Bolin, were welcomed after the announcement by guest speaker Dr. Sam Chand, a ministry consultant, author and "dream releaser" who at one point rallied worshippers to declare, "It is well!"
"What's happening at Trinity Chapel this morning might be unusual for some people, but God's plan, if I'm looking at it right, is to [love, accept and forgive]," said Chand with help from church members. "We're not looking at the past, but we're moving into [the future]."
"I want to give honor and celebrate the pastor of this house, Bishop Jim Bolin," added Chand, as congregants broke out in applause.
The Christian minister continued, "Did you know that today is their 41st wedding anniversary? God has a plan. He does all things well. You couldn't have planned it this way, but here it is."
Chand preceded his announcement on Bishop Bolin by thanking Trinity Chapel's previous senior pastor, Jason Bolin, who announced his resignation and departure from the Georgia megachurch on May 26. Jason Bolin, the elder Bolin's son, delivered his final message to the Trinity Chapel congregation on June 2, and revealed plans to relocate with his wife and their two children to Florida. Throughout his years at Trinity Chapel, Jason Bolin has served in various ministry capacities, including middle school pastor, missions pastor and executive pastor. He was chosen in 2008 to take over for his father as senior pastor.
The elder Bolin was reportedly sanctioned by Church of God officials and forced to step down from his positions as senior pastor and bishop in 2008 after he confessed to "inappropriate, consensual sexual conduct with an adult female." Repenting of his actions, Bolin submitted to church officials' decision and took time off to heal himself and his marriage, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He had reportedly undergone a two-year Church of God restoration program. The exact nature of Bishop Bolin's inappropriate behavior was reportedly never revealed.
Before returning full-time to Trinity Chapel this past weekend, Bishop Jim and Robin Bolin had been serving since February 2012 as lead pastors of The Landing Church at McDonough, also in Georgia.
Former Senior Pastor Bolin, who had been serving as assistant pastor before his father stepped down, explained in his departure letter to congregants that Trinity Chapel's church council, guided by its bylaws, was careful in its unanimous agreement in re-instating Bishop Bolin as senior pastor.
"The bylaws lead me, as the Senior Pastor resigning on good terms, to offer recommendations to the Church Council regarding a successor and the unfolding of a plan for transition," he wrote in his May 26 letter.
"Be encouraged to know that your Church Council has followed the process and protocols with utmost godliness, wisdom, and integrity," the outgoing Bolin added.
Bishop Bolin reportedly told congregants on Sunday, "What you thought was lost and what you thought would never be again, it's coming back."
He added after the service on Facebook: "WOW!!! What a day...What a great God we serve. From the opening song and until the last AMEN, His Presence filled the place. Dr. Sam Chand made it clear — loud and strong...IT IS WELL!!! So now it's straight ahead." He added, "... Robin and I thank you from the bottom of our heart...Let's Go...It is well!"
One church member present for the special service told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Sunday's gathering was "powerful."
"It's his restoration to the throne in a sense," Conrad Maynard told the publication. "He has been put back in his rightful place."
Trinity Chapel Church of God, a multiracial, charismatic Pentecostal congregation, was founded by Bishop Bolin and his wife 30 years ago, starting out with a handful of members in a storefront to eventually grow to 7,000 congregants. A Trinity Chapel member estimated, however, that membership currently numbers about 3,000.
While reports about pastors losing their position due to infidelity or other indiscretions are common, it is notably less common to hear reports of pastors being restored to church roles after a period of time.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Association of Evangelicals, "Almost all evangelical Christian leaders, including denominational heads, agree that a pastor guilty of adultery can be restored to a pastoral position." Five percent of evangelical Christian leaders who responded to the survey disagreed, believing that adultery would disqualify a minister from ever holding another pastoral position.
"The Gospel's aim is to restore. Pastors should not be exempted from that same grace," John Jenkins, a megachurch pastor, told the NAE.
Berten Waggoner, national director of Vineyard USA, added, "There is no sin that a person, including pastors, cannot be both forgiven of and restored in every way. This is the message of grace and the hope of resurrection life."