(RNS) — Scott Sauls, an influential evangelical pastor and author, has resigned from the Nashville megachurch he had led for the past decade.
Members of Christ Presbyterian Church voted to accept Saul’s resignation during a congregational meeting on Sunday night (Nov. 12). Sauls had been on an indefinite leave of absence since May after apologizing for an unhealthy leadership style. A group of church leaders known as the session had asked the congregation to accept Saul’s resignation.
In addressing the congregation, Sauls apologized to those he had hurt and said that he and his family would continue to serve Jesus.
“We had hoped to continue forward and help with CPC,” Sauls told the congregation during the meeting, according to The Tennessean, which first reported the news of Saul’s resignation. “But 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.”
The church declined to comment on news of Saul’s resignation.
Saul’s tenure at the church began with great promise and was marked by growth. A protege of the late Tim Keller, Sauls promoted a Christianity marked by kindness and grace, rather than culture war politics, in books like “A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them,” “Befriend” and “Irresistible Faith.”
Sauls admitted earlier this year that he had been harsh with church staff and used the power of the pulpit as a weapon against those who disagreed with him.
“I verbalized insensitive and verbal criticism of others’ work,” he said in an apology to the congregation earlier this year. “I’ve used social media and the pulpit to quiet dissenting viewpoints. I’ve manipulated facts to support paths that I desire.”
During Sunday’s meeting, he apologized again.
“To anyone who has been hurt, whether known or unknown to me, I am deeply sorry,” he said. “I make no excuses and I ask for your forgiveness.”
According to the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, the home denomination of Christ Presbyterian, the end of Saul’s tenure at Christ Presbyterian has to be approved by the PCA’s Nashville Presbytery — a regional group that oversees pastors.
The stated clerk of the presbytery did not respond to a request for comment. After announcing his leave from Christ Presbyterian in May, Sauls was indefinitely suspended by the presbytery. The process of pastoral discipline in the PCA has been criticized in recent years because of a lack of transparency.
Concerns about pastoral leadership styles have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Many megachurch pastors followed a top-down, corporate leadership approach popularized by such pastors as Bill Hybels and Mark Driscoll, which has led in some cases to unhealthy and sometimes abusive leadership cultures. And the line between church conflict and spiritual abuse is much debated.
According to The Tennessean, Sauls told the congregation that a presbytery committee planned to lift his suspension and that the decision to resign was his.
“It has been an honor serving this community,” Sauls told the congregation at Sunday’s meeting, according to the newspaper. “We’re going to miss you. We wish you the best and we love you.”