As promised. St. Mark Baptist Church issued a statement this afternoon on Sunday's resignation of senior pastor Steven Arnold. It says an inappropriate relationship with a church member led to his departure. Not specifically addressed was the future of ambitious building plans at the 12th Street campus, whose membership of around 7,000 is believed to be the largest among predominantly African-American churches in Arkansas. A planned new worship center is shown above. Sources have told us a loan in the range of $14 million was scheduled to close this week, but has been delayed.
The statement seems to put to rest rumors that Arnold could return to the church.
The full statement, from Elder Lamarr Bailey, the church's chief operating officer:
On October 3, 2010, the Board of Elders at St. Mark Baptist Church accepted the resignation of Bishop Steven Arnold, its Senior Pastor of 21 years. Bishop Arnold announced his resignation to the church during all three
worship services on Sunday, October 3. Leaders of the church are preparing for a closed meeting with St. Mark’s members to discuss the situation and its plans to move forward.
Bishop Arnold tendered his resignation to the Board of Elders after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a female parishioner.
“It is with a heavy heart that we accept the resignation of our pastor. Under his leadership, we have experienced tremendous growth, both spiritually and numerically. We love and deeply appreciate all that he has done for us through God’s enablement these past 21 years. In our efforts to curtail speculation and gossip, the Board of Elders made the decision to be more specific about what led to Bishop Arnold’s resignation.
But out of respect and sensitivity to the families and all that are involved, we will not release any more information other than this. We prayerfully hope that the public will show the same respect and be considerate of the feelings of family members and our church during this difficult time,” Elder Lamarr Bailey said.
Church leaders are working on a plan to move forward in search of a new Senior Pastor in accordance with the Constitution and By-Laws of the church. By the grace of God, St. Mark Baptist Church will continue the work of the ministry as they reach and impact lives for Christ.
We've been unable to reach Arnold. He's been preaching in revival services this week in North Little Rock, however, reportedly to large crowds.