Scott Sauls' resignation followed culture of 'relational, emotional, and spiritual neglect'

Pastor Scott Sauls
Pastor Scott Sauls | (Photo: Courtesy of CatalystATL)

The Nashville Presbytery has released a statement regarding the resignation of Scott Sauls, former pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, revealing the pastor subjected church staff to a pattern of “relational, emotional, and spiritual neglect” and broke the 9th commandment “by fostering a culture of mistrust among the staff.”

The presbytery, a regional group that oversees pastors, published the statement on Byfaithonline, the web magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America, one day after Sauls resigned from his role at Christ Presbyterian Church, where he had served for 12 years.

In the summer of 2022, the session of Christ Presbyterian Church Nashville  — the governing body of the church — “received letters containing concerns and grievances from current and former staff about the church leadership,” the statement said. 

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Sauls, who is married with two daughters, subsequently “admitted his failings and sins and began the process of repentance toward God, the church, its staff, former staff, the Presbytery, and others,” it asserted. “Sauls confessed to his sins and failings that were revealed during the nine months of intensive exploration of his staff relationships.”

“He acknowledged breaking the 5th commandment … by subjecting church staff to a pattern of relational, emotional, and spiritual neglect. He also admitted breaking the 9th commandment … by fostering a culture of mistrust among the staff. Such actions did not align with the high moral standards of a Christian and especially an elder and pastor,” the statement added.

While noting that “TE Sauls’ sins were contrary to biblical morals,” the Nashville Presbytery stressed that “they had nothing to do with marital strife, sexual failure, substance abuse, stealing, heretical teaching, or other behaviors commonly tied to unplanned pastoral transitions.”

In May 2023, Sauls was indefinitely suspended by the presbytery and, during this time, “engaged in intensive counseling, pursued a process of repairing injured relationships, expressed his confession and repentance to Christ Presbyterian Church, and sought reconciliation with those he had wronged.”

The Presbytery explained that on Tuesday, Sauls “presented a statement of his repentance that included information about the steps he had taken to reconcile with those he sinned against.” While this repentance prompted the Presbytery to restore Sauls to office, the pastor previously decided to “resign his position with the church” following  “a process of discernment during the time of his suspension.”

Sauls officially resigned on Sunday. His congregation voted 517-122 in favor of accepting Sauls' resignation, constituting an 81% majority.

Sauls read aloud a letter to his congregation elaborating on his reasons for stepping down. While assuring his church community that “we had hoped to continue forward and help with CPC,” Sauls indicated that “we now believe the most merciful thing to do is step aside so the church can seek new leadership and we can seek the Lord’s will for whatever comes next as well.”

“It has been an honor serving this community,” Sauls declared. “We’re going to miss you. We wish you the best, and we love you.”

According to the Nashville Presbytery, Sauls will “continue as a member in good standing of the Nashville Presbytery although he is currently without a ministerial call.” 

“He will receive the care and support of the Shepherding Committee of the Nashville Presbytery as he continues in his repentance and as he considers other calls,” it said. 

Sauls previously served as the lead and preaching pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City alongside Pastor Tim Keller. He has also planted and pastored churches in Kansas City and St. Louis, according to his Substack page. A well-known speaker and author, Sauls has authored six books.

In recent years, reports involving alleged abuse of authority by leaders in churches and ministries have made headlines. In 2019, James MacDonald was ousted from Harvest Bible Chapel due in part to allegations of financial misconduct and abusive behavior. In 2014, Mark Driscoll, the former pastor of the now-defunct Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, was forced to resign from his position following accusations of bullying and fostering an abusive work environment.

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