A team of evangelical leaders including host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program, Michael Brown, declared Fresh Fire USA leader Todd Bentley “not qualified” for leadership Thursday after an investigation found allegations of “ungodly and immoral behavior” against him “credible.”
“Based on our careful review of numerous first-hand reports, some of them dating back to 2004, we state our theological opinion and can say with one voice that, without a doubt, Todd is not qualified to serve in leadership or ministry today,” said the leaders in an official statement shared by Brown on Facebook.
“There are credible accusations of a steady pattern of ungodly and immoral behavior, confirmed by an independent investigator’s interviews dating from 2008 up through 2019, along with other testimonies dating back to 2004. And while we only took into account first-hand reports, there are many other second and third-hand reports repeating the same accusations, often from people in different parts of the country (or, world) who had no connection between them, other than their interaction with Todd,” the statement said.
Other leaders on the panel with Brown were: Joseph Mattera, overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Brooklyn, New York, who also serves as convener of the U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders; James W. Goll, founder of God Encounters Ministries in Franklin, Tennessee; Jane Hamon, co-pastor of Vision Church at Christian International in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida; Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland; and Don Finto, pastor emeritus at Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Stephen Powell, an estranged protégé of the popular and controversial faith healer, first highlighted sexual misconduct allegations against the Fresh Fire USA leader last summer that included international encounters.
Powell, who leads the Lion of Light Ministries, alleged that Bentley has a “perverse sexual addiction” that drove him to prey on interns in 2013 and beyond.
He said he got a mandate from God to call wayward Christian leaders to repentance while alleging that Bentley “has an appetite for a variety of sexual sins, including both homosexual and heterosexual activity.” He also accused the evangelist of indulging in an open marriage with his wife, Jessa, and further criticized Bentley’s restoration process stemming from moral failure in 2008.
In their statement Thursday, the religious leaders said as a part of their investigation into the allegations they sought to hear Todd's side directly, “but he declined to answer a list of 60 questions compiled by the investigator after initially agreeing to respond.”
“Todd required the investigator to submit the questions through his attorney, after which he ceased communicating with Dr. Brown or the investigator,” the statement said.
“Sadly, we see no signs of true, lasting repentance. Instead, we see a steady pattern of compromised behavior, including credible accusations of adultery, sexting (including the exchanging of nude pictures or videos), vulgar language, and substance abuse,” the panel said.
“In our view, this disqualifies Todd from public ministry until such time that he has demonstrated true, lasting fruits of repentance, which would include: the breaking of these long-term, sinful habits; public acknowledgment of his sin, without equivocation, including asking forgiveness of those he sinned against; and submission to local church leadership until trust had been rebuilt. This would likely take a period of years,” they continued.
Bentley responded defiantly in a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday, arguing that he does not have a drug or sexual addiction but did admit to texting and sexting. He also noted that he stepped down from his public ministry six months ago and started a private “marketplace” company.
He also said Brown had promised to exonerate him in the investigation which he called a “sham.”
“Dr. Michael Brown has spun this to be what it wasn’t,” Bentley said while claiming that he was threatened with blackmail prior to the revelations over the summer.