Please note the update at the bottom of this post
Before I stopped blogging at Pulpit & Pen, last Fall I wrote a post about an up and coming celebrity evangelist by the name of Clayton Jennings. What was concerning is how we saw Jennings and certain other youth-oriented evangelists sell themselves in displays of thinly veiled lasciviousness and immodesty. Looking back, our concerns might have been characterized as trite; these men posting hundreds of “selfies,” often in muscle shirts, obvious hair care and personal primping that would make the Cows of Bashan moo in envy, and a legion of (seemingly) mostly female followers who shout out “I love you” when they pass by and type out marriage proposals on their Facebook posts. Our concern was simple in that post – something is not right here.
[Who is Clayton Jennings? Jennings is a star evangelist who regularly speaks to thousands and thousands of people, an author, a spoken word poet, and all-around evangelical star who has appeared on TBN and other venues]
Jennings reached out to me and we spoke several times on the phone. He assured me that he was “above the board” and had very strict guidelines for his interactions with the opposite sex and would never do anything to jeopardize his ministry and would make a concerted effort not to use his celebrity evangelical status to take advantage of female fans. In a rare moment of second guessing ourselves, I had Pulpit & Pen pull the story and Jennings and I agreed he should spend some time in our Facebook group so he could learn some discernment. After he gave a tacit endorsement of Hillsong Church in Los Angeles, our meager truce dissolved when he then said he was going to tell John MacArthur on me, get a team of lawyers involved, and posted photos of a Pulpit & Pen contributor’s daughter who had a Confederate Battle flag in her hands (he’s from Georgia, so go figure), alleging racism. After threatening to sue us for ever criticizing him again, he then sent me a thousand dollars via paypal, and I returned it with a citation of Exodus 23:8.
Pulpit & Pen (of which I am no longer the editor, a contributor or any official part) explained where the story went on from here yesterday, writing…
Fast-forward one year later. Pulpit & Pen has information not only substantiating our suspicions about Jennings’ activities but revealing even more about him than we previously expected. A victim of Clayton Jennings reached out to JD and handed over digital copies of her interactions with Jennings. We also reached out to privately to Clayton Jennings, who subsequently referred us to his father and pastor. We spent quite a bit of time verifying the factual claims with Clayton’s father. We are now aware of a situation in which Clayton Jennings had more than just an inappropriate relationship with at least one of his followers.
I stopped doing expose’ reporting some time ago, and I am uncomfortable handling this type of story. And yet, I have an obligation to the victim of Clayton Jennings, who reached out to me because no one else would help her. Pulpit & Pen’s editor, to whom I gave that website earlier this year, wrote encouragement to Jennings to do the right thing, publicly acknowledge his sin, and step down from celebrity prominence. Jennings has ignored that call, and so I’m in this very unfortunate position of speaking to this situation personally (which I have heretofore tried to avoid).
First, a caveat: Everything I am about to tell you is verified by digital communications between Jennings and his victim or by legally made and legally obtained audio recordings of Jennings. We reached out to Jennings and also asked to speak to his leadership in the spirit of Matthew 18, and spoke to his pastor (and dad), who verified the veracity and historicity of these accusations, but who argued that Jennings was repentant and so this shouldn’t be made public. Because our primary goal is protecting the victim, what we release regarding those communications will be limited, but if anyone doubts the validity of our claims, we have sent the evidence to Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith, who will vouch for the truthfulness of our accusations.
A second caveat: Jennings has already threatened legal action against me for giving my critique of his theology, and so I assume he is litigious. That being the case, I’ll add that the following should be taken as my opinion, and just assume that “alleged” and “reportedly” are implied in front of every single sentence.
This is my opinion, as best I can provide one, from reviewing digital communication, listening to audio, and speaking to parties (including Jennings’ father, who acknowledged the main bulk of this information, rather than deny it) on the phone. I have given this information to numerous respected parties and asked them to confirm the details, and you are free to contact them as well.
