Relentless Church—formerly known as Redemption Church—is locked in an ugly legal dispute involving millions of dollars.
It’s a complicated story, but it started when pastor, author and reality TV star John Gray took over South Carolina’s Redemption Church from Reverend Ron Carpenter. Gray left Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church to take the job.
Gray leaving Lakewood was a storyline in the reality show The Book of John:
Back in June of 2018, a host of prominent pastors came to Gray’s “installation service.” Kirk Franklin even performed.
Gray renamed the church Relentless, as part of an agreement so that Carpenter could keep the name “Redemption” for a new church. Relentless reportedly entered a financial agreement with Carpenter.
Now, new court documents, filed last week, show Carpenter’s new Redemption Church is trying to evict Relentless Church over what they say are late payments and non-payments involving an agreement that has to do with the church facilities.
From Greenville News: “According to documents filed by Redemption on Friday, Relentless failed to make mortgage payments to lenders, failed to pay Redemption when a lease agreement was made and has failed to vacate the property as a tenant in default.”
However, Gray says his church has upheld their end, telling Greenville News, “After a year of being led to believe the properties would be transferred to Relentless, there were consistent excuses as to why the transfer could not occur, even amid investing more than $500,000 of Relentless Church funds on much-needed repairs and maintenance to the site.”
Gray has now filed a court claim against Redemption, saying that Carpenter and his wife Hope made defamatory statements against him. In the counterclaim filed by Relentless, they also claim Carpenter made big promises to Gray. It reads, “[Carpenter] told Gray the people loved him. No one would leave. He actually said, ‘You will clear all the other black churches out.’” (Carpenter is white, while Gray is black). Carpenter later called Gray “shady” and “dishonest.”
The details of the claims the parties are making of each other involving their financial agreements are complicated (more than 100 documents have been filed), but millions of dollars are reportedly at stake.
One of the most surprising parts of the court documents is the revelation that Carpenter is owed $6.25 million ($250,000 a year over 25 years) for a retirement package.
Despite the “retirement” package, the Carpenters became pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center in California — which they renamed Redemption — shortly after leaving their former church.
They’re also still holding conferences:
It’s all turned out to be an ugly dispute involving two influential pastors. The story begs a lot of questions about how megachurches run and why what outwardly appeared to be a handoff in the leadership of a local church looks more like a backroom business deal.