Update (Sept. 10): Facing accusations of "being unfair" to John Munro, Back to the Bible stands by its decision to fire the Calvary Church pastor as its lead Bible teacher amid celebration of the radio show's 75th anniversary.
"Misinformation and rumors are circulating that are harmful to Back to the Bible," stated CEO Arnie Cole in a Wednesday press release. "Supporters and partners in Back to the Bible’s ministry deserve to be assured that it has prayerfully followed Biblical as well as legal principles in the handling of recent events."
Noting that the ministry "continues to be asked for reasons for Dr. Munro’s departure," Cole stated the ministry received "a serious complaint" about Munro from an employee in mid-August, and investigated by interviewing "Munro, his accuser, and people from Calvary Church."
"Given the materials, circumstances and facts gathered during that investigation, it was determined by Back to the Bible leadership that the best course of action for everyone involved would be to find a suitable Bible teacher to replace Dr. Munro," stated Cole. "Accordingly, Dr. Munro’s contract ... was ended and a search commenced for a new teacher."
In August, the ministry described the termination as "due to inappropriate conduct and behavior that is detrimental to Back to the Bible's mission of leading people closer to Jesus on a daily basis."
On Wednesday, Cole described the episode as a "disruptive and upsetting course of events." He clarified that Back to the Bible did not share information from its own investigation with Calvary Church, and noted that the Charlotte megachurch's recent restoring of Munro to his pulpit [see below for details] will have no bearing on the radio show's decision.
Meanwhile, Back to the Bible announced that Warren Wiersbe, who hosted the show from 1980-1990, will return as its interim Bible teacher while the radio show searches for Munro's replacement.
A prominent pastor will resume his role next Sunday after being put on paid leave last month while his North Carolina megachurch investigated an alleged violation of its employee handbook.
The investigation was sparked after John Munro, senior pastor of Charlotte's Calvary Church, was fired from his role as lead Bible teacher for “Back to the Bible,” a global broadcast ministry celebrating its 75th anniversary. CEO Arnie Cole stated the termination was "due to inappropriate conduct and behavior that is detrimental to Back to the Bible's mission of leading people closer to Jesus on a daily basis." [Full statement below.]
During yesterday's Sunday service, Calvary elder Bill Bailey told the 4,000-member congregation that the investigation concluded the alleged violation of Calvary Church's policies "was not supported," though Munro "used judgment that did not align with the high expectations to which church leaders are held.” Munro acknowledged he committed "an innocent error of judgment that while was neither unlawful nor sinful, failed to demonstrate the judgment the church expects of me.” The Charlotte Observerreports the details.
A Calvary Church spokesperson told CT today, "Although we understand you have learned that an internal investigation within our church has come to a conclusion, we are keeping the communication regarding the investigation to within the Calvary Church family to continue to protect the privacy interests of all involved. Please know our membership cherishes and appreciates the messages of prayer and support that we have received."
Munro recently made national news as pastor of Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol, who attends Calvary and served as a missionary with SIM in Liberia. Upon Writebol’s release from the hospital, her family spoke with Ed Stetzer.
Calvary Church’s previous pastor, Glenn Wagner, stepped down in 2004 after he confessed to plagiarizing his sermons. Billy Graham’s father, William Franklin Graham Sr., was one of Calvary Church’s founding elders when it first opened its doors in 1939.
In 2001, CT profiled Back to the Bible as a case study of evangelicals’ love affair with technology, and noted how the ministry partnered with TWR in the 1990s as many American broadcasters sought to reach an international audience.
In 2008, Stetzer referenced Calvary Church as an example of churches “serving and impacting their communities in profound ways." CT also solicited then-Calvary Church executive pastor Hank Holley’s opinions on a 1997 Billy Graham crusade.
Back to the Bible's full statement following Calvary Church's announcement:
Back to the Bible continues to be asked for reasons for Dr. Munro’s departure from its ministry. In some cases, it is being accused of being unfair to Dr. Munro. Misinformation and rumors are circulating that are harmful to Back to the Bible. Supporters and partners in Back to the Bible’s ministry deserve to be assured that it has prayerfully followed Biblical as well as legal principles in the handling of recent events. Prudence and a decent regard for the opinions of those who share and support Back to the Bible’s mission and beliefs require that it explain what has happened and how things are now, while at the same time respecting the privacy and other interests of the people involved.
In mid-August of this year, Back to the Bible received from one of its employees a serious complaint about Dr. Munro. Back to the Bible immediately consulted with its lawyers and commenced an investigation under their direction and control. During the investigation Back to the Bible interviewed witnesses, including John Munro, his accuser, and people from Calvary Church, where Dr. Munro is pastor. The Munro and complainant interviews were recorded with their permission. Given the materials, circumstances and facts gathered during that investigation, it was determined by Back to the Bible leadership that the best course of action for everyone involved would be to find a suitable Bible teacher to replace Dr. Munro. Accordingly, Dr. Munro’s contract with Back to the Bible was ended and a search commenced for a new teacher.
Back to the Bible’s investigation and findings pertain to personnel/employee matters which it must maintain in confidence unless the persons involved consent to release. Aside from announcing Dr. Munro’s departure, Back to the Bible has not released to Calvary Church or anyone else the information it gathered during its investigation, and Dr. Munro has not consented to its release. Without the necessary consents, Back to the Bible must and will maintain in strict confidence the information it gathered during its investigation. Back to the Bible does not know what information others may have about the complaint, if any, or what sources it may have come from.
During this disruptive and upsetting course of events, Back to the Bible has not intruded on Calvary Church’s relationship with Dr. Munro, nor has it shared any findings from its investigation with anyone outside its own leadership. The church’s business is separate and apart from Back to the Bible’s. Its decisions do not impact those of Back to the Bible. All decisions made by the Calvary Church governing body were and are made independently and not in conjunction, coordination or cooperation with Back to the Bible, and without the materials collected in the Back to the Bible investigation. Back to the Bible has taken care to keep its attention on the matters that pertain to its relationship with Dr. Munro, and away from church affairs.
CEO Back to the Bible
Back to the Bible's full statement following Munro's firing:
Dear Friend of Back to the Bible,
It's with great sadness I need to share with you a very difficult situation.
Back to the Bible has terminated its relationship with Dr. John Munro due to inappropriate conduct and behavior that is detrimental to Back to the Bible's mission of leading people closer to Jesus on a daily basis.
We will air special programming featuring Dr. Wiersbe and Dr. Epp as we finalize discussions with a new Bible teacher. Once that decision is finalized we will be sure to announce it publicly.
Please be assured of our continued commitment to reach out through radio to lead you and others closer to Jesus through the transforming power of God's Word. And thank you for your prayers during this extremely difficult time.
CEO, Back to the Bible