Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter's House megachurch in Dallas, Texas, offered an apology Tuesday to a 22-year-old former female volunteer who was physically assaulted and held against her will at the church's Fort Worth campus on Sunday.
The assault was captured on video, which has gone viral with over 3 million views. It stemmed from a dispute about whether the volunteer, Audrey Stevenson, was allowed to be on the Forth Worth church stage.
Stevenson had a verbal confrontation with church elder and administrator Rhonda Lewis, who indicated that the volunteer was not authorized to "do anything on the stage" and that she had been removed from service.
A viral partial recording of the dispute made by Stevenson published on Facebook, shows her being blocked by church safety officer Brandon Amie when she tried to leave an office at the church after a discussion between her and Lewis had escalated into a shouting match. She was then handcuffed and restrained as she begged Amie to let her leave.
At one point, she indicated that Amie had his knee in her back as she continued begging him to let her go. Amie explained in the video that he was trying to "explain something" to her about how the church systems work.
In his statement Tuesday, Jakes concluded that despite the nature of the dispute, he was disappointed by the treatment meted out to Stevenson.
"While many of the extenuating circumstances are not shown in the video that was published March 25, 2018, this still does not justify the lack of professionalism exhibited by the safety officer we require and expect from all of our employees. Emotions quickly escalated and a complete breakdown of communication occurred resulting in what played out on video," Jakes said. "I'm extremely disappointed and apologize for how Ms. Stevenson was treated and the ill-conduct she received. Privately, we will be reaching out to Ms. Stevenson to offer her the apology she rightly deserves."
He also explained that even though Amie's prior work with the church had been "positive," his future employment is now in limbo.
"The safety officer in question's tenure with us has been a positive one, this unfortunate incident however has endangered his continuance with our ministry pending the outcome of a comprehensive review which is consistent with our protocols," Jakes said.
He further noted that he has ordered a review of the church safety guidelines to prevent these kinds of situations in the future.
"Throughout our entire ministry, we go to great lengths to minimize as many inconveniences to our weekly parishioners while providing proper protection to themselves, their families, children and belongings with help from safety and Police Officers," Jakes said. "It is never our aim to ask someone to exit our premises, but when it is necessary, we hope all responses are met with appropriate and professional behavior."
The video of the assault on Stevenson at the church, which is led by Patrick E. Winfield II, continued drawing strong reactions Wednesday, with some critics encouraging the former volunteer to file formal charges against the church and the security official.
Stevenson's mother, who has been a member of the church since 2014, said there had been an ongoing issue between her daughter and Elder Lewis since January and she had been trying to find a resolution to the problem but was preventing from speaking with pastors at the church by Lewis.
"These are despicable, ludicrous, demoralizing, hideous acts happening in the church of God. And these are the people who are in leadership, I want to tell you if they get away with this, they'll do this to somebody else's child. Or to someone else's sister," Stevenson's mother, who was not identified by name, said in a video posted to her daughter's page.
"This is a woman. Audrey is 22 years old. 5' 2". I'm short. I'm only 5' 5" and they would do this to her? What kind of people are these?" she asked.