On Monday, interim executive pastor Wayne Jackson said the church's board of elders received a resignation letter from Sheppard nine days prior. The letter did not provide any details about what Sheppard meant by "moral failure," Jackson said.
Sheppard has "confessed to his wife," and believes she is the only one who needs to know any further details, Jackson said. Rumors that Sheppard had been having an affair are based on assumptions about what little was revealed in the letter, he added.
Jackson made the announcement to the congregation in all four of the church's services on the weekend of Dec. 19 and 20, which he led in Sheppard's absence. Each service is usually attended by more than 1,000 people.
The Voice came to the church on Monday night to attend a question-and-answer session for congregants, but just as it was beginning, church leaders said they'd skip the questions and lead the group in prayer and song instead.
Jackson was seen comforting several devastated, crying churchgoers in the lobby, while gospel songs were sung in the packed sanctuary.
Before the worshipping began, one church leader admitted that some members might be angry about the situation, and even leave the service. But churchgoers were told to look to God for answers, to submit their question for the church on Abundant Life's Web site (www.alcf.net), and were then led in prayer and song.
When asked if Sheppard should have continued on as pastor, one churchgoer said "absolutely" because of the good he was doing with the church. Another said it was unfortunate that pastors are put on pedestals when really they are just as "fallible" as anyone else.
The Voice profiled Abundant Life in June, when Sheppard announced it was outgrowing its space on Leghorn Avenue. At that time, the church reportedly had 6,000 members. Originally based in Menlo Park, Abundant Life had grown over 20 years, under Sheppard's guidance, from only 34 members.
Sheppard also has a syndicated radio show called "Enduring Truth" which is broadcast on 500 radio stations. Jackson said he was unaware whether Sheppard would continue to do his radio show. Sheppard's personal Web site, www.thesheppardstouch.net, was blank this week.