The lead pastor at an Arizona megachurch that draws about 6,000 people to its services has resigned after admitting to multiple extramarital affairs, church officials confirmed.
Church members were told Saturday and Sunday at worship services that Pastor Mark Connelly had resigned Dec. 30 from Mission Community Church in Gilbert.
“We are committed to helping Mark rebuild his marriage and we have offered all of the mercy and counseling resources of our church to help him and his family through this time,” said Gary Sutcliff, the executive pastor of ministries who was named as Connelly’s interim replacement. “In addition, we have offered the same resources to the women involved. Our priority right now is helping all those involved, including the people of our church, heal from this.”
Pastor Randy Thomas, who told congregants the news Sunday, said he initially felt angry and betrayed by his friend and colleague.
“We may be knocked down but we are not knocked out,” Thomas said. “If ever there was a time for us to lean on each other, this is it.”
Church officials declined to confirm whether any of the women involved in the affairs were members of the church, which started in 1995 as Superstition Springs Community Church in a high school cafeteria.
The congregation has since grown and moved to its current location in 2004, and Connelly became lead pastor the following year.
Social media reactions to the news were generally positive, with many congregants expressing sympathy for the pastor’s family and saying they planned to stay with the church.
Church member Brian Kaufman told The Arizona Republic that Connelly’s actions are a reminder that “anyone is capable of anything.”
“Mark is accountable for his actions, as he is well aware,” Kaufman said. “My family will continue to love and support his family in any way we can.”
The search for a permanent lead pastor will begin in the next few weeks, church officials said.
Watch this video posted online by the Arizona Republic: