Revival Evangelist Todd Bentley Separates from Wife

The evangelist at the center of contentious revival meetings in Lakeland, Fla., has filed for separation from his wife.

Todd Bentley has also taken the decision to step down from the leadership of his organization, Fresh Fire Ministries, which stated on its website that the evangelist had "entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff."

"On behalf of the Fresh Fire leadership and the Board of Directors, we wish to apologize to our friends and partners and to the larger body of Christ and to ask for your forgiveness," the statement said.

The heavily tattooed evangelist courted controversy in recent months as videos began circulating on the Internet, apparently showing Bentley at raucous revival meetings using violence to heal sick people in the audience and shove people to the ground while shouting "Bam."

Critics have also questioned his claims of miraculous healing and raising people from the dead.

"What is plain is that he is teaching false doctrine and that the claims to his ministry's 'successes' seem pretty spurious," Chad Brand, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press.

Stephen Strang, the publisher of Pentecostal magazine Charisma, wrote in a column last week, "Anyone who baptizes people in the name of the Father, the Son 'and BAM' is playing lightly with the Holy Spirit and is bordering on blasphemy."

Bentley and his wife, Shonnah, were in counseling for the last three years before their decision to separate. The Fresh Fire statement said that Bentley would "refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life."