Megachurch fires married worship pastor accused of sexual exploitation of minor, adult men

Aaron Ivey preaches a message shared on YouTube in March 2019.
Aaron Ivey preaches a message shared on YouTube in March 2019. | YouTube/Humble Beast

A megachurch in the Southern Baptist Convention has announced the dismissal of its worship pastor, Aaron Ivey, on the grounds of “predatory manipulation, sexual exploitation and abuse of influence” with multiple men and at least one minor.

In a Feb. 11 statement, Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, revealed its leadership fired Ivey, a married father of four, after discovering his alleged misconduct, which began as early as 2011.

“On Monday, February 5th, Aaron Ivey was fired from staff after it came to light that he engaged in inappropriate and explicit ongoing text messages with an adult male," the announcement reads. "Several elders were made aware of this situation on the evening of Sunday, February 4th and after reviewing the explicit nature of these messages, it was clear that termination of Aaron’s eldership and employment was necessary in accordance with the clear biblical standards outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20."

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Church officials say they have "uncovered multiple similar instances with different individuals dating back to 2011 that show a very clear pattern of predatory manipulation, sexual exploitation, and abuse of influence."

"Three of the known instances involved adult male individuals," the statement explains. "However, one known instance, in 2011, involved a minor male outside our formal programming."

The 2011 incident, the church added, “continued over time, involved inappropriate and explicit communications, indecent exposure, and the use of alcohol and illegal substances.”

Church leadership contacted local law enforcement and its church abuse prevention training provider, MinistrySafe, following the discovery of Ivey’s misconduct. 

“As elders, we are heartbroken for the victims and their families. Knowing the Lord’s sheep are worth our protection and our love, we are committed to loving this body and rooting out evil,” the statement said. "Knowing the Lord's sheep are worth our protection and our love, we are committed to loving this body and rooting out evil.”

Ivey and his wife, Jamie, are known for their work as podcasters and authors. They launched the "On the Other Side" podcast in 2020, addressing various topics, including sexual abuse. 

The couple also penned a book, Complement: The Surprising Beauty of Choosing Together Over Separate in Marriage, which focuses on complementarian theology. Aaron Ivey participated in a 2019 panel organized by the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on fatherhood. 

Jamie Ivey, who hosts the podcast “The Happy Hour,” appeared on “Good Morning America” last Friday to promote her new book, Why Can’t I Get It Together?

Aaron and Jamie Ivey appear in a YouTube video titled 'Modeling a Pastor's Marriage with Aaron and Jamie Ivey'
Aaron and Jamie Ivey appear in a YouTube video titled "Modeling a Pastor's Marriage with Aaron and Jamie Ivey" | Screenshot: YouTube

In an Instagram post Tuesday afternoon, her team stated that all press appearances to promote the book would be suspended “due to an unexpected crisis.”

“She will also be taking a break from social media and public appearances until she has had time to process, discern and recover,” the statement added. 

According to Baptist Press, Austin Stone is affiliated with the SBC and was formerly affiliated with the Acts 29 Network. The church was planted by SBC North American Mission Board Send Network Vice President of Mobilization Matt Carter in 2002, according to Baptist News Global. 

NAMB Executive Director of Public Relations Mike Ebert told the outlet in a statement that NAMB leadership, including Carter, had “absolutely no knowledge” of Ivey’s alleged abuse and sexual misconduct.

In recent years, SBC leadership has faced criticism for its handling of sexual abuse within its ranks.

In June 2022, SBC messengers overwhelmingly voted to pass a series of abuse reform recommendations following the release of a report from Guidepost Solutions detailing the results of an investigation into allegations that some SBC leaders intimidated whistleblowers and exonerated churches with credible claims of negligence of sexual abuse victims.

The report identified 700 victims over a 20-year span and found that survivors of sexual abuse encountered "resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility" from some on the SBC's Executive Committee.

At the time, Bruce Frank, then-chair of the SBC sexual abuse task force, lamented to SBC leaders gathered at the meeting that the incidents of sexual abuse “happened on our watch.”

“This is our denomination that closed our eyes and our hearts to survivors; closed our eyes and hearts to sexual abuse reform initiatives, and in some cases, allowing serial predators to quietly move from church to church. Loved ones, we are a people of the Book. We should know better than this,” he said. 

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