Pastor John Gray was a no-show in his megachurch on Sunday, just days after it was reported that steps were being taken to evict the house of worship in South Carolina. But he was there in spirit when a video showed him from a remote location delivering a defiant message of reassurance to his congregation amid apparent uncertainty surrounding the future of Relentless Church.
Without going too deep into details, Gray calmly explained on the video that his absence was “pre-planned before there was a setup with a camera to serve papers to our church.”
It was unclear what “setup” Gray was referring to, but on Thursday the Redemption Church, which owns the property that Relentless Church has been leasing, filed documents in court to seek eviction, the start of a process that could – but hasn’t yet — lead to serving eviction papers to a tenant.
Redemption Church has alleged a breach of lease centering on a sports and fitness center on the property used by Relentless Church, incurring a debt that Redemption said it was forced to take over to avoid going into foreclosure.
Sunday marked the first time that the pastor had publicly spoken about the controversy in person.
“We have paid what we owe, according to our agreement, and everything is going to be shared at the right time through the proper legal channels,” said Gray, who has vehemently defended his association with President Donald Trump. “But until then, we, the Relentless Church, will continue to have service and we will maintain the moral high ground.”
A rep for Gray told NewsOne on Sunday that the pastor “will be able to provide receipts of payment.”
Gray went on to say he was “greatly grieved that there would be anyone or any spirit that would seek to harm a church open in the name of Jesus.” Chances are he was talking about Ron Carpenter, a pastor who owns the same Redemption Church that filed court papers in an apparent effort to begin eviction proceedings against Relentless.
The Greenville News reported last week that Gray had unsuccessfully tried to arrange new agreements, ultimately leaving Relentless Church on a month-to-month lease that expired as soon as it turned 2020 last week. That, in turn, prompted Redemption Church to file the papers on Thursday.
A statement sent on Thursday to NewsOne on behalf of Gray said the pastor was “confident that the payment amounts required under the leases referenced in the complaint have and will continue to be paid” and that “efforts at mediation … have proven fruitless on [Redemption Church’s] end multiple times.”
Gray’s video address Sunday to his congregation also explained that he was not in church so he could take “a necessary day with my bride … to build my marriage so that it can be healthy and vibrant.”
In the past, Gray has been very open about his marriage, including an extra-marital affair he acknowledged during an interview on national TV. He also bought his wife a Lamborghini Urus, which is priced around $200,000, for their eight-year anniversary before defending the extravagance and subsequently denying plundering money from his church treasury to purchase the expensive vehicle.
Gray also denied to the women of “The Real” talk show that his affair resulted in a child being born outside of his marriage.
“There’s no baby, none of that. It’s important for me to take responsibility for the areas where I did come up short,” Gray said in March. “Sharing things about my marriage, outside of my wife and outside of trusted counselors, is an emotional affair. It was wrong. I take responsibility for that. But I will not take responsibility for that which I did not do.”
As far as Relentless Church’s possible eviction, there was no indication of how much money was allegedly owed. But in the recent past, Gray has gone to extreme lengths to maintain an air of wealth, like in April when he was wearing a pair of expensive Nike Air Yeezy sneakers, which have retailed for thousands of dollars. Gray, whose net worth is estimated to be about $7 million, also lives in a home that was purchased by Relentless Church for $1.8 million.