Following allegations of years-long bullying and financial misconduct, the lead pastor and executive team of an Association of Related Churches (ARC) megachurch, based in New England, have resigned.
The resignation of Josh Gagnon, lead pastor of Next Level Church (NLC), was announced yesterday during a live service at NLC’s Somersworth, New Hampshire, location, according Jesse Davies, a former NLC congregant who attended yesterday’s service. The church also announced the resignation of Operations Pastor Daniel King and Executive Assistant Walt Robbins at the service, Davies said.
These facts were confirmed in a statement emailed by NLC on Monday.
The announcement comes a day after The Roys Report (TRR) published an investigation with reports from 25 former pastors, staff, and volunteers accusing Gagnon of bullying and financial misconduct. NLC is a member of ARC, one of the largest church planting organizations in North America, which has been ridden with financial, sexual, and spiritual abuse scandals.
However, according to NLC’s statement, the pastors’ resignations were tendered last Monday, February 6.
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“Recently former employees and volunteers made accusations against our Directional Team,” wrote NLC location pastors Bryan Levangie, Michael Grayston, Pablo Lopez, and Shane Becton in the emailed statement. “We are saddened by the hurt that any individual has experienced. The church should always be a place of healing, but unfortunately, it can be a place of hurt.”
The statement also noted the resignation in December 2021 of former NLC Executive Pastor Roman Archer, and adding: “Those resignations were accepted by the remaining pastors of Next Level Church, and we are working together to effect an orderly transition. With the guidance of consultants, the remaining leadership . . . will navigate the next steps for Next level Church.”
As TRR reported Saturday, NLC whistleblowers are calling for a third-party investigation into Gagnon’s and NLC’s alleged abuses and misconduct. They now have also asked the state of New Hampshire to get involved.
Davies, a former volunteer, is leading an effort to encourage former staff and attendees to report abuses and misconduct to the New Hampshire Department of Labor and the state’s attorney general’s office.
So far, a document laying out instructions on how to report abuses to the state has received more than 200 unique hits, Davies said.
Former NLC location pastor Marty Holman, told TRR he supports the reporting initiative. “There’s been a lack of transparency, specifically in the finances, throughout the history of Next Level Church,” he said.
The New Hampshire Department of Labor has received one report of “financial abuse,” but it was for an issue outside of the department’s purview, said Rudy Ogden, deputy commissioner.
The New Hampshire Department of Justice has received several recent complaints about NLC, said Michael Garrity, DOJ communications director. The department’s Charitable Trust Unit does not have jurisdiction over churches. For criminal matters, the department recommends individuals make reports to local and county law enforcement, Garrity said.
At its height in 2018, NLC claimed 5,000 members with 10 locations throughout New England, Quebec, and most recently in Florida. Now it’s down to eight locations.
Former employees told TRR that they were underpaid, overworked, had wages docked for non-performance-related reasons, and had concerns that Gagnon benefitted financially from the church.
As previously reported, records show that Gagnon bought a home from NLC for half the amount ($250,000) the church purchased it for just three years earlier. Gagnon then sold the property a couple years later for $1 million.
That home purchase has now been reported to the IRS, according to a document obtained by TRR.
TRR reached out to Gagnon, King, Robbins, about whether the departing pastors received compensation packages from the church, but no one responded.
Becton, Grayston, Lopez, and Levangie also have not replied to requests for comment regarding the executive team’s separation package, last day of work, or the specifics of the leadership transition.
ARC President Greg Surratt also did not return a call for comment on whether ARC knew of, or was involved in, the executive team’s resignations—or whether Gagnon, King and Robbins will be allowed to serve in an ARC church in the future.
ARC is known for re-platforming fallen pastors. And Church of the Highlands (COTH), the flagship ARC megachurch in Alabama, is building a $4.5 million retreat center where pastors can be “mentored, counseled, refreshed, and restored.” COTH Senior Pastor Chris Hodges has said that restoring pastors is what he wants “to be known for.”
The announcement about the pastors’ resignations was not included in the online service, which was a pre-recorded Super Bowl Sunday service, featuring Christian football players and coaches.
In the live announcement on Sunday, Pastor Becton said he’ll respond to emails and calls from people who are still involved with NLC.
“I want you to know that I’m available for those of you who regularly attend here, for those of you that are invested here,” Becton said.
Under Gagnon’s leadership, the church urged pastors not to focus on church attenders, but instead to look for the one lost sheep outside NLC’s fold, Holman said.
“It’s ironic that now, they only have time to focus on their church,” Holman added. “We’re not going to be pastored by them.”
Holman and Davies said they’re available to care for any other attendees, pastors, and volunteers who have been hurt or have concerns about Gagnon’s abuses.
“It’s all for the vulnerable,” Davies said.
Holman said he hopes that the whistleblowers’ efforts will also help those who are still in the church.
“The truth is a long-term medicine and it’s a short-term pain,” Holman said. “One of the reasons why I went into this in the first place was because for four years, I had been absent, doing nothing. But the numbers of people who were hurt after me was pretty astounding. It’s a medicine and I think people will get better. Good systems, good practices will be put into place. And my prayer is that healing will happen.”
Rebecca Hopkins is a journalist based in Colorado.