BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–A prominent Florida pastor, Ken Alford, announced his resignation Sunday, Feb. 24. According to a Feb. 25 news release from Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Alford cited “the need to work on the restoring of his marriage as his reason for leaving the church. His decision is final and immediate.”
Alford, at the time of his resignation, was trustee chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and a member of the Florida Baptist Convention’s state board of missions. He also was the 1999-2000 president of the Florida convention.
Bell Shoals Baptist Church, where Alford, 47, has been pastor for more than eight years, is among the largest Southern Baptist congregations in the Tampa Bay area.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Alford was accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, as he acknowledged marital problems that had led to an “improper relationship.” The St. Petersburg Times, meanwhile, reported that Alford told each of the church’s four Sunday worship services that he was resigning after marital problems and a “one-time moral indiscretion.”
The St. Petersburg newspaper quoted Ed Shaw, chairman of the church’s personnel committee, as saying that the indiscretion was of a “high enough order” that Alford felt it necessary to resign.
Alford went to church leaders during the previous week and “disqualified himself from the ministry,” Shaw told the Times. Alford cited 1 Timothy 3, which includes admonitions that leaders must be “blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior … ,” the newspaper reported.
Shaw declined to be specific about Alford’s marital indiscretion, and Alford did not return calls to either newspaper for comment.
Alford and his wife have a daughter, 14, and son, 10.
The Times reported that Alford and his wife are seeking counseling. Shaw told the paper that Alford will continue to receive his salary, which was not disclosed, for at least 90 days.
Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board and a former pastor of the Bell Shoals congregation, contacted by Baptist Press, said, “I’m brokenhearted for Ken, his family and the Bell Shoals family.
“For making such a tragic mistake, I applaud the way he is openly and honestly confessing and accepting responsibility for this sin,” Reccord said. “He has asked for prayer support as he puts his marriage and life back together. NAMB is committed to praying for him, his family and the church and to helping in any way possible.”
Reccord, who has written a recent book about Christian infidelity, titled “Beneath the Surface,” told BP, “We are facing an epidemic of moral failure by some of our very best leaders. This is a clarion call to all of us to guard our hearts, even, and especially, when we believe our marriage is the one area where we will not fail, because that’s where we’ll be most tempted. The Adversary wants to destroy the church and the home from the inside out, and we’re so vulnerable to that.”
NAMB’s first vice chairman, Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Wichita, Kansas, will assume the responsibilities of trustee chairman for the remainder of Alford’s term which ends in May. Fox is a member of the executive board of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists and, among his SBC involvements, is a former trustee of the International Mission Board.
Alford has been a pastor for more than 20 years, leading churches in Alabama and Mississippi before accepting the Bell Shoals pastorate in 1993. The 40-year-old Tampa-area congregation had doubled its membership to 6,000 under Alford’s leadership, according to news reports Feb. 25.
The eight-paragraph church news release stated in part, “The congregation and staff are appreciative to Dr. Alford for his great service. … The congregation and staff pray that the community will pray for their beloved pastor and his family. They also hope that the community will pray for the church during this time of transition.”
Evangelist Kelly Green delivered the sermon in each of Bell Shoals’ four worship services Feb. 24, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
“We have not swept anything under the carpet,” the newspaper quoted Green as saying. “You have seen the results of someone who has been courageous and outward and honest. Now, the question is, will you do the same thing?”