The most trending news in Nigeria at present, apart from Ebola and terrorist attacks, is that of the impending divorce of charismatic Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Believers’ LoveWorld, better known as Christ Embassy. Tongues are wagging. However, this is not the first time a reverend, pastor, bishop, evangelist or a cleric will be enmeshed in divorce.
The list is growing both locally and internationally. Incidentally, a neighbour to Pastor Chris at Oregun in the Ikeja area of Lagos State and his namesake, Rev. Chris Okotie, has even broken a record by divorcing twice, the last one being in June 2012. Internationally, there was the case of the revered tele-evangelist, Pastor Benny Hinn, who earlier divorced his wife, Suzanne, and later remarried her.
Beside pastors and clergy whose marriages are in shambles, there are those living with their spouses like familiar strangers. Many have not divorced out of sheer fright of scandal. Others are papering over the cracks in their marriages in deference to God’s injunction in Malachi 2 verse 16 while praying and hoping for restoration.
Over the years, men of God, made up of pastors, evangelists, prophets, and their ilk who superintend over mega churches, have unwittingly succumbed to the tempestuous whirlwind of adultery, contrary to the fifth commandment of God: Thou shall not commit adultery. And each time this happens, it raises a lot of issues, bordering on morality, spirituality, and most times put on hold or ends abruptly, the productive Christian service of the victim.
Early this year, David Loveless, head pastor of Discovery Church, Orlando, U.S.A, one of America’s “10 healthiest churches” relinquished his pastoral duties at the mega church over adultery. The pastor resigned after confessing he committed adultery three years earlier.
But Loveless is not the only Orlando-area pastor to confess an adulterous relationship lately. In the past six months, two other pastors, Isaac Hunter of Summit Church and Sam Hinn of The Gathering Place also resigned.
A statement by elders of Discovery Church confirmed that Loveless’s affair ended approximately three years ago. However, he only made it known to church leaders within the past few weeks. The elders stated that David Loveless could be restored to Christian fellowship and productive service, but not as a full-time pastor.
On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy, host of one of iTunes most-popular podcasts on Christianity and known for his teaching on marriage, resigned as longtime leader of one of America’s largest multisite churches after confessing to a “moral failing.”
Coy, senior pastor at the 18,500-member Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida since he founded the mega church in 1985, said the failing disqualified him from “continuing his leadership role at the church.”
Coy, who wrote the popular series, Building a Godly Marriage along with pastoring one of the fastest growing churches in America, also reached audiences through his Active Word Radio Podcast, which ranks No. 12 on the iTunes chart for Christian podcasts, between offerings from Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes.
The Active Word media ministry has been suspended, according to the church. Coy’s past sermon series on marriage was taken offline and unavailable, as were other media pages at the church’s website.
Among the hundreds of reactions on the church’s website are requests from people who still feel Coy’s past teachings are beneficial.
Coy will be focusing his attention on God and his family, according to his church’s statement. “The governing board of the church is providing counsellors and ministers who will help guide him through the process of full repentance, cleansing and restoration,” said the church.
Coy joins three other Florida mega church pastors who recently resigned in those cases after acknowledging extramarital affairs. One pastor, Isaac Hunter of Summit Church, later died by suicide.
While experts say churches can heal after adultery scandals and pastors can be restored to ministry, the process has obstacles that aren’t easy to navigate. The time it takes to work through the healing process can be its own point of contention: witness Benny Hinn’s brother Sam, who raised eyebrows after returning to the pulpit just eight months after admitting to a four-year extramarital affair.
In 1988, Jimmy Swaggart, America’s leading television evangelist, resigned from his ministry after it was revealed he had been consorting with a prostitute.
In front of a congregation of 7,000 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he sobbed and confessed to “moral failure” without actually going into any detail.
“I do not plan in any way to whitewash my sin or call it a mistake,” he told shocked members of his Family Worship Centre.
Turning to his wife, Frances, he said: “I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness.”
Swaggart’s confession is all the more scandalous since he himself unleashed fire and brimstone against rival TV evangelist Rev Jim Bakker a few months earlier for committing adultery with minister and secretary Jessica Hahn.
