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Christian publisher pulls all Steve Timmis titles following accusations of bullying and spiritual abuse

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Intervarsity Press Books (IVP) has announced it will no longer be selling books written by former Acts 29 CEO, Steve Timmis, after he was accused of engaging patterns of behaviour which constituted “abusive leadership.” 

Last week, Acts 29 President Matt Chandler announced that, following serious allegations of bullying and intimidation, Timmis would be “transitioned out of the CEO role immediately”. Timmis also resigned in haste from his Sheffield church, The Crowded House, on Friday. 

In a statement released on Monday, IVP announced that, in the wake of the accusations, it would be pulling the pastor’s books from its shelves with immediate effect. 

The statement read: “We have recently learnt that Steve Timmis, author or co-author of three books we publish, has been accused of spiritual abuse, and has been removed from his position as CEO of Acts 29. Steve Timmis resigned from the eldership at The Crowded House at the weekend.

“As an evangelical publisher with roots in ministry, we take allegations such as these very seriously and are acting accordingly. Having re-read and considered Steve Timmis' titles in the light of these allegations, we have removed them from sale in our website and are in the process of withdrawing them from sale more widely.”

The prominent publisher didn’t stop there. IVP seemed to suggest that the very style of church propagated by Timmis in his books - one that champions heavy shepherding and an intense community of gospel accountability - was inherently unhealthy and susceptible to nurturing abusive leadership styles. 

“In hindsight, we now realize that the style of close church community advocated in these books lacked sufficient safeguards against abusive control,” IVP noted. “We are sorry for publishing books that may have contributed to unhealthy and even abusive church cultures, and we apologize to people who have suffered as a result.”

In a damning investigation published by Christianity Today (CT), staff working alongside Timmis recounted becoming increasingly concerned by a darker side to the serial church planter, including patterns of bullying, manipulation and even spiritual abuse.

"People were and are afraid of Steve Timmis," Andy Stovell, a former elder who led alongside him for 14 years at The Crowded House in Sheffield told the outlet.

Another pastor who worked under Timmis, Steve McAlpine, called the leader's conduct "gospel gaslighting," and recalled instances of him exploding at the most insignificant things. If ministry staff did not follow his instructions to the letter at all times, Timmis would say they are rejecting discipline and choosing to be "a law unto himself," even citing a passage from Romans to back up his rebuke.

In response, Timmis refused to address specific allegations but freely admitted that he was "a sinner saved by grace," and claimed "neither infallibility nor impeccability". 

"I am, though, more than ready for anyone to approach me and the church elders here with specific concerns. They can be assured of a careful listening," he added.

In a statement posted to its website, The Crowded House said it would be seeking an independent investigation into the accusations, noting that it would open up to "external and impartial scrutiny" on the matter.

“We welcome their commitment to listening with humility,” IVP noted of the church’s desire to engage in a transparent inquiry into Timmis. “We will continue to follow the situation and respond as needed to the findings of the investigation and any other further developments. We are committed to prayer for all those involved.” 

This is not the first time Acts 29 has been plagued by the poor behaviour of its leaders. In 2014, Acts 29 co-founder and megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll, was removed from his position due to multiple accusations of bullying and spiritual abuse - actions that the board of directors called "ungodly and disqualifying behavior."


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