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Monday, May 01, 2006

Cocaine Addicted Pastor Wants to Keep His Position

Cocaine [The Flint Journal]  A penitent pastor of a prominent Flint church says he wants to keep his job but will accept whatever decision his parishioners make about his future with the church.

"I believe that God places it in people's hearts for who their leader should be, and I think that at a crossroads and a juncture like this that God will place it in the members' hearts, ... and I will respect the wishes of the church family and be OK with whatever happens," said the Rev. Derrick A. Aldridge, who is continuing treatment for substance abuse.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being arrested Jan. 13 in Flint on suspicion of cocaine possession, the pastor of Foss Avenue Baptist Church, in northeast Flint, said he has asked the congregation to withhold a decision on his fate for 45 days, a period he said he chose arbitrarily.

"The Bible says that if we pray and cease not, that God is faithful to answer our prayers," said Aldridge, who completed one 90-day treatment program in Mississippi on April 12 and is continuing as an outpatient. "So we as a church family are going for the next 45 days in prayer, and then at that point in time we will decide where we go from there."

Aldridge, 51, spoke to church members Wednesday, apologizing for "any embarrassment that I have caused them."

One church member who attended the meeting said parishioners were asked not to comment publicly on the session. Notices of the meeting had been sent to church members, he said.

Aldridge, who took over the 1,200-member church from his father, the Rev. Avery Aldridge, in February 2002, was arrested by Flint police in the Ballenger Highway and Flushing Road area, although police didn't release details. He was booked into the Genesee County Jail on pending charges of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, carrying a concealed weapon and driving under the influence of drugs, jail officials said.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton turned the case over to the Lapeer County prosecutor's office because he represented Aldridge in a 1995 embezzlement case and wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

The embezzlement charge was lodged against Aldridge when he was accused of taking more than $11,000 from the then-Flint City Market, which he managed. He was allowed to plead no contest to attempted embezzlement, with the plea held in abeyance during an intensive probation term.

He paid restitution and satisfied the terms of the arrangement. He was allowed to plead guilty to willful neglect of duty by a public official and received a suspended sentence, according to court records.

At the time, prosecutors said the embezzlement resulted from a substance abuse problem for which Aldridge sought treatment on his own.

Aldridge said Thursday that he recognizes he has a disease that "is going to be with me for the rest of my life." He said that in the past he relied on God for healing but now realizes there are other ways of attacking substance abuse.

"God gives me (Alcoholics Anonymous) and (Narcotics Anonymous) and treatment facilities and prayer and other methods to work with my disease, so now I have some tools that I wasn't aware of that I needed before to keep my disease under control," said Aldridge, who had a 1978 drug conviction in Alabama.

Aldridge said he is still dealing with the deaths of his father, a Flint civic and religious leader who died in 2003, and his mother, Mildred, former principal of Doyle-Ryder Elementary in Flint, who died in 2005. He said he wants to work on that grief further at the Mississippi treatment center while he writes about his abuse problem for a possible future book.

"I would like to go back and continue as pastor to do some teaching about some of the mistakes that I have made to try to help young people along so they don't have to go down the same path that I have made," he said.

Earlier, Kenneth M. Scott, 59, a Flint attorney who said he has been a member of the church since age 8, said he objected to an announcement made at a March 26 church service that the Board of Deacons had voted to dismiss Aldridge as pastor. He fired off a letter to Charles McGhee, board chairman, saying the decision had to be made by a vote of the entire congregation.

Thomas Waun, Aldridge's attorney, also asked in a letter to church officials that a decision be withheld until Aldridge could address the issue.

McGhee could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Aldridge said he understands the tensions among church members.

"Because of my behavior, there has been an aftermath, and I am here to clean it up and make sure that God gets the glory out of this," he said. "That's my only goal and my only aim."

FOR DISCUSSION:  Wow.  What would you do if you were an elder in this church?  If you fell into a very public sin like this as a pastor, how would you respond?  Would you ask to keep your job?

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May 1, 2006 in Trends in Today's Church | Permalink

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First of all, none of us are above Satan's fiery darts that he hurls at us daily. Some do not cope with them as well as others, be it spiritual strength or Christian character we were brought up with. Let us pray for this pastor and his church.

As an elder in this church I would definitely seek the Lord's will concerning this sin. It seems almost insurmountable from mans point of view, but God may be in it 100%. Take counsel from other godly men and women in the church and abstain from making the problem worse.

