Andy Stanley and Charles Stanley – What Really Happened?

For years I’ve heard the whispers about what happened between Andy Stanley, one of the most famous and influential pastors and leaders, and his father Charles Stanley, equally famous and possibly even more influential. These two famously large preaching personalities had parted ways years back amid a divorce between Charles and his wife, Andy’s mom. Some say that Charles had an affair that broke up his marriage and never even missed a day in the pulpit through the whole thing. Some say that his mom had literally lost her mind and it was all her fault. The truth is something that most of us will never know exactly what broke up the marriage of the two time president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and how it tore apart his family – which is probably right given that it’s not really our business. But I’ve always kind of wondered.

CNN ran a story yesterday that gives a rare peek inside the relationship between Andy Stanley and his famous father, how it played out, and how they stuck together. It’s a pretty moving story and it’s well worth the read. I know that there is always another side to every story, and that this article puts these two leaders in the best possible light. I know from experience how leaders can bifurcate their lives so completely that their rhetoric sounds great, but their actions simple don’t match up. I’m not changing my mind on the megachurch – in fact I cannot help but feel compassion for these two men. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live under the weight of all that pressure, scrutiny, and demand. I do not think the megachurch model is a healthy model. Sadly this sort of implosion seems more like the rule than the exception.

Still I think this is a redemptive story and I’m glad they gave the access to CNN to write it up. Here’s an excerpt:

“Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) — Andy Stanley walked into his pastor’s office, filled with dread. The minister sat in a massive chair behind an enormous desk. He spread his arms across the desk as if he were bracing for battle. His secretary scurried out of the office when she saw Andy coming. The pastor had baptized Andy when he was 6, and groomed him to be his successor. But a private trauma had gone public. And Andy felt compelled to speak. The minister stared in silence as Andy gave him the news. The “unspoken dream” both men shared was over. After Andy finished, the pastor looked at him as tears welled up.

“Andy,” he said, “you have joined my enemies, and I’m your father.”

‘I understand drive-by shootings’
He won’t wear a suit or a tie in the pulpit. There’s no special parking space reserved for him at his church. Everyone calls him “Andy.” As a teenager, Andy decided he was going to be a rock star after seeing Elton John perform live. Today he has found fame, and infamy, on another stage.

Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries, one of the largest Christian organizations in the nation. A lanky man with close-cropped hair and an “aw-shucks” demeanor, he is alone as he steps out of his office to greet a visitor to his ministry’s sprawling office complex in suburban Atlanta.

At least 33,000 people attend one of Andy’s seven churches each Sunday. Fans watch him on television or flock to his leadership seminars; pastors study his DVDs for preaching tips; his ministries’ website gets at least a million downloads per month.

“I tell my staff everything has a season,” he says, leaning back in an office chair while wearing a flannel shirt, faded jeans and tan hiking boots. “One day we’re not going to be the coolest church. Nothing is forever. As soon as somebody thinks forever, that’s when they close their hand,” he says, slowly clenching his fist. “Now they have to control, maintain and protect it. … Things get weird.”

At 54, Andy knows something about weirdness. He was swept up in a struggle against another famous televangelist — his father, the Rev. Charles Stanley, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and founder of In Touch Ministries, a global evangelistic organization. The experience enraged Andy so much it scared him:
“I understand drive-by shootings,” he told his wife one day. “I was so angry at my dad. I was trying to do the right thing.”

A new challenge for Andy Stanley. The experience wounded his father as well. “I felt like this was a huge battle, and if Andy had been in a huge battle … you’d have to crawl over me to get to him,” Charles Stanley, now 80, says.” I would have stood by him, no matter what. I didn’t feel like he did that.” There’s no father-son preaching duo quite like the Stanleys. Imagine if Steve Jobs had a son, who created a company that rivaled Apple in size and innovation — and they barely spoke to one another. That was the Stanleys. Neither man has ever fully explained the events that tore them apart 19 years ago — until now.

‘I was the heir apparent’
Charles Stanley remembers the first time he heard his son preach. “I was tickled pink,” he says. “I instantly knew that God could use him.” Charles knows something about preaching. Millions of people around the globe grew up with the sound of his sermons ringing in their ears…

“I was the heir apparent,” Andy says. “I know that he desired it.” Something, however, would drive father and son apart.

‘I got that straight from the Lord’
Andy didn’t know his parents’ marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship. A year after his father appointed him to pastor a satellite church, he knew his parents’ marriage was disintegrating. They had been to every counselor and doctor imaginable. Eventually, his mother moved out and stopped attending church with his father.

