GREENSBORO, N.C. — The senior pastor of one of the city’s largest and most progressive churches has been put on paid leave after confessing to an extramarital affair in the nine months since his arrival.
In an apology letter to his congregation, the Rev. Reggie Weaver of Westminster Presbyterian Church said the woman is not a member of the congregation, and he and his wife, Ashley-Anne Masters, have begun the process of divorce.
“I have violated my ordination vows and my wedding vows,” the 33-year-old Weaver wrote in a letter, which was mailed to the congregation on Friday by the Salem Presbytery, the regional governing body for local Presbyterian (U.S.A.) churches. “I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”
Church members were notified after worship services on May 4 that Weaver had requested time off from pastoral duties. Friday’s update to the congregation included details of an affair that happened since Weaver came here in July.
“Talking to members tonight almost everyone’s reactions were of sadness — sadness for Reggie and Ashley-Anne — and then, overwhelmingly, forgiveness,” said church member Robert Bell, who was at the church Saturday. “It’s not always easy and it takes a lot of strength to forgive, but Westminster is a pretty strong church.”
One of the church’s longtime staff pastors, the Rev. Mark Brainerd, has been named as interim head of staff and pastor.
The future of Weaver, long seen as a rising star in national Presbyterian circles, is being taken up by a judicial committee within the presbytery and could include a suspension or removal of his ordination.
Weaver could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
“In some ways, it’s like a death,” Bill Leonard, a professor at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, said of the fallout for the congregation. “It’s a whole grief process — not only in their sadness over someone they love and admired but someone they trusted. It’s very tragic for him, his family and the congregation.”
Weaver’s letter also referenced an “emotional affair” with a woman in Chicago prior to moving to Greensboro, during the time he was being considered to lead the 2,000-member church here, which is known for its outreach to the community and mission work abroad.
When the predominantly white Westminster Presbyterian hired Weaver, the church was lauded for hiring its first African-American minister.
Westminster’s pastoral search committee had considered Weaver among 130 candidates over the course of the search last year — viewing sermons posted on YouTube, writings posted online and looking at their current churches.
Weaver was lured away from First Presbyterian Church in Chicago, where he served as senior pastor. He has a master’s of divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2007.
“Rev. Weaver comes from a great education tradition, experience tradition and has had a lot of leadership positions in our agencies and seminaries,” said the Rev. Sam Marshall, the executive presbyter for the regional denominational group, whose mission is to oversee and support local churches and pastors. “He is an outstanding young minister, so we are all very sad.”