"I think I could follow that guy anywhere."
Communion over chips and salsa
Charles Stanley was alone. His marriage was ending. Pastors were publicly calling for him to step down. People within his church were trying to get rid of him.
His enemies were coming after him, and his son wasn't stepping in front of his father to meet the blows.
That's how Charles saw it. He says his son could have prevented some of that pain. He was the one person who could have stopped the congregation from calling for his divorce because he had earned so much respect.
"I forgave him. I couldn't understand it. I would have never done that," Charles says.
The church drama lasted seven years. The divorce became final in 2000, and First Baptist eventually voted to retain Charles as its pastor. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday at First Baptist, and was presented with a large photograph depicting Jesus counseling him as he prepared a sermon. Charles painstakingly posed for the photographer, with a professional model playing Jesus.
"Every Sunday I had to preach, no matter what," Charles says of those days when he was going through the divorce. "I couldn't get up and say I had a horrible day yesterday. It kept me in the Word of God -- praying, trusting God, watching people saved and watching the church grow."
Few would question Charles' toughness, but during that time he revealed another side. He stopped treating Andy as his enemy.
He started treating him as his only son.
Charles fought for his relationship with his son as hard as he fought to stay in the pulpit. Maybe harder. He did it with chips and salsa. He kept inviting his son to lunch at Mexican restaurants.
And Andy kept accepting.
The meals were excruciating. Both men were still angry; they weren't good at chitchat. But it was a way to keep talking. The meals became a ritual, like communion.
Charles then went public with his support for his son.
In 1995, Andy formed North Point Community Church with a group of friends. When Charles heard the news, he interrupted his regular order of service one Sunday morning to tell his congregation.
"And he has my blessing," he said.
Charles did something else that some pastors shy from: He sought professional help. He asked his son to join him in seeing a counselor.
It was just another way in which Charles refused to fit the caricature of a simple "Bible thumper." He had defied Southern Baptist theology by saying women should be able to preach. He installed 12 Step programs in his church and an orchestra. He was a techno-geek who loved computers and photography.
The counseling sessions between father and son were at times explosive.
Emotions spilled out in the open.