Steve Timmis, CEO of the fast-growing church planting network Acts 29, has been let go from his role after allegations surfaced of “abusive leadership.”
“A little over two weeks ago, the Board of Acts 29 was made aware of some accusations of abusive leadership against our CEO Steve Timmis,” said a statement from Acts 29. “The Board launched an investigation of these claims and found evidence that he should be transitioned out of the CEO role immediately. Where there needs to be reconciliation, we are prayerful and committed to seeking it.”
According to a Christianity Today article, Timmis was a UK pastor who joined Acts 29 seven years ago and shepherded the organization from 300 churches to 800 around the world. He was known for his church model that focused on “ordinary life with gospel intentionality” in his 120-person church, The Crowded House, where he remained an elder after joining Acts 29.
The former CEO attracted thousands of people with his profound teaching and strong church commitments. Supporters have posted comments to his social media profiles with messages such as, “So deeply encouraged by your leadership,” and “Your godly example and love for people has set a course for my own life.”
But Timmis’ leadership “bruised” people, according to Andy Stovell, a former elder of The Crowded House.
“I am not persuaded by the explanation that this is a case of strong leadership inevitably leading to some feathers being ruffled. People have become bruised by Steve’s style. People have become cowed due to it,” he said.
Involved leaders described a culture that chastised members for taking interest in outside mission opportunities, such as participating in other Bible studies or volunteering with a summer camp. Some students also felt pressured to stay with the church instead of returning home for the summer to visit their families.
Turnover was also high for staff, elders, and members at the Crowded House.
“There is such an emphasis on ‘vision’ that if you have issues with that then you are encouraged to leave,” said Michael Tinker, a UK singer who was a member of the Crowded House for over 10 years. “On one level that’s understandable—every church has a particular direction it wants to go in, and so it makes sense to find a church where you agree with that. However, in reality it means you need to agree with Steve’s mission and vision. And the sense in The Crowded House that it is the right or best way to do mission and be biblically faithful means you are left with the feeling that if you disagree you are somehow disagreeing with the Bible, or somehow falling short of God’s ideal, or not really giving up your life for Christ.”
Timmis will go on a four-month sabbatical before Acts 29 names a new replacement in May. In an email to Christianity Today, he said that his removal “is not particularly newsworthy.”
“I am a sinner saved by grace, and so claim neither infallibility nor impeccability,” he said. “I am, though, more than ready for anyone to approach me and the church elders here with specific concerns. They can be assured of a careful listening.”
Since his dismissal and the posting of the Christianity Today article, Timmis has also stepped down from his eldership at The Crowded House and as chair of the board of Crosslands, a UK-based training program.
Photo courtesy: Acts 29 Network
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.