Darrin Patrick, founder and senior pastor of the multi-site megachurch The Journey in St Louis, Missouri, has been suspended from ministry by his board following the confirmation of allegations of pastoral misconduct.
In a statement, the board said: "These actions, combined with a historical pattern of sin, led to the heartbreaking decision to remove Pastor Darrin from his role at The Journey and require him to step down from all internal and external leadership positions."
The statement says that while the allegations were not of adultery, they violated the high standard required of a pastor and elder. It says: "In the last few years the elders have experienced and confronted issues regularly and intentionally with Darrin. This reveals that he has not been pursuing a personal walk with Jesus in a manner that reflects his pastoral calling and position as an elder in the church."
A letter emailed to members and supporters refers to inappropriate meetings and conversations with two women. However, it says the board has been engaged for several years in "uncovering and confronting other deep sin patterns in Darrin that do not reflect the biblical qualifications for an elder". Issues cited include lack of self-control, manipulation and lying, domineering and misuse of power/authority. It also refers to "abandonment of genuine biblical community", "refusal of personal accountability" and "a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms".
The letter says: "As part of our spiritual community and in our role as elders, we have experienced and confronted these issues regularly and intentionally over the past few years. Each time, these confrontations have been followed by initial confession with short-term changes but quickly receded into unfulfilled promises, reversion to old patterns, and broken trust with pastors/elders."
Patrick is married with four children and is vice-president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, which removed Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church from membership in August 2014.
Driscoll faced similar accusations of domineering and bullying behaviour, though he was not accused of inappropriate conduct with women. He has been widely criticised for returning to ministry soon after Mars Hill Church disbanded at the end of 2014.
Patrick issued a statement expressing deep remorse for his conduct and gratitude for the elders' care for him and his family. "I am utterly horrified by the depth of my sin and devastated by the terrible effects of it on myself, my family and so many others, including all of you," he said. "I am so deeply and terribly sorry for the pain that my sin is causing you, as well as the broken trust that my sin has clearly produced. In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing."
However, his case will be seen as raising further questions about the effectiveness of governance at large churches which owe their prosperity to the work of a charismatic and powerful individual.