If this were to happen to me, I think I would resign and seek another ministry after knowing the Lords will concerning my life. Broken and beaten people can minister to a whole different segment of society.

I might pursue the book and maybe a speaking tour for NA and promote wellness among pastors and other high pressure ministers, like Jim Bakker.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | May 1, 2006 2:39:58 PM

The more I read this, the deeper I found the issues going. It's not "just" a current or recent cocaine addiction - the pastor has a 30-year history that needs to be taken VERY seriously by himself first of all, and of course by the church and its leaders.

Based on the information here, I would have a hard time saying that Aldridge presently meets the biblical requirements for being an elder. His life is clearly not under control - either his own or God's - and he is certainly not above reproach. But the church's job is not to throw him out on the street to fend for himself, it is to nurture him back to both physical and spiritual wholeness.

If I were an elder at the church, I would immediately remove him from active leadership and begin a lengthy, intense process of physical detoxification and spiritual restoration. Discipline from the church is probably needed and should be exercised with a firm hand and a graceful heart. To the extent possible, I think I'd keep him on the payroll, at least for a time. Restoration to leadership may be possible, but that should not be the primary goal; restoration to God, the church, family should all take precedence. Any way you look at it, Pastor Aldridge needs a group of men around him who can lovingly and firmly hold him accountable to God's standards. Restoration will only be possible as Aldridge submits himself to such accountability. THAT will be a lifelong need.

As for attorney Kenneth Scott, I hope his questioning of Aldridge's dismissal by the Deacons is based on a desire to operate in accordance with the church's constitution, not a political move in favor of keeping a pastor he happens to like. Unfortunately, I've seen too many letters fired off by attorneys who are long-standing church members; few were motivated by what is truly right.

Church leaders: Who has the authority in your church to take action with pastors who have failed morally and/or legally? This is a critical question especially for "congregationally-led" churches that call pastors by a vote of the congregation. I think dismissal (or at least "administrative leave") needs to be in the authority of a smaller body, whether it is the elders, the deacons, the church board....

Posted by: Randy Ehle | May 1, 2006 4:39:20 PM

Not knowing all the details, and obviously not knowing this pastor and his heart, progress, etc., I would say that I would have to step down from any pastoral ministry for some time.

The pressures of pastoral ministry are too great to have to deal with as one deals with an addiction and now court demands.

He needs (in my opinion as an outsider) that he needs to step aside and heal - himself, his family, and his church, etc. He needs to learn to function as a Christian outside of ministry.

My heart breaks for him. I can understand his desire to continue in ministry, and like Jay mentioned, might nudge him to another ministry besides pastoring.

But the lessons he wants to pass on will be best received when he's actually "finished" with the process and court-ordered issues.


Posted by: Brian La Croix | May 1, 2006 4:42:20 PM

I believe the best thing for him, his family, and the church is for him to step down until he is completely healed.

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | May 1, 2006 8:32:10 PM

I think he needs to talk to Pastor Jonh Baker at Saddleback and go to Celebrate Recovery

Posted by: Harvey | May 1, 2006 10:51:23 PM

What a wonderful ministry "Celebrate Recovery". We used the materials and helps for those addicted to all sorts of sins. The leader in the church was a recovering addict. What a great idea and ministry.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | May 1, 2006 11:06:38 PM

As a former drug abuser, I know that it is not an easy problem to confront. I tried for years to free myself, but was not able to do so, as I kept returning to that lifestyle. Then, in 1993 God chose to spare my life, after a life threatining battle with cancer. I even returned to the drugs after being pronounced cancer free.
Another year would pass before I allowed God to clean up my act, for I sensed he was calling me to preach. I gave my addiction to Christ and I have never looked back. He gave me the grace to complete college, be ordained and too pastor for the past twelve years. It's all because of His Amazing Grace! For this pastor, I will noyl say that you must first want to be free, and then trust the Lord to remove from you this terrible disease. He can and will do it, I am living proof. I do beleive he needs to step away from the pulpit until he can absolutely guarantee that he is free of his addicitons. Pastoring the same group will be extremely difficult, for we all know the church can be mighty unforgiving. I say a prayer for you. God bless.

