Members of the Calvary Chapel Melbourne (CCM) in Florida are questioning the decision of the elders to retire their founding pastor, alleging that he was forced out of the church.
In the announcement on social media, captured by The Christian Post, CCM shared that Pastor Mark Balmer will not be serving as a lead minister anymore but will take a sabbatical instead after almost three decades of service.
"...Per this announcement, Pastor Mark will no longer be serving as Senior Pastor and Head Elder, however he will retain the title of Founding Pastor/Pastor Emeritus," the statement said.
"The Elder Board has encouraged Pastor Mark to enjoy a long-deserved sabbatical after which we are in prayer with him as to the best utilization of his gifts to further serve our fellowship and the Body of Christ. This decision is in no way due to moral failure or any financial impropriety," it added.
But most of the congregants were saddened by the move, based on the comments in the post.
Nancy Hardison Shepherd Lane argued that the announcement is disrespectful since it was made in the minister's absence.
"... How disrespectful to make an announcement of such weight without Pastor Mark being present. That's not Pastor Mark's way of taking a break..." Lane wrote.
Beth Bergonzoni Quave was also displeased with the news, saying that she was hurt with it and will start looking for another church with a pastor who teaches "the Word verse by verse."
Sharon Brickhouse contended that the action was "totally wrong" because the congregation was not prepared for the transition. She also revealed about seeing a video of the minister while in Israel, expressing his excitement of visiting the country and wanting to return to share the experience.
Tammie Asbury explained that she was also upset due to the sudden change in leadership without considering "the feelings" of the congregants.
In a statement to Florida Today, elder board member Ken Welsh disclosed that they voted on Balmer's status as a senior pastor. He added that they would like the minister to speak to the congregation but the pastor chose not to.
Bill Beck, CCM's church administrator, stated that the transition plan has long been discussed with the minister, which he also created. But as time went by, he claimed that Balmer seemed not interested to talk about it.
"... The elders came to the unanimous decision that he needed to step down. There's just no good way to do it. We love Pastor Mark, we honor him. But it is the elders' job to hold church leadership accountable and to do what's best for the church," he continued.
Balmer founded the church in 1992 after working as a hospital pharmacy director for 25 years. In addition to thousands of regular members who attend physically, CCM's live services are also streamed by others online.
A gifted pastor-teacher, his way of communication through his preaching is said to have driven many to surrender their lives to Christ. His teachings are even played on the radio program, "Lessons for Living."