“People got used to it, and they quit asking about it,” he says. “It happened so gradually.” Anna Stanley had made her own mark on the church — and on her son. “No matter what I did, I could come home and tell her,” he says. “She never freaked out, never overreacted. She was always a very safe place.” The Rev. Louie Giglio, one of Andy’s best friends growing up, still remembers some of the lessons Andy’s mother taught at summer Bible camp.

“All of Andy’s wisdom doesn’t come from his dad,” says Giglio, now senior pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and a founder of the Passion Movement, a popular outreach effort for young evangelicals. “She was incredibly insightful.”
The quiet exit of Anna Stanley from the pews went public in June 1993 when she filed for divorce. Her action caused a sensation in Southern Baptist circles, where divorce is considered a sin by some based on a literal reading of the Bible. Some pastors shunned Charles; others publicly demanded that he step down. The scandal dragged on for years as the couple attempted to reconcile.

In 1995, Anna Stanley explained why she wanted a divorce in a letter to her husband’s church that was excerpted in the local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an article titled “Torn Asunder.” She said she had experienced “many years of discouraging disappointments and marital conflict. … Charles, in effect, abandoned our marriage. He chose his priorities, and I have not been one of them.” The impending divorce didn’t just threaten Charles’ family; it jeopardized his ministry.

He had always preached unquestioning obedience to the Word of God. And wasn’t Jesus clear about divorce in Gospel passages such as Luke 16:18: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

New Testament passages such as those had prompted First Baptist to institute a policy that prevented divorced men from serving as pastors or deacons. What would the church do when its celebrity pastor — the man who packed the pews and beamed First Baptist’s name across the globe — got a divorce?

Read the rest Here.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Paul

    You shouldn’t repeat comments unless you know them to be
    true, otherwise it would be hearsay. Your comments on divorce
    are misleading, God hates divorce, but will allow it under certain
    cases. If both (man and woman) are willing to work thing out, with
    God’s help divorce should be unnecessary. God Bless

  • http://charrlesstanley elaine delts

    charles stanley did not divorc e his wif e. she divored him. He committed no sin. He is free to marry. It is written in scriptuer check it out.

  • kerry

    I find it sad …there are so many biblicists letter of the law people that live as they do. and sad too…they claim to live so biblicially..and get get divorced and it’s acceptable..but not for gays to love and get married..because its so biblical and letter of the law

  • Enrico

    People who are gay can marry like everyone else. Homosexuals cannot, obviously. Man cannot determine what love is … only God can. He defined it, He lived it, He honours it. Just like He created and defined marriage.

    Some people claim to love and want to marry a toaster, a bull, or a child. That doesn’t make it love. Just because you call your feelings love, doesn’t make it true.

    Marriage is a metaphor for the Gospel. When you pervert marriage with sin, you pervert the Gospel. We are to test everything against scripture. If you don’t want to – then don’t – but don’t pretend to be a follower.

    Either believe God’s Word or don’t … but don’t try to change it to make you feel better about your sin. Scripture is there to convict you of your sin, not ignore it, and certainly not embrace it. Romans tells us that if you condone sin (like homosexuality) you are guilty of it yourself. Anyone can get legal rights to different kinds of unions. You don’t have to disrespect others by calling it marriage. It will never be marriage. Call it a new name – and show respect for those who are in Godly marriages. If you want respect. Show it yourself.

  • Enrico

    It must be terrible for Charles to see his son preach heresies.
    Charles dresses for the King, Andy dresses for someone unworthy.
    Charles preaches truth, Andy preaches heresy.
    Charles was abandoned by his wife, and his son – yet clings to His truth.

    Pray for Andy to repent. It is too bad there are so many people with itching ears to encourage his path in the wrong direction. He dishonours both his earthly and heavenly fathers.

  • mallen717

    The problem is that Charles set up the rules at his church about divorce and elders and then decided he was too big to follow them. I like listening to him, but sadly, he’s fallen into the same trap that ensnares so many other would-be shepherds—personal pride.

    • EMC

      Wrong. A pastor is commanded to be the husband, of “one wife.” It is never said that a pastor cannot be divorced. I am pro-marriage and anti-divorce, but I have to accept scripture as it is written. We have to be really careful that in our conservative view that we don’t man-tailor our ideals and conform scripture to our sentiments. Human sentiment and nobility — of making Pastors go beyond God’s commands — cannot trump the word of God and his plan. And I never throw the first stone at another’s personal pride. That would make me without the sin of pride and the human heart “is desperately wicked. Who can know it?”

  • mallen717

    John Piper is another hypocrite. His son was living in open denial of Christianity for years and it was well known within the church. Piper should have stepped down when he was asked to in order to attend to his personal issue, but refused. The shepherd became larger than the mission again. As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

  • michael C

    Like Eve , Anna was deceived and helped cause the fall .

