Arizona Megachurch Pastor Resigns After Confessing to Alleged Affairs

A megachurch pastor in Arizona has resigned after admitting that he engaged in extramarital affairs with more than one woman, the church said in a statement Sunday.

Leaders at Mission Community Church in Gilbert, Ariz., found out last week that lead pastor Mark Connelly had allegedly been involved in physical affairs. Connelly, who joined the church's staff in 2005, confessed to the affairs, and on Dec. 30, the church's Board of Servant Leaders accepted his resignation.

"As a church whose vision is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, we have offered counseling and mercy ministry resources to Mark, his family and the other individuals involved," the church's statement reads, in part. "We ask during this time that you respect Mark's privacy and give him and his family time to heal.

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"During this time, we are calling on the people of MISSION and all followers of Jesus to join with us in praying for wisdom and healing."

Randy Thomas, the church's mercy pastor, told the congregation Sunday that he went through an array of emotions when he first heard the news, including anger, despair, compassion and concern. He also tried to intellectualize what had happened, though he says doing so is not helpful.

"Intellectualizing is not going to work because we're not dealing with a simple problem here. We are wrestling with the consequences of sin, and there is only one way to cope with the pain of sin, and that's the cross," said Thomas.

He encouraged the congregation to trust God, remember they are His children, encourage one another and pray during such a difficult time. The church, which is attended by an average of 5,500 people each weekend, will host a prayer meeting Tuesday evening.

Connelly and his wife, Kay, have been married for more than 27 years, according to an archived version of the church's website. They also have two grown children, a son and a daughter.

Gary Sutliff, Mission's executive pastor of ministries, has been named the church's interim lead pastor. Sutliff has been a part of the church's staff since June 2012.

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