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Church World

Breach of Trust At Minneapolis’ Bethlehem Baptist church

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in WORLD Magazine.  This excerpt is reprinted with permission.  To read the complete article, click the link at the bottom of this story.

In a year when Bethlehem Baptist Church, an influential Minneapolis church known for John Piper’s 33-year tenure, celebrates its 150th anniversary, it also faces a public image problem.

This summer, three pastors from Bethlehem’s Downtown Campus abruptly resigned, one after another, including Jason Meyer, Piper’s successor. One pastor charged Bethlehem’s elder council with “domineering leadership,” “spiritual abuse,” and a “toxic culture.” Another wrote in his resignation letter that Bethlehem has “a unity or ‘one voice’ culture that puts a lot of focus on institutional protection.”

Meanwhile, the congregation hurts over the sudden loss of pastors and distressing media reports about their church. Elders struggled to understand what happened, even as they attempted to answer difficult questions from their flock.

What happened at Bethlehem is not just a reflection of ideological fractures in broader American evangelicalism. Complicating Bethlehem’s situation are charges of spiritual abuse from one pastor and several former members. Does Bethlehem face the same crises that high-profile congregations at Mars Hill Church and Harvest Bible Chapel faced after revelations of similar problems?

I talked to former pastors who resigned, four current pastors, five former church members, and nine current church members. Each interview provided a single jigsaw piece to a complicated, thousand-piece puzzle, but there’s a common theme. Somewhere along the way, trust eroded and people got hurt.

This is a story of how that happened.

Read the rest of the story at WORLD News Group.

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Sophia Lee

Sophia is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Southern California graduate. Sophia resides in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband.