TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Social media lit up over the weekend with reports of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley being expelled from his church after audio recordings exposed his emotional — and, according to Bentley’s own words, physical — affair with his senior advisor Rebekah Mason.
“While church discipline is a church family matter, both Governor Robert Bentley and Mrs. Rebekah Mason are no longer members of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa,” FBC Tuscaloosa Senior Pastor Gil McKee told Christian News Network on Friday. “I continue to pray for each of them.”
The reports garnered varied reactions from both Christians and non-Christians, with some supporting the church’s decision to part ways with Bentley and his mistress, who was also a member of the church, while others criticized the church for not being there for them in a difficult time.
Yellowhammer spoke with multiple sources with first-hand knowledge of the interactions between Governor Bentley and his church leadership going back to 2014.
According to each of the sources, FBC Tuscaloosa, for which Bentley at one point served as a Sunday School teacher and deacon, followed closely to the Biblical blueprint for church discipline laid out in Matthew 18.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17
Paul later wrote in Corinthians 5 that the church should “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
One individual with knowledge of the church’s relationship with Governor Bentley said FBC Tuscaloosa was methodical and Biblical in their approach to the governor’s affair, which ultimately resulted in his wife of 50-years filing for divorce.
“The goal for church discipline is always reconciliation,” they said. “When the church leaders went to Dr. Bentley multiple times, it was with a sincere desire to see him run away from his sin and back into the arms of the church. Unfortunately that is not what happened, even after over a year of trying. At this point it would be wrong for the church to allow someone living so openly in unrepented sin to carry on inside the church as if it’s all okay. It’s tough love, but it is absolutely done in love. God can use this situation for His glory and for Dr. Bentley’s good, but not until Dr. Bentley has a broken and contrite heart because of his sin. As the old preachers used to say, ‘sin will take you further than you want to go; cost you more than you want to pay; and keep you longer than you want to stay.’ This particular sin has already cost Dr. Bentley a lot.”
This is not the first time Governor Bentley had been at odds with his church. His pastor had previously urged him not to comply with the federal court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage
“My encouragement to him… was to not only get on board with Judge [Roy] Moore, but to instruct him as our governor to tell our probate judges not to abide by this one federal judge,” McKee told Christian News Network last February. “And obviously he had not taken that counsel at that time from me or anybody else.”
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4. EXCLUSIVE: The complete Bentley-Mason affair audio recordings and transcripts
5. These four audio clips suggest Bentley is lying when he denies having a ‘physical affair’
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7. ‘Gender bias’ cries from Bentley’s alleged mistress are a desperate diversion (opinion)
8. WOW: This is what’s engraved on the podium Bentley stood behind to discuss affair
9. CARTOON: Slick Willy backs Bentley
10. SOURCES: Lt. Gov has been preparing for possible Bentley resignation for months
11. Bentley addresses affair allegations: ‘I made a mistake’
12. Alabama’s former top cop: Bentley mistress was ‘de facto Governor’
13. Bentley staffer lashes out, says sources exposing secrets are ‘the public’s worst enemy’