    • Aans Zippo

      Charles Stanley is a prejudice man who does not practice what he preaches. This man gathered all the Black workers at the church in Atlanta and told them “Why don’t you people go back to your own kind.” He did not want any person of color in his ministry. Once someone of color, was working in the food service department. He would pass by each one in as they were instructed to line up for the pastor’s greeting. He would shake everyone of them in the hand and when he came to the Black one, he reached over that one and shook one of the White twin’s hand and then passed right by the Black one and started talking to the White ones. He did this several times, so it is no coincidence. This man is completely prejudice and does not believe people of color should worship in his congregation. One time this Black worker was working in his ministry in a servant type position and he got his bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies while working there. Then several positions became available over time: one was counselor and one was answering the phones. Each time he applied for the promotions, they would say “We have to pray about it.” They gave each job to a White person. Then one time a position became available in the tape production/fulfillment section, he applied for that too and again they overlooked the Black person and hired a White person from without, instead of hiring from within the church ministry. This man had worked there in the servant position for at least 7 years prior. He had a spotless record and did an excellent job at work, yet when positions to move up came available they purposely avoided giving him a chance to move up. Eventually the person left the ministry. One day the church wrote him a letter at his home. They asked him if he would donate money to the ministry because this man had found a job whereby he could give more to the ministries of God. He had tithed when he was at the church too. So they had placed his name on a list for people who give a lot to Christian ministries and so the church got his name and was asking him for donations to help Charles Stanley’s church.That is not right to treat Christians differently because of the color they were born as. Even in the book of Acts a disciple had to be rebuked because of his prejudices. Here it is many years later and still some famous preachers are still practicing separation of colors in the church. One day Dr. Charles Stanley was saying that he does not like divorce and preaching down to those who had been divorced, some not of their own fault but their partners divorced them and they had no choice. He was saying Jesus does that if he ever got a divorce that he would step down from the pulpit. He was talking very piously. Then one day he was divorced and he fought hard to keep his job in the pulpit. Before he was looking down on people who were divorced and when it happened to him, all of sudden the rules were changed. This man does not live what he preaches in the pulpit. In Heaven there will be people of all colors so if Dr. Charles Stanley does not want people of color to worship in his congregation then he is going to be in for a big shock when he sees Jesus accepts Christians who gave their lives to Christ there worshipping Jesus. What congregation will he be a part of since he does not like people of color? There will be NO segregation in heaven. Only one people and those people will be people who love Jesus and have accepted Him as Savior. There will not be a White section and then a separate section for people of color. He needs to be aware that every race is accepted in The Beloved who has made Jesus Savior and Lord. I do not think prejudice will ever stop on Earth, no matter how many generations pass. This is a tool Satan has used very effectively for many generations to divide people and he is using it very well to divide some churches like Dr. Stanley has. Deception is evil. How can a man who names the Name of Christ still practice prejudice and stand in the pulpit week after week preaching the Gospel of Jesus. The gospel is GOOD NEWS and when people of any race hears the Gospel and accepts Jesus, how can you then say “Go to your own kind”? There is ONE KIND and that is Christians!

      • Michael

        Amen to that .

      • Antiliar

        That’s a big charge to level against Charles Stanley. Do you have any witnesses who can support your charge of racism against him? Some of his sermons have been against racism and there are people of all colors in his congregation. I did a search and of “Charles Stanley” and racism, and nothing comes up. Since racial prejudice is evil, when an allegation like this is brought up it needs support. Please provide some.

        • JINGJING39

          Amen! We always want to work with facts.

      • Ruthie

        I’m not sure if you’ve visited his church but it is about 30-40 percent black (you can get an idea from watching the service on TV as well). I don’t know what he was like in the past but if he was a racist (and I hope he was not), God is surely dealing with him now and he is learning to love people of all colors.

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    Luke 16:18: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” How do you like them apples Charles.

    • JINGJING39

      He never remarried so this does not apply to him lol

    • Chris

      Do you mean to tell me that you take joy in other peoples sorrows? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. I don’t believe the bible says its a sin for your wife to divorce you. It is however a sin to remarry, but Charles Stanley has already stated that he would not do that. Any believer can clearly see that Charles Stanley is a man of God who stands firm on Gods word. We need preachers of righteousness like him in this world of accept all views and do whatever you feel. We don’t need preachers that are sinless because we already have Jesus, we just need preachers of Gods truth.

    • kbrumskill

      Matthew 19:
      7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
      8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
      9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

  • kbrumskill

    Even the Apostle Paul states in Philippians 3:12: (KJV) :
    Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.


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