Sarah Berger, the wife of Rev. Steve Berger, who founded conservative megachurch Grace Chapel in Tennessee, exposed details of a bitter, ongoing feud between her husband and his successor during a worship service Sunday morning, sending the church into a tailspin.
The 9 a.m. service at the church, which boasts prominent members such as the state’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee, has become a major talking point online after Sarah Berger made revelations in a viral clip posted on Facebook.
During the service, Steve Berger’s successor, Pastor Rob Rogers, reportedly apologized to the congregation for the feud and offered his resignation along with his executive pastor, Mark Bright.
At some point during the confessions to the congregation, Sarah Berger lamented that her husband was not given the opportunity to address the church about the feud. She got control of a microphone and divulged details of a leadership transition gone wrong.
During “this transition, it has been made manifestly evident that there has been an endeavor to cancel the founding pastor of Grace Chapel," Berger began in the clip.
"That might not mean something to those of you who have only been here for eight months, but I would expect those of you who are listening to this right now would hear what I say."
She alleged that Rogers and Bright had maligned her husband and branded him a “Christian extremist” among church leaders.
Steve Berger announced in January that he was transitioning from the helm of the church he led for 26 years shortly after he apologized for incorrectly suggesting that Antifa activists were involved in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
“Do I have any authority in this place after 26 years? Do I have any authority? Let me just tell you, there is no way we can remain in this congregation knowing that at the very helm, Rob Rogers and Mark Bright have been working behind the scenes to literally cancel us,” Sarah Berger told the congregation.
“The tipping point was not when Mark Bright resigned, you guys. The tipping point was when a maligning letter went out from Rob Rogers and Mark Bright to all of the elders and the financial board maligning my husband as being a Christian extremist. That is the truth. You need to know,” Sarah Berger said before the broadcast was abruptly cut.
The Tennessee Holler reported that after the broadcast was cut, a “physical altercation ensued allegedly.”
On Sunday night, Grace Chapel elders released an extensive statement on Facebook apologizing for the fracas while explaining that families, including churches, “can be messy.”
“The elders of Grace Chapel firmly rebuke the outburst and resulting manner that erupted today during our service. We are deeply disappointed in the way various individuals conducted themselves with disrespect towards Pastor Rob, his family, our current leadership, and the elder board," the statement said.
"As elders, we deeply regret allowing this disruption to continue. We humbly ask our church body for forgiveness. Families, including church families, can be messy and, regrettably, this was on full display today,”
The statement added that Steve Berger "did receive copies of the statements read by the elders and by Pastor Rob Rogers before Sunday."
"Steve Berger did express his concerns over written comments about Mark Bright and though the elders involved encouraged Steve to speak directly to Rob since Rob has authority over the pulpit, this was not done," the statement added. "The elders of Grace Chapel are embarrassed and ashamed of how today’s events unfolded."
The elder board further noted that Pastor Rogers was reinstated to his role as their new leader, and the board stands firmly behind him.
“The events that happened today are both heartbreaking and sad," the elders said. "We ask that each of you that calls Grace Chapel home to pray for Pastor Rob, his family, the entire staff, and the Berger family as we move forward to repair the many hurt feelings as a result of today and the months since the initial transition."
Late Tuesday, Steve and Sarah Berger released a joint statement on Facebook, announcing that they had resigned from the elder board of Grace Chapel and would no longer attend the church or preach there.
“I stand by my wife, Sarah who bravely shared a fraction of the truths around the treatment our family has experienced at the hands of the current leadership team," the statement reads. "Even in our absence, we pray that humility, repentance, and biblical reconciliation will happen for the health and survival of Grace Chapel."
"May Grace Chapel find a way to be brave, bold, and biblical regarding spiritual truths as it relates to the cultural issues destroying our country," the Bergers added. "Grace Chapel has grown beyond our wildest expectations and has been richly blessed because our members unapologetically seek and hunger for the truth around difficult topics and do not desire a watered-down Gospel.”
In a passionate statement regarding the feud shared on Facebook, renowned singer and church member Nicole C. Mullen said she was disappointed in how the dispute was made public. But she has known the Bergers as faith leaders of integrity for more than a decade.
“I have had years of experience sitting under the teaching, guidance and friendship of Pastor @Steve Berger and @Sarah Berger for over a decade now and this is what I know. They are loyal, faithful, good, holy, down to earth, honest (even to the point of hurting your feelings) lol, caring, and devoted to God’s word,” Mullen stressed. “They are passionate about showing us Biblical relevancy to everything that arises and how we should live it out in our culture… I have witnessed their lives on and off stage, home and abroad, they live what they preach.”