Mark Darling, pastor of Evergreen Church in Bloomington, Minnesota—a multi-campus megachurch—has resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct. The Board of Trustees of Evergreen Church rescinded Darling’s ordination before he announced his resignation. Earlier this year the church commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations against the pastor.
In a statement posted on the church’s website Sunday, the Board of Trustees wrote that they were made aware of allegations of misconduct regarding Darling on Jan. 30. The board commissioned an independent investigation on Feb. 9. The statement included some, but not all, of the findings from the inquiry.
“From the Investigator’s report ‘the investigation does support the fact that Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct… Specifically, this conduct included spending time alone with women in private settings and inappropriate conversations with women of a sexual nature.’”
The investigation was conducted by Joan Harris, an attorney from Ogletree Deakins. Her probe centered on several allegations made by Suzanne van Dyck against Darling about physical sexual abuse; that the church was made aware of non-physical abuse and did not take appropriate action; that an attempt was made to cover up the abuse and tried to buy van Dyck’s silence with an offer of monetary payment; and related claims arising from those areas. The inappropriate activity is alleged to have occurred prior to 2001.
Harris’ analysis found that while van Dyck’s individual allegations of sexual abuse from more than 30 years ago could not be substantiated, “the investigation does support the fact that Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct.”
The church said in the statement: “We regret the incidents of inappropriate conduct and apologize for the pain it has caused these women and their families. Pastor Mark Darling has resigned his position and we thank him and his family for their decades of service during his time at Evergreen. There is much grief and sorrow that comes with brokenness and we will seek healing and restoration for everyone involved through God’s mercy in the journey ahead.”
Darling is one of the founding members of the church. The investigation also revealed Pastor Mark Bowen, another founding leader of the church, was aware 17 years ago of at least two other women who had similar concerns about Darling, but failed to inform the Board of Trustees or take appropriate action.
Bowen will now step down as Chair of the Board of Trustees.
“We all have blind spots,” Pastor Brent Knox told the Bloomington congregation. “This has affected women and others in ways I regret, and to her, I apologize,” Knox said.
In a statement on Facebook Wednesday, van Dyck urged churches to acknowledge the pain of survivors of sexual abuse.
“I often wonder how differently life would be for survivors if the church had acknowledged their pain, prayed for them, encouraged them, and offered to lay down their lives to protect them from further abuse. I encourage churches I visit to live this biblical truth,” she wrote.