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Scott Sauls, Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Set to Resign Following Disciplinary Process

The senior pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Scott Sauls, is reportedly set to resign. 

The decision comes in the wake of a prolonged disciplinary process that has garnered widespread attention. 

According to reports, an email sent to Christ Presbyterian members on Friday morning outlines plans for a Sunday meeting where Sauls is expected to present his resignation. The Tennessean has reportedly obtained and verified the email.

If the congregation votes in favor of accepting the resignation, this move would bring an end to the ongoing discussions about Sauls’ suitability to resume his pastoral duties following his disciplinary suspension. It would also mark a crucial step in guiding the church through its recovery phase.

Christ Presbyterian Church’s leadership is grappling with the challenge of rebuilding trust, as concerns among members persist regarding church authority and oversight. The church’s highest eldership authority, known as the session, expressed in the email a desire for the meeting to contribute to the church’s “peace and purity,” especially given the challenging circumstances leading to this juncture.

The disciplinary process began in May when Sauls was placed on indefinite leave, and the Nashville Presbytery, the regional authority for Middle Tennessee churches in the Presbyterian Church in America, suspended him indefinitely. This action followed an inquiry by the Presbytery’s shepherding committee into a reported toxic work environment at the church.

Sauls has admitted to misconduct, confessing in a May video to church members and privately to the Nashville Presbytery. The specifics of the latter confession have not been publicly disclosed. The Rev. Ian Sears, former chair of the presbytery’s shepherding committee, is also dealing with his own misconduct allegations and has stepped down from his ministry and presbytery leadership roles.

Sauls acknowledged creating a hostile work environment, admitting to using harsh criticism and manipulation of facts to silence dissent and support his desired paths. “I verbalized insensitive and hurtful criticism of others’ work. I’ve used social media and the pulpit to quiet dissenting viewpoints. I’ve manipulated facts to support paths that I desire,” Sauls stated in his confession.

Concerns about the church’s environment date back three years, with former and current staff advocating for a third-party evaluation. However, the church’s eldership opted for the Nashville Presbytery’s intervention, leading to the shepherding committee’s inquiry and Sauls’ discipline.

During the upcoming Sunday meeting, the session will propose a motion to “receive and affirm” Sauls’ resignation. A Nashville Presbytery representative will moderate the session, culminating in a membership vote on Sauls’ resignation. The session’s email stressed the significance of the event, emphasizing a thoughtful approach involving “prayer, discussion, debate,” and noting a notable level of agreement between the session and Sauls.

Scott Sauls, who joined Christ Presbyterian in 2012, has overseen substantial growth in the church, including the launch of three satellite campuses and the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work. The church also operates a K-12 school, Christ Presbyterian Academy.

Sauls, recognized nationally and locally in Evangelical circles, faced internal criticism for his leadership style, leading to significant staff turnover in 2021. The Nashville Presbytery’s discipline barred him from preaching, teaching, and social media engagement, pending compliance with disciplinary terms.

Before his tenure at Christ Presbyterian, Sauls served at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and led church plants in Kansas City and St. Louis. Known for his writings on joy, shame, anxiety, and depression, Sauls emphasized the importance of pastoral accountability in a 2018 interview, cautioning against the isolation and moral failures that can accompany church growth.

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