Pastor Jamal H. Bryant of Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, Md., says that Ebony magazine has apologized after he openly rebuked the African-American publication for reporting a rumor that the charismatic minister had impregnated a 17-year-old member of his congregation in 2007.
Bryant, 41, had taken the magazine to task in an open letter and said that "a hole" had been left in his heart after the rumor was published in the "Scandalous!" section of Ebony's March 2013 issue, which hit newsstands earlier this month.
"Thankfully Ebony magazine expressed a verbal apology as well as a written statement of clarification – which Dr. Bryant has accepted," Nicole S. Kirby, Pastor Bryant's public relations director, shared on Monday with The Christian Post.
Ebony's March 2013 issue, which features "Scandal" star Kerry Washington on the cover, stated in its paragraph-long brief that the "charismatic, flashy pastor" was accused of extramarital affairs, "including one rumor that he impregnated a 17-year-old church member." The publication noted that Bryant's wife at the time, Gizelle, filed for divorce in 2008 after nearly six years of marriage. The couple share three children, while Bryant has another child previous to his marriage.
Pastor Bryant chastised the publication in an open letter shared online Friday.
"For 67 years Ebony Magazine has been the drum beat for culture in the African American community. John Johnson its beloved founder dedicated his life to safe guarding our image with great integrity," said Bryant in the letter titled "PASTOR JAMAL BRYANT REBUKES EBONY."
"On page 124 they published that it's alleged I impregnated a 17-year-old member of my church. This accusation is categorically and completely untrue. To publish this with absolutely no source lends itself to reckless endangerment to my children, my congregation and my community. Ebony is not the National Enquirer. A higher standard is required and the statement jeopardizes my ministry to the youth in my church and community," the Maryland pastor added.
Within 24 hours of Bryan'ts open rebuke, Ebony admitted in an online statement that it "published the outrageous allegation as it was scandalous, not because it was confirmed."
"Our 'Scandals' package in the March 2013 issue is meant to be a look at some of the more outrageous accusations and events in African-American culture," the magazine said in its statement shared Saturday. "With this particular story, we examined actual incidents as well as reported rumors which have captured the attention of our community throughout the years. In some cases, the allegations were never verified; however, the very fact that they went public constituted scandal."
"We understand that Dr. Jamal H. Bryant is now getting inquiries regarding a rumor we referenced in the magazine. We published the outrageous allegation as it was scandalous, not because it was confirmed. We did not intend to offend Dr. Bryant, and hope that our readers understand the spirit in which the editorial comment was presented," Ebony's statement concluded.
Pastor Bryant had demanded that Ebony make a retraction on "moral grounds." Although the African Methodist Episcopal Church minister acknowledged that he "participated in an extramarital affair" in 2007, he insisted in his letter that no minors were involved. He added that his own "minor children have been affected" and that he doesn't want them "to have to live through any further unnecessary pain."
Bryant, who spoke with The Christian Post last month about his friendship with retired NFL player Ray Lewis and the scandal surrounding his career, pointed to Matthew 18:15 in his open letter. The verse reads: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."
"I solicit your continued prayers for my family, forgiveness for myself and accountability from Ebony magazine," he concludes, signing the statement "Flawed but faithful. I remain, Jamal- Harrison Bryant (A Father and Pastor)."
Bryant founded the Empowerment Temple AME Church in 2000, and the Baltimore congregation is comprised of 8,000-10,000 members.
Ebony, which boasts a circulation of 1,450,000, dubbed its most recent issue the "real-life Scandal Issue" and reported snippets on court cases, secret affairs, shocking divorces and drug addictions in politics, sports, religion and other sectors of society. The March 2013 issue features "Scandal" star Kerry Washington on the cover.
The Christian Post previously reported on Ebony drawing attention to its "Scandal Issue" with its feature on the controversy surrounding the 2011 passing of Florida megachurch pastor Zachery Tims and speculation that drugs may have played a part in his sudden death. Riva Tims, Pastor Tims' ex-wife, told the publication that her former husband had a lifestyle of drug abuse.