Something is rotten at the 29,000-member First Baptist Church (FBC) of Dallas and the nation's other megachurches, asserts Joel Gregory in a new book about his 1992 resignation from the church.
In "Too Great a Temptation: The Seductive Power of America's Super Church," Gregory says he resigned because the church's senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, refused to give up power and never gave him a chance to succeed. He says he was hired as pastor in 1990 with the understanding Criswell would soon relinquish his pastoral responsibilities.
He refers to Criswell, 84, as the "Old Man" and the "Teflon titan," and compares his alleged unwillingness to step aside to Madonna's recent guest spot on the David Letterman Show, in which she "simply refused to leave the guest's chair."
Criswell, who this year celebrates his fiftieth anniversary at FBC, told CHRISTIANITY TODAY, "We are praying for Joel Gregory and his former wife, Linda, in the aftermath of his personal and domestic problems." Since his resignation, Gregory, 44, has divorced and remarried. He now sells cemetery plots door-to-door.
In an interview with "U.S. News & World Report," Criswell called the account "nothing but trash and untruths," and on another occasion alleged that Gregory resigned because he was overwhelmed by his responsibilities and wanted to cover up his "failure" by using Criswell as a scapegoat.
Gregory also claims other large churches are inherently prone to similar struggles over "succession of leadership" and other abuses of power. "What happens at First Dallas is both role model for and a prediction of what will happen in other religious behemoths."
Criswell has relinquished most of his preaching duties to O. S. Hawkins, named full-time pastor after Gregory's departure.
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