Battle Creek, Mi - John Hodges, the associate pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Battle Creek, stood before an emotional and confused congregation this past Sunday and tried his best to explain what was going on with the church's senior pastor, Dr. Charles Hollingsworth.
"I know we are all in shock," said Hodges from the pulpit. "Believe me, I'm hurting from this too. But I think one thing that brother Charles needs right now is our prayers and our support. He's been placed on sabbatical indefinitely, but we want to work with him and spend some time trying to help him through this deeply troubling period of his life."
The trouble for Hollingsworth began about a month ago when the church installed a piece of software called Covenant Eyes on all of the church's computers. The Covenant Eyes software is intended to help guard against someone surfing the web for explicit material through accountability, remotely monitoring all internet sites visited on a particular computer and logging them so that they cannot be changed. The program then sends the information to designated accountability partners. In the case of Liberty Baptist various members of the Deacon's board were assigned to keep the pastoral staff accountable. While the main intention of the program is to guard against surfing explicit websites, the log information shows every site visited, including sites designated as "safe." Thus, it was not long before pastor Hollingsworth's accountability partner made some shocking discoveries.
"I got his weblog in my email, and I was looking it over carefully," said deacon Patrick Downes. "Everything looked fine to me, I didn't see anything inappropriate, but I kept seeing this one site over and over again called monergism.com. From what I could tell he was visiting this site a lot. So I decided to take a look and see what it was all about."
Downes describes what he found as "shocking" and "disgusting." As it turns out monergism.com is an entire website devoted to Calvinist and Reformed writings, cataloging everything from the Puritans to contemporary theologians. Downes soon found out that Hollingsworth had been deeply engaged in reading the works of John Owen, John Calvin, Sinclair Ferguson and C.H. Spurgeon.
"My heart sank when I found out he had been visiting all of these sites," said Downes. "I immediately contacted brother Hodges. We went into the pastor's study one night when he wasn't there and started up his computer. As it turns out he'd been downloading articles and even printing them out. We also found he'd started up a friendship with a local PCA [Presbyterian Church in America] minister, having coffee with him and things such as that. It was just terrible."
For the time being Hodges has been named interim pastor of Liberty Baptist while Hollingsworth has been placed on "Sabbatical." Hodges, who is supposedly overseeing his "rehabilitation," told TBNN that he has put Hollingsworth on a strict reading diet of Ergun Caner, Dave Hunt and Charles Finney. TBNN was unable to reach Hollingsworth for comment. Hodges further noted that Liberty Baptist is planning to buy the popular Net Finney software to ensure this kind of incident does not happen again.