Ray McCauley, well-known pastor of Rhema Ministries in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his wife, Lyndie McCauley, have divorced after 24 years of marriage.
The couple separated in mid-March, and the divorce was finalized on July 14. Members of the 24,000-strong Rhema Ministries--along with church leaders throughout the nation--were stunned by the news. But no one knows for certain why the marriage failed because Ray and Lyndie agreed not to speak to the media.
Ray McCauley's attorney, Billy Gundelfinger, has labeled rumors that there may have been a third party involved as "scurrilous, untrue and defamatory." Gundelfinger and Lyndie's attorney, Colleen Currin, also refused to comment. Ray McCauley insists there was no infidelity or other such cause for the divorce.
Throughout South Africa, other church leaders have chosen not to comment on the divorce and its impact on the wider body of Christ. Several have said it is a private matter between the McCauleys, and they are not sufficiently familiar with the details to comment fairly. "It's a private matter between Ray and Lyndie, and that's how it should stay," said Bruce Griffiths, administrator of Lighthouse Rhema Ministries in Cape Town, South Africa.
While church leaders do not want to comment personally on the McCauley divorce, they are prepared to comment on the broader social issue of divorce. A spokesman for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Canon Luke Pato, told Charisma: "We take divorce seriously. It's certainly not encouraged. We treat marriage as a lifelong commitment. But each case is treated individually."
Ron Steele, spokesman for Rhema Church, said McCauley has become a better pastor as a result of the trauma of the divorce, which Steele said McCauley never anticipated.
"It's made him a better person with more compassion and understanding of the hurts of life," Steele said. "His preaching in the past eight months has been the best I have heard him preach in 18 years."
McCauley did not step down from his pastorate after the divorce because there was no moral failure involved by either he or Lyndie and because he did not initiate the divorce, Steele said. "Right up until the day of the divorce, Ray sought reconciliation," he added.
Lyndie was distraught and would only say that she would not comment further in order to protect the survival of the church. She told Charisma that she plans to move to the United States to start her life over again.
Desmond Tutu, former Anglican archbishop of South Africa, and Mvume Dandala, bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, have personally contacted or written to Ray McCauley and expressed their sorrow at the news and offered prayer support.
Lyndie has not enjoyed the same support from the church and has sought solace from personal friends. She will bring her adopted daughter, Kristen Paige, 7, to the United States with her.
Ray, a graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Okla., launched Rhema Ministries 20 years ago. Today it is one of South Africa's largest and most successful churches. His son, Joshua, 17, will remain in South Africa with him.
Steele says the church continues to grow beyond the 24,000-member mark and more salvations are recorded every week. "If we gauge [the divorce's impact] from our own congregation, people realize that they need to continually check their lives according to the Word of God."
--Chloe George in South Africa