Pastor Ron Carpenter of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C., held a "family discussion" instead of a normal church service on Sunday as he informed his congregation in a heart-wrenching confession that his wife had committed adultery multiple times over the past 10 years and was under psychiatric observation.
"As I am speaking to you right now, my wife Hope, has voluntarily checked into a one-year rehabilitation clinic and she is in isolation and she is under psychiatric evaluation at this moment," Carpenter revealed. "I've been on the phone with therapists until deep into the night last night, and the therapist told me that it was the worse case they had ever seen. That is the severity of this moment and this issue."
He shared in a shaky voice with thousands at the service and countless others watching online that he had lost 12 pounds in the last four days and had barely been eating or sleeping, and called that Sunday the worst day of his life in 45 years.
As Carpener spoke, members of the congregation intermittently rose to their feet and applauded him in a show of support, while others could be seen wiping their eyes during his difficult message.
The minister, who had informed church visitors and those watching the livestream of the Sunday service that they could excuse themselves because he was about to get into something heavy, said neither he nor the doctors know what exactly is plaguing his wife. Carpenter, who has been married for 23 years and has three children, told the congregation that his wife, Hope Hilley Carpenter, was sick and did not need anyone's "wrath."
Carpenter shared that for the past decade his wife's behavior had radically changed, putting him through what he cast as a harrowing and agonizing ordeal.
"For the last 10 years, I have been masking a situation that has absolutely almost destroyed me," he said. "In 2004, the date we dedicated this facility, Easter Sunday 2004, I left here to find a very different woman than I had ever met."
Explaining that he had courted and dated wife in a "pure, holy, sex-free relationship for three and a half years before we got married," Carpenter said he had impressed upon her during that time the challenges and scrutiny they would face as a couple in Christian ministry. He went on to describe their marriage as a "fairy tale" from 1990 to 2004, saying he could not even remember he and his wife having any arguments.
"I don't know what happened," a distraught Carpenter told his equally distraught congregation. "I went home to a person that for the next 10 years I did not marry and I have not known."
Calling his wife's behavior "erratic, reckless, nonsensical, (and) destructive," Carpenter told his flock that he "sat through two years of grueling therapy with her to no avail" and that the situation continued to grow worse. It got even worse, he said, when his wife confessed in 2010 that she had been carrying on an extra-marital relationship for the past five years.
"If I had been a regular old guy, I couldn't have took it," confessed Carpenter, explaining how and why he chose to remain with his wife at the time, instead of separating.
"But when I considered the integrity of the name of the Lord...I don't want to hurt his name. When I thought about you, when I thought about my love for her — I love her right now, I love her right now," he added through tears.
Carpenter, whose father was the late Bishop Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr. of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), said he chose to cover his wife with love through the ordeal, as Christ was his own covering. He also said he did not want to be hypocritical by failing to practice what he himself preached.
After believing that their restoration process would produce positive results after the initial affair was revealed, Carpenter said his wife disclosed a second relationship that had been going on throughout the restoration process.
"There is a sickness, there is a whole 'nother dual life that I am finding out that has been created," Carpenter told worshippers. "Hope is not well. You need to know that. We don't know what's wrong, but these are not the actions of anybody that is right."
Emphasizing that he was committed to his kids one day having a mother "that is whole and that is well," the pastor said he was sparing no expense in affording his wife the best care, but that he would not be seeking to restore their marriage or restore her to ministry.
After a brief breakdown and audible weeping at the rostrum, Carpenter composed himself and told the congregation that his wife does not need their wrath, and that this is not "just sin."
"She does not need wrath [or] anger. She needs prayer, she needs support and she needs miracles," he said.
Carpenter also pointed out that he would not be leaving or going on a sabbatical, as he had done nothing wrong.
"The reason I'm not going on a sabbatical and not I'm trying to solicit hand claps, I'm being honest with you, is that at this point in my life I only have two joys — it's my kids and it's you, and I don't need to be separated from you right now," he said, breaking out in tears once more.
But Carpenter also made it clear that he understood if any members of Redemption World Outreach Center felt inclined to remove themselves from under his leadership but asked them to give him a chance.
"I know I am going to be under intense scrutiny. I'm just gonna have to deal with it, but I will do everything in my power to regain your trust...and I will walk this thing out with integrity and authenticity," he said.
He added, "The world will watch how we respond to this right here. This is gonna go viral. There are no secrets anymore, and I will be a YouTube and Internet sensation before supper time. I can't control what media does and I can't control what magazines write."
Carpenter, who said he would be preaching the following Sunday at a service that would be the "most powerful in the history of Redemption World Outreach Center," concluded his talk Sunday by sharing a letter from his daughter, who quoted Philippians 4:12-13: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Carpenter expressed his steadfast commitment to continue serving the Lord and told the congregation, "I love you." His full message from Sunday, Oct. 13, was made available online.
Friends and supporters of Carpenter and his congregation have expressed prayers for the Christian minister, many of them writing their messages on Twitter:
"Sending prayer and love your way during this season...Hold on sir. We care!" wrote Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas.
"Praying and standing with @roncarpenter and Hope @rwoc," tweeted Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas.
Dharius Daniels, pastor of Kingdom Church in Princeton, N.J., wrote, "Love you @roncarpenter, praying for you."
Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., tweeted, "I love you @roncarpenter — praying for you and standing with you my friend!"
"Praying for @roncarpenter today," wrote Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick in Charlotte, N.C. "He is a good man & a true friend. Love & respect to you, Pastor Ron."
According to his ministry website, Pastor Carpenter and his wife, Hope, founded Redemption World Outreach Center in 1991 with just three members "and a passion for breaking down the walls of racism, crossing cultural lines, and changing poverty mindsets in their community as well as around the world." The International Pentecostal Holiness Church congregation is home to about 13,000 members.