Texas megachurch pastor returns to pulpit after leave of absence over 'unwise' messages to woman on Instagram

Church leaders maintained Pastor Matt Chandler had not been 'above reproach,' but that he had not disqualified himself from ministry

The pastor of a prominent Southern Baptist megachurch in Texas returned to his pulpit Sunday after taking an abrupt leave of absence for more than three months upon admitting to an "inappropriate" online relationship with a woman.

Pastor Matt Chandler, who serves as lead pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, Texas, returned to a packed church filled with congregants who applauded him, according to The New York Times.

Apologizing to the congregation for "my foolishness," Chandler went on to say, "I’m sorry, I failed you. The Lord met us, and he carried us through, and I don’t want to lose sight of that."

Church elders said Chandler, "completed everything asked of him with submissiveness, steadfastness and humility, and we have received positive feedback from all involved," according to an email sent to church members last week.

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Pastor Matt Chandler, who serves as lead pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, Texas, returned to a packed church filled with congregants who applauded him.

Pastor Matt Chandler, who serves as lead pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, Texas, returned to a packed church filled with congregants who applauded him. (Credit: Google Earth)

Chandler was placed on a leave of absence in August after telling his congregation that he had sent messages via Instagram to a woman who was not his wife in a way that was "unguarded and unwise."

The controversy reportedly began when a woman approached him in the church lobby to confront him about messages he had sent to one of her friends on the popular photo-sharing app.

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Chandler, who did not give extensive details of the exchange in question, stated at the time that while the messages were neither sexual nor romantic, the elders of The Village Church deemed that he "did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him," according to a church statement.

A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 24, 2022. The Village Church is a Southern Baptist congregation.

A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 24, 2022. The Village Church is a Southern Baptist congregation. (AP Photo/Holly Meyer, File)

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The church subsequently hired the third-party law firm Castañeda and Heidelman to audit Chandler's online activity, which reportedly took place with the knowledge of the spouses of those involved.

Church leaders maintained following the investigation that Chandler had failed to meet the biblical standard of ministers being above reproach, but also determined he had not been disqualified from leadership positions.

Attendees arrive at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Anaheim, California, on June 14, 2022.

Attendees arrive at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Anaheim, California, on June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Village Church did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment by time of publication.

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Chandler's leave of absence came as the larger Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., has struggled to deal with sexual misconduct allegations.

Fox News' Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.