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Disgraced megachurch pastor Matt Chandler welcomed back with standing ovation

Embattled megachurch pastor Matt Chandler was enthusiastically welcomed back to the pulpit with a standing ovation Sunday morning after a three-month hiatus. Chandler stopped preaching at the church in August after he admitted to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman over social media.

IntoAccount, the advocacy organization who provides services to #ChurchToo sexual assault survivors said it was “a master class for all churches everywhere on how not to handle a situation like this,” on Twitter Monday morning.

“The Village Church did almost everything wrong here. No transparency re: the infractions Chandler committed? No transparency re: the church’s investigation? Ill-defined & nebulous “restoration” process? Right down to a standing ovation for accused pastor,” the tweet thread continued.

Chandler, 48, has been the head pastor of the Village Church for about 20 years. The church now attracts about 4,500 weekly attendees to its campus in Flower Mound, Texas. The church is part of the disgraced Southern Baptist Convention, which is under investigation by the Department of Justice over its mishandling of sexual abuse cases in their churches.

Chandler tearfully told his congregation in August he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman online who was not his wife. This confession was also met with an ovation from his congregation. Neither the church nor Chandler explained what happened in the “relationship,” but Chandler said the relationship was “romantic or sexual” but “unguarded and unwise,” and included “coarse and foolish joking that’s unbefitting of someone in my position.”

The church hired a private law firm to investigate the messages, but declined to provide documents from the investigation to The New York Times, citing the woman’s desire to stay out of the spotlight. It is unclear the nature of the messages or if the exchanged involved infidelity on Chandler’s part.

The accusations came after a woman confronted Chandler with concerns about Instagram direct messages he exchanged with a friend of hers.

In an email last week to members, church elders said Chandler “completed everything asked of him with submissiveness, steadfastness and humility, and we have received positive feedback from all involved.”

Advocates for SBC survivors balked at the “intensive counseling” sessions Chandler mentioned in his statement to the church Sunday morning.

“Y’all have got to remember that whatever these pastor bros publicly admit to is always the tip of the iceberg of whatever actually happened. Two “intensive” counseling sessions my ass,” said Emily Joy Allison, author of #ChurchToo and advocate for religious sexual abuse survivors.

“Even if “inappropriate online relationship” is remotely accurate (and if it is I’ll eat my shoe) I don’t understand how anyone can take anything these men have to say about relationships/sexuality/etc seriously ever again. That that’s their whole brand is LOL.”

IntoAccount also referenced The Village Church’s handling of past situations involving sexual abuse, referencing six previous instances of alleged cover-ups or mishandling of credible abuse accusations in the thread.

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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