After a week of whispers that he had been fired, NewSpring Church, a popular megachurch in South Carolina with a weekly attendance of 30,000, confirmed Sunday that Perry Noble, the church's founding and senior pastor, has been fired for alcohol abuse and other "unfortunate choices and decisions" and is currently under psychiatric care.
"While this is the most difficult and painful decision we've had to make, unfortunately it was necessary. Perry has made some unfortunate choices and decisions that have caused us much concern," NewSpring Church Executive Pastor Shane Duffey said at the 9:15 a.m. service.
He explained that the church tried for several months to help Perry after confronting him about his issues but he refused to take correction so they were forced to make the "painful" move.
"Over the course of several months our executive pastors met with and discussed at length with Perry these concerns regarding his personal behavior and his spiritual walk, Perry's posture towards marriage, increased reliance on alcohol and other behaviors were of continual concern. Due to this the executive pastors confronted Perry and went through the steps of dealing with sin in the church as outlined in Matthew 18," said Duffey.
"Because Perry chose not to address these ongoing issues and didn't take the necessary steps toward correcting them, he is no longer qualified as outlined in I Timothy 3 and the church's bylaws to continue as pastor of the NewSpring Church. We will continue to love Perry and his family during this difficult time. And we are committed to continue to pray for his healing. And we are also committed to providing personal support to Perry and his family in the days ahead," he noted.
Duffey explained that he would not divulge much more about what led to Perry's firing because it "would not be helpful to Perry or his family."
"Though we know you may want more details to satisfy your curiosity, [but] to do so would not be helpful to Perry or his family as they take these next steps. Our faith remains strong, rooted in the power of Jesus Christ. The gospel gives us hope that Perry and his family can experience healing. The same gospel also gives us confidence that NewSpring Church will continue to make a difference in our state. In the coming weeks we ask that you join us as a church family in continual prayer for Perry, his family and our church. We do believe the best is yet to come," he said.
In a statement to the church read by Duffey, Perry said he wished the announcement was "a joke" and apologized to the church for his actions and noted that he was currently under psychiatric care.
"I come to you with a heavy heart to let you know that effective Friday July 1, I will no longer be the senior Pastor of NewSpring Church. I wish this were a joke, a part of sermon illustration however it's true," Perry began in the statement.
"I've often told you that NewSpring exists to help hurting imperfect people. I've joked that you should not attend NewSpring if you're already perfect because I will mess you up. That was my way of telling you that I am travelling on a journey each day alongside each one of you to try to take my next step to become more like Jesus," he said.
"If you've attended NewSpring for any length of time, you know that I've never claimed to be the perfect pastor or even more, the perfect Christian. What we've seen the Lord do over the last 16 years has been a modern day miracle. However in my obsession to do everything possible to reach 100,000 and beyond, it has come at a personal cost to my own life and created a strain on my marriage," he continued.
"In my opinion, the Bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol but it does prohibit drunkenness and intoxication. I've never had a problem drinking alcohol socially but in the past year or so, I've allowed myself to slide into, in my opinion, the overuse of alcohol. This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others. I have no excuse this was wrong and sinful and I'm truly sorry. For those who are disappointed in me, let me assure you that no one is more disappointed in me than myself," he said.
"I realize that I cannot continue to do effective ministry if this issue in my personal life is not adequately addressed. I plan to immediately seek spiritual guidance of some amazing men of God in my life and I'm currently under the treatment of an excellent psychiatrist who is helping me take major steps forward," he added.
Perry was also quick to point out that none of the other "unfortunate choices and decisions" that he was fired for involved inappropriate sexual behavior or spouse abuse.
"Let me be very clear, neither Lucretia nor I have committed any sort of sexual sin. I have not stolen money, I've not been looking at porn and there was absolutely no domestic abuse. This is the story period. I simply need to address the issue that has gotten out of hand in my life. I received this decision as from the Lord as I trust the leadership of NewSpring Church," he said.