Like many leaders in secular professions such as politics, media and entertainment, multiple church leaders and religious organizations were embroiled in cases of sexual misconduct in 2017. These are some of the most viral cases which left many Christians shaking their heads in shock and disappointment.
1. The Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons Sr.
Perhaps the most shocking of them all, the Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons Sr., pastor of the popular Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, was almost shot to death by his parishioner, who came home to find the pastor in bed with his wife.
Simmons, 38, who is married with one child, according to his church's website, was caught in bed with Claynisha Stephens, 34, by Benjamin Stephens III, the woman's husband. Police had to be called in after Stephens pulled a gun on the naked pastor and sent him fleeing for his life. It is unclear if the couple are still together or are even still members of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church. Simmon's wife and congregation have stuck by him, however, and he remains the church's leader. He has declared 2018 the year of recovery.
2. Pastor Chris Hill
Hill's wife of more than 20 years, Joy, alleged in a mass text message to church members that she was able to verify that her husband carried on an affair with their young goddaughter, Shirnae McFarlane, who married Arthur McFarlane III on Sept. 26, 2014.
In August 2017, Hill declared he was ready to come back following counseling and a public show of repentance. His mentor, Bishop T. D. Jakes of Potter's House of Dallas, laid hands on him and declared restoration. He returned to the pulpit shortly after that.
3. Pastor Mitch Olson
He contended that his hand might have slipped into her pants while anointing her with the holy oil. He did not face criminal charges because there was no state law under which his accuser could classify as a victim. Local politicians in Michigan are now working to criminalize clergy sexual misconduct during counseling sessions as a result of this case.
4. Revs. Kenneth Butler, Cordell Jenkins and Anthony Haynes
Pastor Kenneth Butler, 37, of Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center in Toledo, Ohio, was arrested and slapped with federal sex trafficking charges, along with the Rev. Cordell Jenkins, 46, and the Rev. Anthony Haynes, 38. All three pastors are accused of knowingly recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person under the age of 18.
Jenkins' wife and former "first lady" of Abundant Life Ministries in Toledo, Laura Lloyd-Jenkins, was also arrested for allegedly obstructing the sex trafficking investigation against him weeks after she was fired from her job as administrator in Lucas County, Ohio.
5. Associate Pastor Eddie Hilburn
Eddie Hilburn, a married pastor and father of three, resigned from his post at The Woodlands First Baptist Church in Texas after he allegedly paid $80 for sexual activities to an undercover Harris County Sheriff's deputy. As soon as the deputy was paid he was arrested.
The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate also served as senior pastor of churches in Texas, planted a church in Wisconsin, and served as student pastor prior to joining The Woodlands.
6. 'Fight Church' Pastor Paul Burress
Pastor Paul Burress, a controversial preacher who gained national attention in 2014 after he was featured in a documentary on mixed martial arts called "Fight Church," was arrested for forcibly touching the "sexual or other intimate parts" of two women.
7. Pastor Terry Knighten
Pastor Terry Knighten of the now defunct Renew Ministries in New Braunfels, Texas, faced several lawsuits for exploiting his parishioners for sex.
Kristi Guerrero and her husband, Samuel, who were wed by Knighten in 2011, accused him in a lawsuit of conducting "a scheme of sexual exploitation" that caused repeated sexual contact between the disgraced pastor and Kristi Guerrero.
The lawsuit, filed April 28, called Knighten "a sexual predator," who groomed Kristi Guerrero before forcing her into "unreciprocated sexual intercourse" in May 2015 at his New Braunfels home, which she was paid to clean. It charges that officials at Renew Ministries, formerly known as Celebrate Life Church, did not act when they became aware of Knighten's alleged misconduct.
8. Brother R.G. Stair
Controversial radio evangelist Ralph Gordon Stair, also known as Brother R.G. Stair, was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl and touching the breast of a 12-year-old-girl in his church while the congregation watched.
The 84-year-old leader of the Overcomer Ministry in Walterboro South Carolina was arrested by the Colleton County Sheriff's Department in December and charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, one count of kidnapping, one count of burglary in the first degree, one count of second-degree assault, and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
9. Pastor Billy Walker
The preacher was forced to call police for help after the woman crashed his church service with the news in October. The married man strongly advocates lifelong commitments between one man and one woman in marriage.
10. Pastor Garry Evans
Pastor Garry Evans, 72, who led Rushville Baptist Temple in Rushville, Indiana, for some 30 years, tried to take his life in November, weeks after he was arrested and charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation in a case involving a 3-year-old girl.
Police say Evans took the girl to his office for candy but pulled down his pants instead and made her touch his penis. He warned her not to tell anyone.