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Dallas Megachurch Pastor Resigns after Elders Voice Lack of Trust in Leadership

Embattled Dallas megachurch Senior Pastor Todd Wagner has resigned from his position after accusations of spiritual abuse led elders to question his leadership of Watermark Community Church.

Elder and staff member David Leventhal stepped down in late March, citing “an erosion of trust” in Wagner’s ability to lead.

“We believe both men are seeking to be faithful to the Lord and honor one another in this process,” a statement from the church’s elders said. “After hundreds of hours of conversations over several months, every member of the elder team, elder emeritus team, and the various community groups involved all affirm these decisions.”

The church, founded by Wagner and a group of friends in November 1999, is elder-led. The statement, which was signed by Elders Kyle Thompson and Mickey Friedrich, said Wagner and Leventhal will continue to serve together on the elder emeritus team.

Wagner took a leave of absence in September 2020 to work on “pride issues” after a blog called “No Eden Elsewhere” published allegations from church members citing spiritual abuse when they wavered from a church covenant that all members were required to sign.

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When Wagner took the leave, he told the congregation he was not guilty of “disqualifying sin” including sexual immorality, financial misconduct or “foul language.” He returned to the pulpit in January.

The former head pastor explained his philosophy on the practice of church discipline, which he called “loving correction,” in a 2016 opinion piece in the Dallas News in reaction to the revelation that a church member had been asked to leave because of his desire to actively participate in a same-sex relationship.

“Loving correction (church discipline) can be a difficult idea to understand, because candidly—though the mandate is clearly explained by Jesus in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament, most churches today completely ignore it,” the editorial said. “Discipline is an act of love, something any parent knows. The heart of true correction is always to bring about good in the life of an individual. Our goal with every instance of care and correction is to restore the relationship and save our hurting friend from the trouble that sin always creates.”

The church said that moving forward it was “proactively pursuing men to add to the Elder team” and that the church would rely on its “many gifted leaders and communicators who are ready to continue serving the body with excellent teaching on Sunday mornings.”

“Watermark is an Elder-led church. The Elders work alongside a campus leadership team,” the statement said. “This has always been the case and will continue to be. We have a great team in place that the Elder team has high confidence and trust in.”

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.