A Southern Baptist pastor charged last month with domestic violence after a fight with his wife resigned from his Atlanta-area church on Sunday, according to media reports.
“God has shown me that I need to step down,” Jeff Witcher, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., said in an emotional announcement during a called business meeting, according to a local television station.
“I made a bad choice,” Witcher told the congregation. “What I did was wrong. I brought shame to you.”
Witcher was arrested on charges of simple assault and obstruction of a 911 call after a fight with his wife in the early morning hours of Nov. 12. He was accused of pulling her hair and picking up a shotgun but not with pointing the gun at his wife.
Last month Witcher agreed to 24 weeks of domestic-violence counseling as part of a court agreement to avoid prosecution. A judge ordered him to remove all weapons from his home and to have no further violent contact with his wife.
Witcher accepted responsibility for his actions.
“It was no one else’s fault,” he told his church. “I made a bad choice. I made a foolish decision. I set a bad example.”
The congregation reportedly gave Witcher a standing ovation after his remarks.
Witcher, 39, has been pastor of the 1,800-member First Baptist Church of Alpharetta since 2003. He was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Credentials Committee in 2003 and currently sits on the Georgia Baptist Convention executive committee.
Last year First Baptist ranked 25th in baptisms among Georgia Baptist churches. The Christian Index reported in 2004 that the church nearly tripled in size the first year after Witcher became its senior pastor.
Witcher is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theologicla Seminary who served previously at churches in Madisonville, Texas; Fort Stockton, Texas; and Lillington, N.C.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Southern Baptist Pastor Charged With Domestic Violence