The ongoing legal standoff between pastor John Gray of Relentless Church and Redemption Church leaders Ron and Hope Carpenter, who are seeking to evict Relentless Church from property they own in South Carolina, is really “a fight over church members,” lawyers for Gray argue in court documents filed last Friday.
“In essence, this is not a dispute as much about leases and occupancy of church buildings, as much as it is a fight over church members. Pastor Gray has come into Greenville at the urging of Ron Carpenter, even moving to be here before school was out for the summer for his children, because Carpenter said he had to leave immediately for California,” lawyers for Gray argued in a response to Carpenter’s lawsuit to evict him and his Relentless Church from Redemption’s properties in Greenville.
“Now that the Grays and their staff have greatly increased attendance, increased giving, made $500,000.00 in repairs to buildings that have never been transferred as promised, cut expenses, tightened up accounting controls, reduced accounts payable by over 75% and even paid bills for Redemption that Relentless had no obligation to pay, Carpenter now wants to come back because the ministry is now in much better financial condition,” they added.
Gray was given until the end of 2019 to take his church elsewhere amid allegations that he had been “shady” and “dishonest” in executing a transition agreement with the Carpenters after they passed the reins of their Redemption Church campus to him in 2018.
The Relentless Church pastor agreed in part, according to court documents, to rebrand Redemption Church in Greenville as Relentless Church and assume all of the Carpenters' debt obligations while they moved to San Jose, California, to officially become the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, which they renamed Redemption.
“As an implicit part of that understanding, the GSC Ministries’ mortgage debt on The Properties would continue to be serviced by the GSC Ministries under Gray’s leadership and as rebranded by Gray,” the Carpenters argued in their lawsuit against Gray.
The Carpenters reportedly carried a debt of $8,715,250 on the church sanctuary used by Gray with a monthly mortgage of $69,994. They also carried a debt of $3,720,649.48 on The Imagine Center gym. The monthly interest-only mortgage payment would be $18,603.25 with an annual principal payment of $500,000.
Gray’s lawyers argued that while Carpenter claimed in October 2017 that "God spoke to Ron three times and told him to call John Gray," to pass him the church, Carpenter had asked two other ministers who turned him down before approaching Gray to take over in Greenville.
It was later discovered that Redemption and Ron Carpenter were in no position to enter into a transition agreement with Gray because the International Pentecostal Holiness Church claimed an interest in the Imagine Center due to Carpenter using it as collateral to secure a $3 million loan from IPHC.
“When the Transition Agreement was proposed, the IPHC objected because it believed it owned Redemption’s assets. In short, the Transition Agreement was not completed because the IPHC would not permit it,” Gray’s lawyers argued.
In addition to other arguments, Gray’s lawyers said that if the court should find any merit to Redemption Church’s eviction request, they should be given enough time to move out due to their current ties to the community and previously booked conferences set to take place at the church.
“If the court finds any merit in Redemption’s current requests, Relentless respectfully requests the court also note the ways in which Redemption’s actions contributed to these two religious organizations’ current standoff. At the very least, Relentless should be afforded adequate time to prepare and execute a move out of the properties before Redemption retakes possession,” Gray’s lawyers argued.
“…Based on continued occupancy, The Relentless Church has planned for over a year for a major international Christian conference in May of 2020. Speakers and participants from Australia, Europe, Africa and the United States have already booked hotels, airfare etc. to hear well known Christian ministers, singers and musicians teach and minister to over fifteen thousand (15,000) registrants expected over four (4) days to the Greenville Campus,” they revealed.
“These world-renowned speakers and leaders are scheduled here to build hearts and build bridges. Community service aspects, health and wellness, as well as spiritual encounters are planned in May. Requiring Relentless to move in 30 days would needlessly cripple and harm many of these ministries,” they added.