The Rev. Louie Giglio, one of Andy's best friends growing up, still remembers some of the lessons Andy's mother taught at summer Bible camp.
"All of Andy's wisdom doesn't come from his dad," says Giglio, now senior pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and a founder of the Passion Movement, a popular outreach effort for young evangelicals. "She was incredibly insightful."
The quiet exit of Anna Stanley from the pews went public in June 1993 when she filed for divorce. Her action caused a sensation in Southern Baptist circles, where divorce is considered a sin by some based on a literal reading of the Bible. Some pastors shunned Charles; others publicly demanded that he step down. The scandal dragged on for years as the couple attempted to reconcile.
In 1995, Anna Stanley explained why she wanted a divorce in a letter to her husband's church that was excerpted in the local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an article titled "Torn Asunder."
She said she had experienced "many years of discouraging disappointments and marital conflict. ... Charles, in effect, abandoned our marriage. He chose his priorities, and I have not been one of them."
The impending divorce didn't just threaten Charles' family; it jeopardized his ministry.
He had always preached unquestioning obedience to the Word of God. And wasn't Jesus clear about divorce in Gospel passages such as Luke 16:18: "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
New Testament passages such as those had prompted First Baptist to institute a policy that prevented divorced men from serving as pastors or deacons. What would the church do when its celebrity pastor -- the man who packed the pews and beamed First Baptist's name across the globe -- got a divorce?
Charles treated the calls for him to step down like he treated the punch in the jaw so long ago -- he didn't flinch. He said he would gladly work on his marriage but he wouldn't resign as pastor.
Gayle White, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution religion writer at the time, dug up a quote from the embattled pastor that explained his rationale and used it in her "Torn Asunder" article:
"You see, into my ministry I brought the survival spirit. You do or die. You do whatever is necessary to win. It doesn't make any difference what it is."
That survival spirit was second nature for Charles, whose father died when he was 9 months old and who grew up so poor that he learned about Santa Claus the Christmas morning he discovered in his stocking the orange that had been in the refrigerator the night before. He lived in 17 homes by his 8th birthday.
His mother, Rebecca, worked two jobs and was often away from home. But she'd leave her son notes, reminding him of chores, giving him advice or simply to say, "Charles, I love you."
At night, she'd kneel beside her only child and pray, "God bless Charles here for whatever it may be."
Just as his mother protected him, Charles shielded her. She married an abusive alcoholic who told his stepson he would never amount to anything and sometimes tried to attack Rebecca.
Charles would intervene.
"You come after my mom," he'd say, "you come after me."
So it was really no surprise that, decades later, Charles would refuse to back down. He told opponents calling for his resignation that he answered to a higher authority.
"God said you keep doing what I called you to until I tell you to do something else," he says today. "I got that straight from the Lord. ... I was simply obeying God."
Besides, what could he do -- make someone not divorce him?
"If somebody doesn't love you and doesn't want to live with you, you can't -- nowhere in the Scripture does it say that you're to preach the gospel until someone does this or that," he says.
Charles, though, wasn't the only one in his family with a strong will. His son had other ideas about divorce.
The tension between Andy and his father had been building even before the divorce.
They were partners in ministry, but they were becoming rivals.