- (Photo: http://gatheringplace.tv)
Sam Hinn, who stepped down as pastor of the Gathering Place Worship Center in Sanford, Fla., to focus on his marriage, may have been involved in a long-term extramarital affair with a member of the congregation, according to the woman's daughter.
Hinn, 51, who is also the brother of controversial prosperity gospel preacher Benny Hinn, sent a letter to his congregation last week explaining that he will step aside from the church he founded in 1996 in order to focus on his 25-year marriage to Erika Hinn, with whom he shares four children.
A report by the Orlando Sentinel, which contacted the woman's daughter, has alleged that the reason behind Pastor Hinn's decision is that he had been involved in a long-term extra marital affair.
"As painful as this is to confess, I have allowed myself to be drawn into a relationship that has caused much hurt and pain to my wife and family. I have repented and asked for and received their forgiveness," Hinn said in a statement, a link to which was shared by Gathering Place Worship Center with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
While the pastor does not address the details behind the affair in his letter to the church, the Sentinel reported that Hinn allegedly had tried to convince the woman whom he was involved with that they were "soul mates" and that God approved of their relationship.
"He put her in a position that this is OK because it's what God wants. He was using God to justify it," said Chantel Wonder, 28, of St. Petersburg, who identified herself as the daughter of the woman.
Wonder revealed that her father apparently found out about the alleged affair in Dec. 2008 when he discovered text and voice messages between Hinn and his wife, although she denied it at the time. The couple, who had been married since June 1980, went through a divorce in Feb. 2012. The woman's alleged affair with Hinn continued even after that, her daughter said, and eventually the pastor was confronted by church officials last month about the allegations.
Pastor Hinn had apparently denied the affair for a long time, and on Jan. 14 promised not to talk to the woman again. Wonder said, however, that later on that same day his car was photographed parked outside her mother's apartment.
On Sunday, church officials shared with the congregation that the board had initiated a restoration process for Hinn that involves the counsel of Ron Johnson, pastor of One Church in Longwood, Fla.
"This process includes Pastoral and Professional Counseling, as well as a mandatory time out of ministry so that all fractures in both his personal and family life may be healed," the church has said.
Wonder shared her fears, however, that Hinn may be back in charge of Gathering Place Worship Center before too long.
"He'll be back in a couple of months as senior pastor, and that's just not right," said Wonder.
Pastor Hinn's full statement, where he mainly asks for prayers and support, can be read below:
After much soul searching I have come to the understanding that I need to take a break from ministry. Erika and I have been aware, for some time, that there have been fractures developing in our marriage that must be addressed.
Although neither Erika nor I have ever claimed perfection, this morning I take full responsibility for the place we now find ourselves. As painful as this is to confess, I have allowed myself to be drawn into a relationship that has caused much hurt and pain to my wife and family. I have repented and asked for and received their forgiveness.
The Scripture states that I must bring forth the fruit of repentance if I expect to be restored; therefore, I have submitted myself to the leadership of this Church and the Apostolic covering of Pastor Ron Johnson of One Church.
Therefore, I am taking a leave of absence from any and all ministry so I can focus my full energy on both my walk with God and restoration in my family.
TGP, I love you all very much and apologize for hurting you. I ask that you please pray for my family during this difficult season and I ask that you stand with us as we take this much needed time to heal.
With the support of my family and help of those around me, it is my full intention to be fully restored and to return to my responsibilities as your Pastor, as soon as the Lord permits.
Please respect the privacy of our family during this difficult time. We ask that no one phone, text, or e-mail us at this time.