Members of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Atlanta voted October I to retain Charles Stanley as pastor, despite a threatened divorce and recent resignations by several staff members, including his son, Andy. The 157-year-old congregation has historically refused to allow divorced men to be pastors or deacons.

In a members-only meeting behind locked doors, the elder Stanley told more than 3,000 people that it is not God’s will for him to leave. “If God tells me I’m finished at First Baptist, I’ll move,” Stanley said. “I’m not going to step down in disobedience to God.”

Stanley, 62, has risen to national prominence during his 23 years at FBC through his In Touch media ministry, best-selling books, and 1984–85 presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Criticism of Stanley has grown recently as efforts to reconcile his 40-year marriage have failed. Stanley has publicly taught that a divorced man is disqualified from serving as pastor. He told the congregation at a specially called meeting August 13 that he will step down as pastor if his divorce is finalized. However, he has made no statement about abandoning his preaching role on the $35-million-a-year In Touch radio and television ministry.

Stanley and his wife, Anna, have lived separately since 1992. Anna Stanley filed for divorce in 1993, agreed to a reconciliation attempt, and then refiled for divorce in March. “I have been dismayed at my husband’s refusal to accept the critical state of our marriage,” she said in an August 14 statement. “Instead he has made repeated announcements from the pulpit that progress was being made toward reconciliation, when in fact, the very opposite is true.” A jury trial is scheduled to start November 27.

Andy Stanley resigned in August as pastor ...

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