Christian leaders across the nation reacted in shock at the news over the weekend that Pastor Bob Coy, founder and leader of the 20,000-member Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale in Florida resigned because of what his church described as a moral failure. Some observers are calling the church's loss of its pastor part of an epidemic that needs to be guarded against.
"I was devastated – heart sick – this morning to open my Facebook and the top story shared by a couple ministry friends was the resignation of pastor Bob Coy due to moral failure," wrote Kentucky pastor Ron Edmondson. "I have personally dealt with near a dozen churches in the past couple years who lost a pastor due to a moral issue. One of the leaders in our denomination used the word 'epidemic' recently to describe the number of pastors who are leaving the ministry because of moral failures."
Senior officials of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the U.S., announced that Coy, 58, resigned after "confessing to a moral failing." An official statement on the resignation from the church revealed that Coy confessed his failing to the church's leadership team last Thursday and resigned immediately after that.
The senior pastor, who is married to Diane, resigned after he confessed to leaders at the church that he had an affair, according to local news reports.
Pastors such as Edmondson used the tragedy as an opportunity to share what they felt was most important to learn from the subject of leaders falling from grace.
At first, Edmondson debated about posting anything on the most recent example of a pastor's transgression. However, he wrote that "having dealt with this issue so many times, and knowing there would be a flurry of news reports about this resignation, I decided to add a perspective to hopefully help some of the thoughts and discussions."
He added, "Most of my readers are from the church – the body of Christ. This is intended as family talk. I believe there are things we can learn from times like this – as tragic as they appear to us."
The five points in Edmondson's blog post are:
It does not negate Bob Coy's teaching. I love his teaching. My first church was an hour from where I lived. I was there for a one year commitment and I listened to Bob Coy every Sunday driving to that church. His teaching helped me be a better teacher. I'm certain his influence still impacts me today in a positive way. Many times I hear people wondering what it means from all the things they learned under a pastor who falls. There are thousands who have been positively shaped by the teaching of Bob Coy. If the person was teaching truth, God's Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that doesn't change with yesterday's resignation.
The enemy gets a new "attaboy" for his efforts. Satan loves to attack the good ones. Others will now say, "See, pastors are no different from us." And, we are not, but the enemy will attempt to use this to draw people away from their faith in Christ.
Bob Coy can be restored. Fully. It will depend on his humility, willingness to be completely transparent to those who need to know, and his acceptance of the grace of God. But, he can be restored. God used Moses, David, Noah, Jacob and so many others as Biblical examples of how He can use what is sinful for eventual good.
Every pastor is susceptible. Stand guard. If we ever believe we are above temptation we have opened the door for the enemies prowl to be effective. Most of the time it begins subtly. No one wakes up in a single day and thinks about destroying their personal life. It happens gradually over time. The time to build our systems of accountability, support and protection is always now.
Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale is still a great church. From what I read they are handling this as well as could be expected. My prayer is that few would leave and the church would see a renewal during this time. Many times, as in our personal life, with proper leadership, a church can grow stronger during a trial.
Pastor Pat Sieler of Calvary Oakville in Ontario, Canada, who attended Coy's church before becoming a pastor said the news "hit me hard; I was shocked, floored."
Sieler also took the tragedy as an opportunity for others to learn.
"Times like this are good times not to scour the Internet and look for all the details about Bob Coy, but to scour our own lives and 'consider ourselves lest we also be tempted (Galatians 6:1),'" he wrote in his blog.
One of the four points he made was that it was a good time to examine how one does accountability.
"Who is there in your life who asks you the tough questions? Who knows your secrets? If the answer is no one, that is a big red flag. Take measures now to change that. Proverbs 28:13 says, 'He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.' Numbers 32:23 says, '…your sin will find you out.' That Scripture has been proven true in painful ways for many," Sieler wrote.
His other points were that it's a good time to examine one's conversations and desire for information, examine perspective about Christian leaders, and remember God's grace, love, and forgiveness.
Sieler ended his blog post with this prayer: "Lord Jesus, we lift up Bob Coy and his family to you at this difficult time. We lift up the congregation of Calvary Fort Lauderdale. We pray for the leaders. We pray that you will show Yourself strong in this situation. We pray that you would work all this out for Your glory. May we have a godly and Biblical response and attitude."