TEMPE, Ariz. — One of the men at the center of a controversial online video featuring a young man obtaining a tattoo and vaping at a fundraising effort for the tattoo artist’s part in their group’s proposed church plant is now back in rehab after continued drug use, a public statement released by his elders outlines.
“The elders of Apologia became acquainted with the past sinful patterns in Thad’s life very early on,” the statement reads in part. “There were issues related to drug addiction and serial adultery that ultimately led to Thad going to a long-term Christian recovery program in Georgia.”
“Over the course of our time with them we had to confront instances of substance abuse which never ultimately stopped,” it outlines.
As previously reported, on June 22, Marcus Pittman, the head of Apologia Studios in Tempe, Arizona, posted a provocative live, public video of the tattoo fundraiser to social media, which he gave the questioning title “Apologia Studios Tattoo Parlor?!” (View here.) Apologia Studios is a part of Apologia Church, led by Jeff Durbin, which is seeking to plant a new church in Kauai.
In the footage, Apologia member Thad Pinch had a Greek “Chi-Rho” symbol tattooed on his arm in the ministry’s studio, as a tattoo artist from the congregation had offered his services to help raise funds for his part in the church planting effort.
“This is actually a fundraiser for our Apologia Kauai church plant, so people of the church are donating to have another member of the church tattoo them so they can go to Kauai and we can plant a church there,” Pittman explains. “So, it’s pretty cool.”
Pittman and Pinch—as well as others—jest with each other during the video, and Pinch vapes on a vaporizer at one point while he is being tattooed.
Weeks prior, on June 1 – 4, Pittman and Durbin, along with Les Lanphere of Reformed Pubcast, also hosted a conference called ReformCon, which on the final night offered a time of “talking theology over beer” at a local pub. Attendees could participate in a beer flight, which is a sampling of various beers.
“This ticket allows you to get a beer flight from Boulders on Broadway. All the proceeds from this benefit our Kauai church plant!” the website for the event outlined. “Boulders is all about the food, craft beer, bike riding, rock climbing and adventure! With 30 draft handles and 70 plus bottles of craft beer. Bring a friend and check out our selection.”
On June 4, Durbin briefly live streamed the pub meetup/beer flight online. (View here.)
“I think this is probably the largest pub meetup. What do you guys think? I think so,” he notes in the footage, being met with a reply by an attendee who hoped it would be “bigger next year.”
Christian News Network reported on the two unconventional fundraisers, which generated discussion both for and against the church plant fundraising concepts—with some defending the ideas and others opining that they take Christian liberty too far and could pose a stumblingblock to some.
Sonny Hernandez, a military chaplain and adjunct professor of theology, provided his view on the subject of church fundraising and whether the two concepts should be accepted or allowed by the Church.
“The message of Scripture is about holiness, having a contrite heart, and being a Christ-centered model—to be like Christ as Ephesians 5:1 tells us,” he opined to Christian News Network, as outlined in the initial report. “And I just don’t think those methodologies and those practices are commensurate with the testimony of Scripture.”
Apologist James White, Pinch’s father-in-law, became especially vocal about the matter, advising that he had paid for Pinch’s tattoo, and that while he personally despises beer, he drinks part of a Smirnoff Ice each night as a sleep aid.
“[T]here is a reason Thad was getting a chi-rho. I have a chi-rho. My son Joshua is getting a chi-rho. And Thad wanted to get a chi-rho as well,” White wrote in a blog post on the matter. “Originally it was a discussion we had over Christmas, that we would all get chi-rhos, since Josh is my son, and Thad is my son-in-law. In fact, I’m fairly sure I had already provided the funds for that chi-rho.”
He brought Durbin on his webcast to discuss the issue as well.
“I don’t believe that the answer to the weaker brother/stronger brother issue is that the stronger brother has to live their life in hiding, pretending that they’re something they’re not,” Durbin outlined.
“I would say that Jesus gave us wine in worship,” he also said, in regard to controversy over the (separate) pub meetup. “In the temple, it’s part of worship. God calls His people to participate with it.”
Durbin added that he is against drunkenness, and “[w]here you have believers who all agree, ‘It’s okay, don’t get drunk,’ we can hold an event that we call together people of like mind in the right context to glorify God.”
Last month, Apologia issued a statement advising that as Pinch continued to struggle with drugs and serial adultery, the elders had recommended that Pinch’s wife file for divorce.
“After almost 1-year of counseling (individual and as a couple) and after consideration of consistent patterns of egregious sin (over the course of several years) and repeated instances of marital infidelity, we, the elders of Apologia Church with delegated authority under the Lord Jesus Christ, have officially issued our unanimous and unqualified recommendation of divorce upon biblical grounds,” Durbin and discipleship pastor Luke Pierson wrote.
The two stated that they believe God hates divorce, and that they counsel that even in instances of adultery healing should be sought in a marriage, but advised that they “are also under the conviction that a pattern of consistent and unrepentant adultery provides Biblical grounds for a righteous divorce.”
Read the statement in full here.
Pinch’s wife, Summer, co-hosts a theology podcast called “Sheologians,” which launched on iTunes on Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, she publicly posted to her personal Facebook page Apologia’s statement about the advisement to divorce.
Pinch was unavailable for comment. Christian News Network contacted his father, Mike Pinch, who said that neither he or his wife had any knowledge of the divorce or any of the affairs.
He confirmed that his son, who had been in rehab approximately four years ago and had been involved at one point or another with bath salts, alcohol, cigarettes and vaping, went back went to rehab on Aug. 25 to obtain help for a continued drug addiction. Pinch stated that he had been concerned that the church environment Thad was in was not conducive to substance abuse recovery and regeneration.
“[I]n my opinion, playing on the edge with vaping, tattoos and close fellowshipping with those that drink is playing into the hands of sinking back into addictive behavior,” Pinch told Christian News Network in July.
“If you don’t provide a safe place, and you put temptation in people’s way, that doesn’t really sound to me like you have that individual’s best interest in mind,” he also opined on Thursday. “Scripture says, ‘Flee the appearance [of evil].’ … It surprises me that church leaders flaunt their freedom in such a way that seems disparaging of another’s weaknesses.”
He expressed surprise that the information about the divorce had been posted as public information.