Calvary’s Munro returns to pulpit after suspension

In his first sermon at Calvary Church since he was put on paid leave for an “H.R. complaint” and then reinstated, Pastor John Munro told congregants that his recent “painful ordeal has exposed my self-reliance and pride in my achievements.”

“In that difficult situation, I’ve learned that I have to rely on God,” said Munro, senior pastor of one of Charlotte’s largest and most prominent houses of worship. The details behind his initial suspension have not been released.

When Munro took the podium at 10:20 a.m., members of the evangelical church gave him a standing ovation. Munro began his sermon without addressing the recent controversy, telling members that he wanted to discuss one of the “best known verses in the Bible,” Romans 8:28. The verse says that all things work together for the good of those who love God, Munro said.

Munro said that he discovered that in times of strife, anxieties over how things will turn out weigh heavy. And feelings can range from disillusionment to frustration.

Munro said the verse from Romans is of “tremendous help,” because it suggests that God has a plan and that “we who are following Jesus Christ know that God works all things for our good.”

He said suffering can deepen faith. “Have you found that suffering makes you want to be in heaven? That we look beyond this world of tears?” he said. “We have something far better that we look to.”

In late August Munro was abruptly put on paid leave after a complaint that he violated the church’s employee handbook. Around the same time, “Back to the Bible,” a worldwide radio ministry based in Nebraska, said it was terminating its contract with Munro for misconduct after investigating a similar complaint against him.

Church elders of the 4,000-member congregation said on Sept. 7 that Munro would return after an investigation determined the complaint “was not supported,” elder Bill Bailey said at the time. He also said that the third-party investigation did reveal that Munro used judgment that did not align with the high expectations to which church leaders are held.

Munro appeared before the congregation that day and acknowledged that he had committed “an innocent error of judgment that while was neither unlawful nor sinful, failed to demonstrate the judgment the church expects of me.”

“Back to the Bible,” meanwhile, has stood by its original decision.

In a Sept. 10 statement, “Back to the Bible” CEO Arnie Cole said that the organization “received from one of its employees a serious complaint about Dr. Munro.”

The organization launched an investigation in which it interviewed Munro, “his accuser,” and people from Calvary Church. Cole noted that Munro’s and the complainant’s interviews were recorded with their permission.

After the investigation, “it was determined by Back to the Bible leadership that the best course of action for everyone involved would be to find a suitable Bible teacher to replace Dr. Munro.”

About halfway through his sermon on Sunday, Munro began alluding to the recent events.

“Let me share some of the good lessons I recently learned in and through a very painful ordeal,” he said. “In that difficult situation I’ve learned that I have to rely on God.”

Munro said that “through the pain, I’ve learned patience and endurance. ... Suffering has driven me to my knees. It’s driven me to this book (the Bible) in a fresh way.”

He said he has also learned to hate the sin in his own life rather than focus on the sin in the lives of others. “Your pastor stands before you this morning with a fresh experience of the grace of God,” he said.

Church members said they were happy to see Munro return.

“It’s comforting to have him back,” said Kathy Roos, who has attended Calvary for six years. “He has such a comforting spirit.”

Tim Lesondak, who has attended the church for more than three years, said he enjoyed the sermon’s message that “we’re not perfect beings but by God’s grace, we can overcome our obstacles.”

He said the past several weeks had been difficult on church members because there were a lot of unknowns about Munro’s departure and subsequent return.

“Hopefully we can become stronger as a church,” he said. “No one’s perfect by any means. Hopefully we can move on as a church.”