Megachurch pastor John Gray defended his character and announced Sunday that he’ll be moving his Relentless Church congregation to a different location in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2020 and establish a new one in Atlanta with a nod to Edward Long, the eldest child of the late Bishop Eddie Long.
The announcement comes after a tempestuous two weeks since Gray was, on Nov. 27, served a 30-day notice of termination for the church building he was leasing from Pastors Ron and Hope Carpenter, who alleged he was “shady” and “dishonest.”
The Carpenters passed the reins of their Redemption Church, rebranded as Relentless Church, to Gray and his wife, then moved to San Jose, California, last year to officially become the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, which they renamed Redemption.
In a recent letter highlighting the dispute over the terms of a transfer of the church to Gray by the Carpenters, James Stephen Welch, a lawyer retained by Gray from the firm McGowan, Hood and Felder, LLC, said the relationship between the megachurch preachers has now soured and Hope Carpenter allegedly told members of Relentless Church in social media communication that Gray is a “shady man” and “dishonest,” and that she and her husband, Ron, will soon be taking back their church.
In his address on Sunday, Gray appeared to address the allegations against his character without specifically mentioning the Carpenters.
“When I think about who I am as a man, as a pastor, as a leader, I’ve been serving pastors in leadership capacities since September of 2000,” Gray told his congregation, naming megachurch leaders like Joel Osteen, Jentezen Franklin and the late Bishop Eddie Long.
“Every pastor that I served, not only did I serve with integrity, I served with honor, I served with humility and I never sought their platform. And anyone of them will tell you, particularly Pastor Joel as well, who we still serve,” Gray said.
“We served them with honor and integrity and that should matter to you because God has not led me this far for my character to change. And if God can trust me with the largest platforms in this world from Singapore to Australia, to Brian Houston, to Royal Albert Hall in London, to every other place that God has trusted me from the time I said yes to him at 13 and first preached at 21 that you can be assured that I didn’t come to Greenville to fail God. And I didn’t come to Greenville to dishonor God and I didn’t come here to play games with the holy things of God,” he continued.
“If those men of God say I’m worthy to be on their platform that should be enough for you to know that character is not an issue when it comes to me and my wife. Every single pastor I’ve ever served would still have me back on their staff and that should be enough for you to know that I am a man that could be trusted with the navigation of your soul,” the apparently miffed Gray added.
At the end of the service Gray then announced his moving plans after acknowledging the presence of the son of the late founder of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, which is now being led by Pastor Jamal Bryant.
“I also want to take a moment to shout out my friend and my brother Pastor Edward Long. Edward Long is here from Atlanta Georgia. He is the son of Bishop Eddie L. Long. He is a great man of God,” Gray said.
“E, you were there when I met my wife. We were driving in the car talking about it and so I’m grateful that you are here. I celebrate your anointing. I celebrate your gift and I’m grateful for the legacy that your father has right here. Because I met at that church, this woman. We served your dad’s vision and this is a result,” he said, pointing to his wife and children.
He then presented a video highlighting the plan for a new Relentless Church campus in Greenville.
“Anybody ever seen Apple products launched? When apple launches products at the end Steve Jobs is walking off the stage and he says ‘Oh, one more thing.’ So right now here’s what I want you to know. God has his hand on Relentless Church. He has his hand on Relentless Church,” he insisted before presenting the video.
“Thank you Jesus. Glory!” his wife Aventer screamed in praise when the presentation was over.
“That’s where we’re going,” Gray said as the congregation celebrated. “To the 16 families that gave up the safety and comfort of their jobs. Took their kids out of school. Left safety and walked with us through hell and high water. To the elders and leaders, to the members. Thank you. That’s where we’re going in 2020.”
He then followed that with another video announcing a Relentless Church Atlanta campus for fall 2020.
“Oh. And one more. E (Edward Long). I think you can appreciate this. You always had to have one more surprise. The kingdom is always moving and ever expanding. And so one more thing, take a look at the screens,” Gray said introducing the video for the Atlanta campus.
Gray’s acknowledgement of Edward Long during the announcement of the Atlanta campus already has some people hoping that Long will be named pastor of Relentless Church Atlanta.
“Hello! It would be cool if you become head pastor over Relentless Atlanta! God's will be done. @iamedwardlong,” wrote commenter jc_lives83 on a post Long made on Instagram late Sunday that said: “If you tell the right people your dreams, they will never die... ‘I have a dream...’ Do You? #DontStopKeepGoing.”
Gray responded to the post saying: “He’s an amazing man of God.”
Last December Long revealed in a parabolic sermon how he struggled with the pain of being repeatedly overlooked as his father’s successor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
“I didn’t choose Jamal Bryant but a choice was made, so I’m not gonna speak against him. ... I’m not gonna talk trash about him. I’m gonna love on him and pray for him. Some things have happened concerning him, I’m just gonna forgive him and love on him. I’m gonna do what Jesus commissioned me to do. And I’m gonna let the world watch me do it as a living sermon, as a living epistle of how to walk through some tough times and how to handle some tough things because people are watching,” Long told New Birth congregants.
“This was the toughest Sunday of my life to stand before you because I’m not standing here to appease anybody, I’m standing here pushing you to always put your trust and faith in God always. As I’m working toward my breakthrough, grab hold. We can’t get breakthroughs if we can’t lose in truth, because we worship God in spirit and in truth,” he added.
Gray told FOX Carolina he expects to reveal the location of the new Greenville campus during New Years' Eve services.