Village Chapel Pastor Resigns; Building Plans to Proceed
Division within the congregation of The Village Chapel has led to the resignation of its senior pastor, but that will not affect plans to build a learning center, church leaders said.
Toby Wells, the newly appointed chairman of the Village Chapel board of trustees said Thursday that the learning center was not among the issues that resulted in Senior Pastor Larry Ellis leaving.
“I can definitely and unequivocally say the issues and the crisis we had in our church had nothing to do with the learning center,” Wells said.
The Village Chapel plans to build a 16,800-square-foot learning center.
Wells said the recent turmoil and subsequent staff changes may result in a readjustment of the timeline for the completion of the learning center. He did not elaborate on what the issues were that led to the pastor’s resignation.
“We’ve had some very tough decisions to make, and now we must first take time to heal our congregation,”he said. “We still have that vision (the learning center) in our sights. It just may be a little farther down the line that we all hoped.
During a meeting Tuesday, the congregation voted to keep the board of trustees intact, setting in motion “necessary changes,” according to a letter from the board that was sent to members late this week.
“There are no victories, no winners,” the letter says. “Now we must rebuild the bonds of faith and fellowship that tie us together and unite us in our church family.”
Ellis turned in his resignation Thursday. He will preach his last sermon Sunday. He will take a medical leave of absence for the month of April, according to the letter.
“We will forever be in Larry’s debt for his exemplary service during the past decade,” the letter states.
Glenn Miller, the chapel’s former senior minister who retired three years ago, will serve as interim minister through May 1.
Wells said he met this week with representatives from Moore County and the village of Pinehurst to discuss off-site water line improvements that must be made before a certificate of occupancy can be issued for the proposed learning center.
“We had a very productive meeting,” he said. “The chapel is committed to a pretty sizeable investment in that project (water line improvement) to help us obtain our building permit and move forward.”
The church board briefly addressed the learning center in the letter to the congregation, stating that the project continues to be in the planning stages and that the the chapel is “moving ahead with all items associated with water line improvement issues, site plans and other aspects of the permitting process.”
The proposed expansion has been a contentious issue in the community.
Opponents of the new building have argued that it will cause traffic and parking problems, disturb the historical nature of the area and harm property values. They also argued that the expansion is part of the chapel’s desire to build a school.
Opponents filed a lawsuit against the village to stop the project. In December, Superior Court Judge James M. Webb ruled in favor of the village. That decision was appealed earlier this year.
Chapel representatives have repeatedly said that the expansion will be used to meet the space needs of its growing congregation and that it will not be used as a school.
Ellis was a vocal supporter of the expansion during the approval process.
His resignation was the third change in the ministerial leadership this year. Dr. Al Hill resigned on Feb. 12. Ashley Smith was named new minister of education. He is expected to assume some of the responsibilities for Sunday worship services as well as continue his direction of the Christian Education Programs.
After the changes, Wells said the congregation will turn its attention to healing.
“I don’t see any interruption in the majority of our services,” Wells said.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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