Most of the time, when a singer leaves a Southern Gospel group, it was that singer’s decision. But occasionally, as in other vocations, it’s the owner’s decision.
Often, when a singer leaves a group and it’s not abundantly clear it was his own choice, our inbox and comment moderation queue fill up with the electronic version of horrified whispers. “Did you think/hear that [owner] actually fired [singer]?” Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. But even when it’s true, it’s not necessarily a horrible scandal.
Most would agree that there are several circumstances where it would be quite appropriate for a group owner to fire a singer. Likely the one with the broadest consensus is if a major moral failing (adultery, murder, holding up a bank*). They both disqualify an individual (or, at least, we could all agree: an unrepentant individual) from a public ministry position, and would also cause major harm to a group’s reputation. These are the scandals; one would wish that our genre would be completely free of them, but humans sometimes fail.
But moral failings aren’t the only reasons. Sometimes singers can no longer accomplish the task they were hired to do. Tenor singers, especially, are prone to push past their voices’ natural limits, and have to leave a group due to vocal problems. (Typically but not always, when this happens, the singer leaves voluntarily.)
Of course, there is also plenty of gray area. When a singer develops vocal issues, even noticeable declines are often slow. Or what if a singer has caused a situation which is not inherently grounds for dismissal, but has the rest of the group threatening to leave? What if a singer frequently shows up late enough (to the bus or to concerts) to cause logistical issues, or misses concerts altogether?
It’s a touchy subject. But it’s rarely a scandal. And, at least in virtually all circumstances, it’s simply not worth wasting time in speculation when someone leaves a group.
After all, for every person who simply does not deserve to be on a Southern Gospel stage, there are plenty who do—who are, to the best of their ability, faithfully serving God and striving to be faithful to the call He has placed on their lives.
(* No, I’ve never heard of a Southern Gospel singer holding up a bank!)