Journal Staff Writer
Calvary Chapel will consider bringing back its founder, Skip Heitzig, to lead the 14,000-member church, one of the city's largest.
Calvary's board of directors is meeting this week to discuss replacing Pastor Pete Nelson, who stunned church members when he announced his resignation during Sunday services this weekend.
Associate Pastor Chip Lusko, a church spokesman, did not offer Heitzig's name as a definite choice to lead Calvary, but he acknowledged the former pastor will be considered.
In an interview Monday, Lusko said the board will "consider all options" in searching for a replacement. "And Skip (Heitzig) is one option."
Heitzig couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
Associate Pastor Bob Church has stepped down, Lusko said.
Nelson, who had served as pastor since January 2004, is leaving "to pursue other ministry options, but he didn't say where," Lusko said.
"Pete has been a very stable influence for the church in terms of attendance, community support, growth and financially," he said. "It came as a surprise to learn he is leaving."
Lusko said he didn't know why Associate Pastor Church decided to leave.
"I'm just getting my hands around that one, and I am investigating it," Lusko said, adding that Church and Nelson are close friends. "It also comes as a total surprise that Bob is leaving here."
The board of directors of Calvary, which operates at a campus-like setting on 4001 Osuna NE, began meeting Monday, Lusko said, to vote on accepting Nelson's resignation and to begin a search for his successor.
Heitzig left Calvary to run Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., in early 2004. He has remained on the board at Calvary.
Inspired by watching a Billy Graham crusade on television, Heitzig became a Christian in 1973. He started Calvary Chapel as a small Bible study program run out of an apartment complex on San Mateo NE in 1982. It had four parishioners at the time.
In the 20-plus years since, Calvary has grown to a 14,000 member church that employs 21st-century technology to teach the Bible. It uses radio broadcasts and a cable TV show, has a Web site, and its campus includes a book store, restaurant, coffee shop and a skate park for kids.
When Nelson took over at Calvary, he said he would run the church much as Heitzig did.
"We have the same DNA spiritually," he told the Journal in 2003.
Nelson moved to Albuquerque when he was 14 and began attending Calvary, according to a profile on the church's Web site. He served as youth pastor and formed a Christian rock band, The Kry, with two other leaders of that group.
Lusko said Nelson was on staff at Calvary for four years in the 1990s before leaving to pursue the band and other interests. He returned to take the head job.
Parishioners were "surprised, but have acted in a very mature fashion" upon learning of Nelson's departure, Lusko said.
Nelson handled five services a week at Calvary— one on Wednesdays, one on Saturdays and three on Sundays, he said.
Calvary has seven other pastors on staff.
The board will decide who takes over Nelson's services and whether an interim head pastor will be named, Lusko said.