"It was the wise thing to do. I loved him and I knew he had great potential for God. I wouldn't have cut off communication under any circumstances."
The same was not true for Andy.
A sobering realization
Critics accuse Andy of being too accommodating. He won't draw theological lines in the sand. His sermons are too self-help, too Christian-lite.
He is an introvert who struggles at times even to make conversation off-stage with members of his church. But he will still invite listeners who disagree with his sermons to contact him afterward. People who have written him scathing letters are sometimes shocked to hear his voice on the other end of their phone line. He was criticized recently for preaching a sermon that mentioned gay people but no explicit condemnation of homosexuality.
"I'm always trying to look for ways to affirm everything, maybe to a fault," Andy says.
Yet there is a toughness about him that's reminiscent of his father.
He has called members of his church to demand that they stop attending when people complained that they were harassing other members. He preaches that people who divorce and remarry are committing adultery even though many in the contemporary church reject that teaching.
He wouldn't allow CNN to photograph him preaching at North Point -- too distracting -- or just hanging out with his staff on an ordinary day. ("It singles me out as being of greater significance.")
That toughness hardened into self-righteousness as he tried to reconcile with his father.
He became judgmental. He was angry at his parents, and at people who questioned his integrity. Mr. Accommodation was becoming a Pharisee.
He realized that the battle wasn't just with his father -- it was with himself.
"I saw the dark side of myself, and I realized that I'm no better than anyone else."
A turning point came during an individual counseling session. He told his counselor that he felt like he bent again and again, but his dad wasn't changing.
"When can I give up on my relationship with my dad?" he asked his counselor.
The counselor's reply:
"When your heavenly father gives up on his relationship with you."
A Christmas gift from Dad
Andy and his father still seem to be following the counselor's advice. They haven't given up on one another.
When his father celebrated his 80th birthday at First Baptist, Andy was there to pay tribute. He called his father his hero, and paused to gather his emotions several times.
Charles took off his glasses and wiped tears from his eyes.
One person who was not there was Anna Stanley.
Andy says his mother is his biggest fan. She watches DVDs of his sermons throughout the day, and insists her caregivers join her.
He says his parents rarely talk anymore.
"There is no animosity," he says. "She'll ask about him: 'How's Charles?' She watches him on television."