William Vanderbloemen, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas, is well known for leading churches to experience phenomenal growth through innovative change. His evangelical “ancient future” approach in a mainline denomination has built him a reputation as one who has a deep respect for the past and desires to apply it to the future in a dynamic way.
Raised in North Carolina, William received his Bachelor of Arts degrees in Religion and Philosophy from Wake Forest University. It was during this time that William returned to a renewed walk with Christ. Hearing a call to ministry, he attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received his Masters of Divinity degree in 1995.
That’s a quote from a First Century Voyages brochure published last June inviting the faithful to a 10-day luxury cruise along the Elbe River “from Prague to Potsdam and Berlin.”
Prior to landing the pastorate of the Texas mega-church in January, 2002, VanderBloemen pastored a Memorial Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was a board member of the Presbyterian Coalition against ordaining gays and lesbians. From the Presbyterian Coalition website:
“We grieve the continuing decline of our denomination on multiple levels. Something is deeply flawed at the core. We yearn and pray for a new day for the PCUSA. While longing to retain our unity, we are ready for a redefinition of that unity and the structural realities that hold us together. God help us.”
An article on the Presbyterian Outlook website reported:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Presbyterian Coalition is plowing at least $300,000 into its campaign to defeat Amendment A, a controversial proposal that would open the door to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians....
...In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks against the sins of immorality, idolatry, adultery and homosexual practice, Bailey says. "He pretty much covers the bases -- he covers swingers who are unmarried, he covers people who have got religion and sex all mixed up, he covers people who violate their marriage vows" and those involved in homosexual relations.
This prompted William Vanderbloemen, a Coalition board member and pastor from Montgomery, Ala., to say that "it sounds like a blanket policy" for sexual ethics.
Vanderbloemen is currently listed as a prominent supporter of the campaign to have Republican candidate Ed Emmet re-elected to Harris County Judge.
Vanderbloemen resigned from his well paid position with the Presbyterians in February, retaining the ministry status of “member at large.” That means he’s eligible and available to pastor another church.
Here’s an interesting story from the Houston Press regarding Vanderbloemen’s resignation:
There was a brief notice in the Houston Chronicle in February (2007) when William Vanderbloemen, the young, energetic senior minister of Houston's First Presbyterian Church (FBC), announced his resignation.
FPC is the dignified, classy church in the Museum District. Vanderbloemen preached at Senator Lloyd Bentsen's funeral, to a crowd that included both Clintons.
The resignation was said to be so he could spend more time with his family. That hasn't worked out so well — he and his wife are getting divorced.
But with the divorce case, word is getting out that Vanderbloemen — who to some was trying to be a Presbyterian Joel Osteen — was pissing off a large chunk of his congregation.
Documents from Presbyterian higher-ups show performance reviews criticizing him: "We know that you consider yourself to be ethical and honest. The fact that you are not perceived as such must be corrected immediately." And "Your e-mails to your congregation are losing their effectiveness due to your bragging about how great the church is and how others are watching us because we are so great. This is also a problem with sermons."
Vanderbloemen was also urged to cut back on radio spots selling him and the church, and traveling so much.
Geez, Presbyterians: You will never get to be a bestseller-hawking mega-church with that attitude.
So, within the past year and a half, Vanderbloemen has been publicly praised for his innovative church building performance, invited to speak at major events, and asked to support political candidates, but all that time the Presbyterian hierarchy was dissatisfied his performance?
Vanderbloemen publicly announced that he resigned in order to spend more time with his family, but the reality seems to have been that his marriage was falling apart. Along with his resignation, a private, internal report card is leaked to the press revealing that Vanderbloemen's superiors and congregation consider his performance under par. He wasn’t fired, though, and he is still officially in good standing with his denomination. According to Auxano, a church consulting group, great things were happening during Vanderbloemen's tenure. Further, an anonymous source has provided documentation indicating Vanderbloemen was given a $130,000 a year severance package from the PCUSA. I wish I could resign with bad performance reports and receive a tremendous severance package like that!
The same documentation reports that Vanderbloemen has already taken a nice $100,000 a year position with Lakewood Church, the Joel Osteen monstrosity..., er, ministry.
Although no one has been talking, according to public court records, Vanderbloemen has, or will soon have, a new wife.
Office of Beverly B. Kaufman, County Clerk, Harris County, Texas
Marriage License Inquiry System
LICENSE . NAME / ADDRESS .S.R. NAME / ADDRESS .S.R.M .F . DATE OF . DATE OF . FILM . MISC .
NUMBER . PERSON 1 .X.C. PERSON 2 .X.C.AG.AG. ISSUE . MARRIAGE . CODE . DATES .
0922687 VANDERBLOEMEN BRUCE WILLIAM M GORDON ADRIENNE EMMETT F 05-23-2008
6424 BUFFALO HOUSTON TX 2816 RICE BLVD HO TX
Vanderbloemen's new wife (or wife to be), just happens to share the same family name as the afore-mentioned Republican candidate for re-election to Harris County Judge, Ed Emmet -- she's his daughter. As stated, Emmet proudly lists Vanderbloemen as an important supporter.
So which is it, PCUSA? Was this guy a dynamic Spirit-filled leader among men, a poor excuse of a pastor that needed to be let go, or was there some other reason (like the divorce?) that he was paid off to quietly step down? There are too many mixed messages all over this one.
I can't help but wonder if the public relations arm of the PCUSA wasn't in full swing to keep something quiet. Maybe the men at the top of the PCUSA just didn’t want a repeat of what happened in New York with Tom Tewell, another PCUSA mega-church pastor that was embroiled in a public scandal that just won’t go away.