Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The pastor of a Texas megachurch was placed on leave after church leaders determined that Instagram messages between him and a woman who is not his wife "crossed a line."
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, about 30 miles northwest of Dallas, made the announcement before the congregation Sunday in a statement that was recorded and shared to the church's website.
Chandler, 48, said a woman approached him in the church's foyer several months ago about concerns about Instagram messages the pastor exchanged with her friend.
"I didn't think I had done anything wrong in that," he said. "My wife knew that, her husband knew that, and yet there were a couple of things that she said that were disorienting to me."
The Village Church said in a statement Sunday that Chandler shared those concerns with his wife and two elders who then commissioned an independent law firm to conduct a review of his messages across social media as well as his phone messages and email.
The investigators' report led the elders to conclude that Chandler's message history violated the church's internal social media use policy, as he "did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and did not model behavior that we expect from him."
"While the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line. They revealed that Matt did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him," the church said.
The church added that while "the overarching pattern of [Chandler's] life has been 'above reproach,' he failed to meet the [biblical] standard for elders of being 'above reproach' in this instance."
The elders said that they did not believe his behavior warranted disqualification but concluded that he should take a "disciplinary and developmental" leave of absence to address the "unhealth in his life," adding that the timeline for his return would be "dictated by the expectations the elders have laid out for his development."
"I'm just really embarrassed, feel stupid ... I feel like I'm embarrassing my wife and kids," Chandler said in his speech Sunday. "I'm held to a higher standard and fell short of that higher standard."
Chandler, who has been the church's pastor since 2002, said he plans to be the lead pastor of the church for the next 20 years.
He is also president and chairman of Acts 29, an organization that aims to start new churches, which released a statement to USA Today saying they would also have Chandler step away from some forward-facing activities.
"The elders of The Village Church decided that Matt's leave of absence would be from teaching and preaching. The Acts 29 Board has decided to follow the lead of TVC and ask Matt to step away from his Acts 29 speaking engagements during this time," the organization said.
It added that Executive Director Brian Howard would lead Acts 20 in its "commitment to plant disciple-making churches worldwide."