About 2,000 members made the warm walk across the NewSpring Church parking lot in Anderson for each worship service Sunday morning.
Few were fully braced for the news that awaited: Perry Noble, the only senior pastor the church has known, has been removed from his duties for personal issues related to alcohol by the church’s leadership team.
Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess said the news “did come as a shock” in the 9:15 a.m. service, even though recent rumors had prepared him to a degree.
“But the church isn’t made up of the preacher, and the church doesn’t worship the preacher,” he said. “The church is the people who go there, and we all love one another.”
By the time members arrived for the 11:15 a.m. service, most seemed better prepared for the announcement from Executive Pastor Shane Duffey.
Early in both worship services, Duffey revealed the well-kept secret that Noble had been fired effective July 1.
In the second session, few in the near-filled lower level of the auditorium showed any visible reaction to the news.
The NewSpring Board of Directors, Duffey said, made “a difficult and painful decision” to remove Noble, adding that the founder was “no longer qualified to serve as pastor” at the state’s largest church.
Duffey said the termination came after Noble “had made unfortunate choices and decisions that have caused much concern” among board members, who had confronted Noble more than once in recent months about his alcohol use and his “posture toward marriage.”
Noble, who in recent years has openly discussed bouts with depression, did not appear to be at the church Sunday morning. Duffey read a statement in which Noble expressed remorse and a plan to “immediately seek spiritual guidance.”
Noble said he “will no longer be pastor on July 1,” indicating his statement had been written at least 10 days earlier.
“I wish this were a joke, and part of a sermon illustration,” Noble said in the statement regarding his termination, “but it is true.”
The revelation came as the megachurch, which boasts more than 30,000 members in 17 cities in South Carolina, is in the final stage of two expansions.
In the statement, Noble said he “never claimed to be a perfect pastor and never claimed to be a perfect Christian” and confirmed that in the past year, he had “allowed myself to slide into an overuse of alcohol.”
He also said the job had “created a strain” on his marriage.
In the statement, Noble said had recently “come to depend on alcohol instead of Jesus.” He said there was no infidelity nor abuse in his marriage.
“No one is more disappointed in me than I am in myself,” Noble said.
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SOURCE: Greenville Online