This morning we made the difficult announcement that Gene Emerson has chosen to resign his position as senior pastor of Kingsway Community Church. The following contains a portion of what Matthew Williams shared today by way of explanation. An audio recording of Matthew's entire message is available here.
Gene has faithfully shepherded our church for over 26 years. I grew up under his pastoral leadership and for the last 8 years have had the privilege of laboring alongside him as a member of our pastoral team. During that time, I have known him to be a trustworthy man who loves God, loves people, and walks with integrity in his public and private life. He is one of my closest friends and what I’m about to share has not changed my affection and gratitude for him in the slightest bit.
Last month, Gene was found guilty in Chesterfield County Court of soliciting a prostitute. To this day, he continues to maintain that he is innocent of any illicit activity, though he has humbly acknowledged a significant lapse in judgement regarding his conduct throughout the situation. While we respect the courts as an authority established by God, we know they are not perfect. And in light of his claim of innocence, we support his right to consider taking further legal action.
However, God’s Word is clear in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 that the elders of local church must be “above reproach” and “well thought of by outsiders.” Regardless of whether he should or should not have been be found guilty, the court’s current decision has damaged his public reputation to the point where he is no longer qualified to serve as a pastor. For the good of the church, he has agreed to resign.
Our entire eldership, including Gene, is convinced that this is the right thing to do. And as we have talked with other leaders both inside and outside our church, they too have confirmed that this is the right thing to do. Upholding the glory of God by protecting the reputation of the gospel and the reputation of our church is simply too important to do otherwise.
My heart is grieving for my friend. I never dreamed that I would have walk through a situation like this with Gene. I love this man. He has been a father in the faith to me as I know he has for many of you. So let me make two things very clear. First, as a church, we are not going to stop loving this man. We don’t love one another because we’re perfect. We love one another because we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. Second, we are not going to shame him or avoid him even as his public role changes. He remains a member in good standing and both Gene and his wife Liz have communicated that there is nowhere they would rather be than at Kingsway.
Situations like this are among the most difficult a church can ever face. It’s difficult to hear news like this without having your trust shaken. All I ask is that you give us an opportunity to prove ourselves trustworthy in the way we handle this process, especially if you’re new to Kingsway.
Every church, if you stay long enough, goes through hard times. What matters is not whether hard times come, but whether a church walks through them with integrity, humility, and a tenacious trust in the Lord that never abandons our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the gospel. That’s what Gene has faithfully done here for the last 26 years of his ministry and that's exactly what Josh, Chris, and I are going to continue to do.
I also want to invite you, whether you're a member, a regular attender, or a first-time visitor to sign up for what we’re calling “Coffee With A Pastor.” We’ve set aside several evenings over the next few weeks where you can join a group of no more than 10 other people to ask questions, express concerns, and understand how we’re processing the situation. We don’t have answers to every question, but we’ll tell you as much as we know. We are committed to leading with humility and transparency.
In light of Gene’s resignation, I have agreed to serve as an interim lead pastor. We don't want to rush the process of identifying Gene's replacement and are going to take the next 6 months to prayerfully determine who should assume his position. I never wanted to step into his role under these circumstances, but I know that God has called me and empowered me for such a time as this. I love you and because I love you I am not going to stop leading you. There is no where else I would rather be than here, as painful as it is. You’re my family.
And when times get tough, a family pulls together. If you’re a dad, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a leader, you don’t run. You don’t take the easy road. You link arms, you look to Jesus, and you keep on loving people. That’s what I’m going to do. And for the glory of God and the good of this church, I challenge every one of you to do that with me.
God isn't done with us, Kingsway. Our Father is merciful, our hope is certain, and our mission is clear. He’s going to comfort us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Posted by Matthew
Posted on Sun, August 9, 2015
by Matthew Williams filed under