Rev. Andrew Pearson, who resigned as the Dean of the largest Episcopal Church in Alabama last year, has now stepped down as the pastor of the new church he founded in Birmingham.
Pearson, the former head of the 3,600-member Cathedral Church of the Advent, served as the lead priest for seven years on staff at the time. He resigned in May 2021. He joined the Anglican Church in North America and, which has been weekly since September at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham.
Pearson said in a letter to the congregation that "my tank is empty" and that he intends to leave by the end of the summer and relocate with his family for a period of healing.
Pearson, who was reached on Wednesday, said he had no intention of making an apology beyond the letter he received to the congregation.
The following is the text of the letter:
Dear Church Family
I have had the greatest pleasure of my full-time ministry experience. We are becoming the kind of church that I have believed to be successful and yet found elusive. This is why I will not be serving Grace Church this summer. My family and I will be moving where we can take some time away from it to heal and to discern future actions.
This is a decision that is shared in prayer, and I am assured that it is the best thing for Grace Church and for me. Even so, I believe you should understand what led to this devastating decision.
Firstly, we have attempted to make Grace Church a place where intimacy, vulnerability, and mutual dependency are all evident. These things, as I have admitted previously, are not traits that come naturally to me. I long for these to be a part of our DNA, but they must be created from the front.
As a result, I have already discovered that I have never been a member of a healthy church (until today). My church was marked by acrimony. At the time, my church wanted to be the kind of church that I left a year ago. As such, I believe there must be someone who is coming from a place of health and capable of modeling the New Testament beliefs.
Second, I believe that someone who is coming in with a clean slate and does not carry the burden from previous positions within the same city would benefit our congregation.
The third, and most importantly, my tank is empty. I had not anticipated the huge response to Grace Church, and there is also the irony of blessing. We are not just a dozen or so people sitting in my living room, as I thought, but a growing congregation with growing-congregation difficulties. These problems are the result of blessing, not scarcity. Grace Church deserves a pastor who can give his all to lead this congregation into a new chapter.
I must declare that healing is a necessity for our family, but wounds from our departure from the Advent remain open. We believe it is best for us to leave a community that we so love for, in greater earnestness. Finally, we will reevaluate where we are spiritually and emotionally. After that, we do not know what the Lord has in store for us.
Your Leadership Team (Marnie Clark, Carter Dukes, Thomas Goodrich, and Spencer Mitchell) is committed to moving Grace Church forward in self-doubt. A search for an assistant pastor will now be a search for someone to take over as senior pastors this summer. We believe that this summer, if you join me, you will then have a discussion with me, and you will then take over the lead.
Birmingham is a child of Grace Church, and who we are, we are far greater than Andrew. We are defined by convictions, not a character.
I hope you will join me in praying for Grace Church and that you will continue to follow its mission in Birmingham.
Press on, and you're going to be fine.
Marnie Clark, Carter Dukes, Thomas Goodrich, Chris Heinss, and Spencer Mitchell have sent out an accompanying letter claiming that a search for a new pastor will begin later this month.
"Like you, it was not without sorrow and shock that we received this news of Andrew's resignation by the end of the summer," they said.
"A quick word of caution." Birmingham is not immune to church politics and gossip. The Pearsons' departure will no doubt be a target for gossip, but we encourage you to rise above it. Instead, spend that time and energy in prayer for our church, the congregation, and the Pearson family."
Pearson praised for launching the new church.
We thank Andrew for his willingness to follow God's request to establish a church, they wrote. His hard work has provided a lasting blessing in each of our lives. We pray that this new phase will bring him back peace and respect in order to prepare for the Lord's work in the near future.
On September 22, 2021, Rev. Andrew Pearson will perform his first service in Grace Church Birmingham at Temple Emanu-El. (Photo by Greg Garrison/AL.com)