Rev Bakker was subsequently defrocked and fired from his multi-million-dollar Praise the Lord TV station.
This time it was Jimmy Swaggart’s turn to repent after officials from the Assemblies of God Church were given photographs showing him taking a prostitute to a Louisiana motel.
Rival TV evangelist, Martin Gorman, who was also defrocked after Pastor Swaggart, accused him of “immoral dalliances” in 1986 handed them in.
Gorman, who ran a successful TV show from New Orleans, had launched an unsuccessful $90m law suit against Jimmy Swaggart two years earlier for spreading false rumours.
He also suggested Mr. Swaggart was trying to undermine rival TV shows.
The Jimmy Swaggart Hour is watched by up to two million families and donations raised amount to about $150m a year.
After the Bakker scandal, donations from the faithful dropped dramatically and the same is likely to happen to Jimmy Swaggart’s show.
Rev Robertson has threatened to sue anyone who calls him a TV evangelist and prefers to be described as a businessman.
Four days later Debra Murphree, the prostitute photographed with Jimmy Swaggart, told a New Orleans TV show he was a regular customer but insisted they had not had sex.
She said he liked to watch her undress.
Along with his son, Donnie, Jimmy Swaggart continues to broadcast to 30 countries but viewer numbers are not what they used to be when he was preaching to more than 100 nations around the world.
In March this year, after asking his parishioners to stay a bit longer after a Sunday service, Bishop Bobby Davies a pastor in Connecticut literally dropped dead. His request was made so he could confess his past infidelity and “seek forgiveness.” But only moments after he told his congregation what he had done, he fell over and died from a heart attack.
One person in attendance, Judy Stovall, told the Connecticut Post that Bishop Bobby Davis – the founder of the Miracle Faith World Outreach Church in Bridgeport – “wanted to come clean.”
“We were shouting, ‘We forgive you, we love you,’ but the stress of all of it — he had a heart attack,” Stovall recalled. “I held his head as he lay on the floor … Our congregation is hurting now.”
But some of the crowd was pretty angry. Stovall admitted that the yelling got pretty loud. “A woman, who wouldn’t give her name, said she had been outside the church at the time and heard yelling coming from inside, but didn’t know what was being said,” the report added.
Pastor Blaine Bartel of Northstar Church in Dallas, Texas is the most recent pastor caught in adultery. On April 22, 2014, Charisma Magazine reported that he stepped down from his post as pastor after he acknowledged that he’d had an affair. Bartel and his wife Cathy have been married 28 years and are in pursuit of repairing their marriage.
That day must have been a strange day for members of Redemption World Outreach, Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.A, one of the area’s first mega churches. Pastor Ron Carpenter basically dedicated his sermon to explaining why he’s leaving his philandering wife of 23 years.
More awkwardly, Hope Carpenter was apparently Ron’s co-pastor as well as his wife. For as long as Redemption World Outreach was a thing, Ron and Hope were the face of it, and their solid marriage was an example for their flock. Too bad it was all a front, according to Ron.
During his sermon on Sunday, he explained that his wife had been living a double life for years. It came to a head, culminating in her isolation in a one-year, out-of-state treatment program, the end of what he called a “tragic” situation.
Ron explained that he and his wife had been struggling for at least a decade.
Though he described his marriage as a “fairy tale” at first, things started to go south in 2004. She removed herself from the couple’s ministry completely, and she became increasingly distant until 2010 when she admitted to having multiple affairs.
Coincidentally, this confession came on the eve of a planned marriage conference organised by Ron and his Redemption World Outreach church.
“The marriage conference was already half way sold out, and $25,000 worth of deposits were made for rooms and we couldn’t back out. I had no idea what to do,” said Carpenter.
Ron Carpenter told Word Radio that his wife’s infidelity is only five percent of what’s going on.
“There were two distinct double lives. This is not a fling. Not an affair. There was a whole other life and culture and dress code and friends,” he explained.
In Kenya, pastor of a growing church was last month, beaten, stripped and forced to kiss in public, the wife of a policeman he was caught with during an orgy in the neighbourhood. Although the angry mob spared his life, he was said to have preached against adultery at a crusade the previous week in Nairobi. And nemesis quickly caught up with him even while he was still married and had children.