Posted by: Steve Nestor | May 2, 2006 7:46:00 AM

I think Randy is right on. My dad was a pastor who fell into drug addiction several years ago. As others have said, this is a LIFELONG battle. If this pastor is broken, humble and teachable, there is no doubt that God not only can, but WILL use him for great things down the road. But, for now, it is important that his focus be on cleansing, healing and restoration. It is very important that he dig really deep and allow the Holy Spirit to expose to him why these issues began in the first place. The LAST thing on his list of priorities needs to be pastoring this church. Psalms says that "a broken and contrite spirit" is what God desires. It is very difficult for a minister to remain "broken" while receiving cudos and ego stroking from the congregation and often, as a result he is deceived into believing that his healing is farther along that it really is. As difficult as it is to walk away, this is a time for surrendering all, including broken dreams and for allowing God to rebuild his new life into an amazing ministry that ONLY God can restore.

Posted by: danny | May 3, 2006 9:47:01 AM

What about other addictions? Love of money, sex, homosexuality, alcohol, lying, porno, cheating and the like? Drugs are bad enough, but being a leader in the church, pastor at that, and being unrepentive of these other sins is ireprehensiveable. Church leaders, and workers must be sure of their calling and their prayer life to keep themselves clean and spotless lest we fall into Eli's sin of "whateverness". Hophni and Phinehas paid a great price for their sinfulness before God and the people of God. Repentance would have saved them.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | May 3, 2006 1:13:03 PM

Aldridge is not repentent or humbled. I know, I am a member of the church. He is simply trying to protect the job that he has, because he can't get one anywhere else. He has a history of drug abuse and embezzlement (including the church). God CAN heal, but you have to want to be healed.

Posted by: Concerned | May 8, 2006 7:00:05 PM

I was brought up to believe that God can do anything but fail. Sometimes God puts us to the test to see if we will fail or succeed. Yes Pastor Aldridge has some baggage that has followed him into his current role as a Pastor of a prominent church, but the bible states that, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." There is only one perfect person in the entire universe and that is GOD.

I'm troubled by this entire ordeal. We should be focusing on praying and asking the Lord to take total control of this situation. Pastor Aldridge has not only hurt his church family, but also his family.I feel if they love him enough to stand by him, the church should do the same. Even when his parents were alive, they knew of the difficulties that he had, but continued to love him unconditionally. That's what you call Agape love. God has this kind of love for all of his children. God never leaves you nor will he forsake his own.

We all have done things in our life that we're not proud of. Some get caught and others don't. He just happened to get caught. Sometimes it take things like this to happen to us in order for the Lord to get all of the glory.

In response to the comments made by Jay, you started off making comments as a concerned person and in your last reply, you say that you belong to the church. Are you a member or not, and if so, please continue to stay with the statement that you made earlier.Keep praying for him.

I don't agree with one of the comments that Pastor Aldridge made when he said that he tried God and now he knows that there are other ways to make it through this. Only through God's grace and mercy will he be brought out of this ordeal.

Let's continue to pray that the Lord will heal Pastor Aldridge of the devils hold, and the hearts and minds of his family and congregation.

Posted by: Cynthia | May 11, 2006 9:45:29 AM

As a former member of the church Aldridge is pastoring, I am appalled that the church let him continue in his position. His father founded that church with only four members. It has grown to become one of the most revered churches in the nation. Every aspect of the church was 20 years ahead of it's time. This man has made a mockery of everything that his parents stood for. He needs to drop out of sight and not emerge until he is healed of his addiction. He is a horrible example for the young people of the congregation. One of the young men said publicly that "drugs aren't so bad". Instead of members joining other churches, they should DEMAND that he be removed so that they can continue to be a beacon for the community.

Posted by: LANA | Aug 18, 2006 9:07:07 PM

If I were a pastor in the position of Pastor Aldridge, I would, without a doubt, step down as the pastor. I would put the needs of the congregation before my own, and not cause a division in the church. This is what Derrick Aldridge as done to Foss Avenue Baptist Church.

Posted by: Krystle Clear | Aug 28, 2006 8:34:24 PM

This man has no interest in repentance. He is only ready to move on to the next con and the next drug fix. It is awful that he only received a slap on the wrist. However, I fully believe it will happen again because he doesn't want to change - he wants you to pay tithes and offerings that he can use for drug money. In essence, his congregration pays for drugs. Before this drug incident, Aldridge has personally cheated me and lied boldly right to my face! So I asked him if he was running a house of God or a den of robbers. If people continue to deal with him and pay tithes and offerings, I can only say they want to be abused.

Posted by: Anna | Oct 20, 2006 6:21:44 PM

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