The president of The Missionary Church, the Rev. Steve Jones of Fort Wayne, has been removed by the Protestant denomination’s leadership because of “a pattern of unworthy conduct.”

The church, which claims more than 200,000 members, is headquartered in Fort Wayne. More than three dozen congregations in northeast Indiana’s 11 counties are listed on its website, with 13, including a Spanish-language congregation, in Fort Wayne.

In a news release, church leaders said they wanted to clarify that the removal was not related to “sexual immorality or theft.” But the pastor had not remained “above reproach,” as is biblically required by the Bible and denomination rules, leaders said.

“The failure to correct concerns in this regard that were shared personally and corporately over several years resulted in a deep erosion of his (Jones’) leadership within the Missionary Church,” the release says, adding that, after personal meetings, removal was required for the good of the denomination.

Jones has a history of trouble with “leadership of, and communication with, staff, the Ministry Leadership Council, General Oversight Council and other denominational members,” the release said.

The denomination sent a similarly worded letter to members and posted the release on its website. Jones could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Rev. Jimmy Santiago is now leading the denomination as interim president.

Santiago most recently has been the denomination’s vice president and is the retired director of Hispanic Church Multiplication for the church’s Central Region.

In a letter sent to members and posted online, Santiago said he will serve until the denomination’s next General Conference and the General Oversight Council will name an interim vice president.

Church leadership in a statement said Wednesday that Santiago has “full support and confidence of denominational leadership, staff, and membership over the course of the next year to continue advancing our mission.”

The letter to members says Jones will receive severance pay, and thanks him for “the many accomplishments and successes that were contributed over the past nine years” of Jones’ presidency.

“His navigation of the pandemic, leadership in completing our Articles of Faith, and excellent representation to the National Association of Evangelicals are just a few of the permanent marks he made on our history while also advancing our mission,” the letter says.

Jones has been pastor of First Missionary Church in Fort Wayne and president of Allen County Right to Life. He was elected superintendent of Central District of the Missionary Church in 2007 and president of the denomination in 2013.

Reporter

Reporter Rosa Salter Rodriguez has nearly 50 years of experience at newspapers in Pennsylvania and Indiana. She has worked at The Journal Gazette since 2004, covering medical and health issues and land use and development issues.