Just a few weeks before our post on Clayton Jennings, Leading Captive Weak Women, Jennings had surveyed the online photographs and social media profile of a young woman who happened to be one of his followers. She did not reach out to him. She did not entice him. She did not contact him. Rather, he contacted her. Within days he had sent more than just a handful of texts. Within weeks, he was talking marriage, and telling her that God was leading him to believe that she was “the one.” He began to call her “wifey” and “Mrs. Jennings.” Clayton said his whole family knew about her and she would soon meet them (audio reveals the family had no idea she existed), and he would be announcing their engagements to his ministry as the one God had chosen for him to wed. Reading over the texts, it was clear that Jennings was promising this near-stranger the moon, and it was also clear (in my subjective observation) that she was very uncomfortable. Nonetheless, Jennings’ celebrity had appeal, and his incessant God-talk claiming the stars were aligning and God was moving to bring them together worked its sinister magic.
Within weeks, Jennings had asked her to send a photo a day, and then began asking for nude photos. When she didn’t respond to the requests because she was uncomfortable, he persisted and sent clock emojis to demonstrate that he was waiting.
When she objected, he would say he was just kidding and would never ask her to do that. Days later, he was asking again. Soon, they met. Keeping up the charade, Jennings reportedly drove the victim around, looking at homes he would buy her. He invited her to stay at his place, but it had to be kept quiet because it might hurt his witness. Jennings continued to promise that she was “the one.” He gave the young woman alcohol, and although first resisting, she reportedly gave in and her inhibitions were lowered. Sexual fornication at his repeated insistence was committed that evening.
The next day, the young woman expressed misgivings and doubts about what had transpired. Jennings reportedly assured her that it was good because then they could trust each other more. Then, Jennings told her that if she was pregnant, his ministry would be hurt, and once in a cab, wanted to make sure she had taken the “Morning After Pill” he offered to pay for.
Then, Jennings completely abandoned the young woman. There was no more communication. When she had tried to contact him again, the way Jennings greeted her was, “Are you pregnant?” The relationship was over. When confronted eventually by the young woman regarding her treatment, he reportedly claimed he had health problems that wouldn’t allow him to get into a relationship and his ministry was becoming so successful he had to “focus on Jesus,” but that he didn’t mind if they had a “friends with benefits” relationship.
After putting out a bizarre spoken word video that seemingly relates to the ordeal, the young woman contacted him with concerns. It was at that point that he told her they were never in a relationship, and it was “just two people physically attracted to each other” and she “didn’t mean anything to [him]” (please note, we have this in digital communication and audio recording).
The young woman, not long after, sought to address Jennings’ treatment of her with his accountability – his pastor and father. In this conversation, Clayton’s pastor/father argued that he was repentant and exhorted her to forgive him and consider the matter forgotten (his father explained to me on the phone that because Clayton is not a pastor, his standards are not exactly the same). Since then, the woman has tried to receive help from pastors, who have referred her to therapists.
In my last conversation with her, just a few hours ago, she broke down in tears quoting these lines from Clayton’s spoken word poem, 50 Shades of Grace…
Beauty isn’t in her personality, it’s in her physical features. And if the curves aren’t there, why even meet her?”
“He’ll use you for your body until he gets his fill, then it’s on to the next with a booty and a chest. Because it was never about love, it was only about sex.”
“You’re overcome with regret, you feel filth and misery. So you jump in the shower and you scrub and scrub. But no amount of soap can make you feel clean enough. Because you took the lie and you gave yourself away.”
She wept on the phone. I explained the doctrine of expiation, so she can know that sin and its stain has been removed from her by faith in the accomplished work of Jesus to take away sins.
Here’s Why I Do This
No one is listening to this young woman, in spite of admission from Jennings in digital communication and audio. The evidence is clear, but he is a celebrity, and no one wants to touch it. So, here I am. I want to help this woman find closure. She and her loved ones have repeatedly expressed concern that Jennings will make her out to look like the aggressor or a temptress of some kind. All I can tell you is that with utmost sincerity and truthfulness, I testify to you the content of all communications expresses precisely the opposite. He pursued her. She eventually and reluctantly gave in. I’ll leave you the words of an activist regarding spiritual abuse, who I consulted several times in recent days. The truism is, “A spiritual leader doesn’t ‘have an affair’ with a follower. He commits abuse upon a follower.” I have to agree, at least at the most basic level. A pastor or evangelist or some kind of spiritual guru with perceived divinely-given authority doesn’t “have an affair” with someone under his care. That’s called abuse, plain and simple.
Secondly, after the Capturing Weak Women post, I received a number of emails from women alleging similar things. Most were sent to my hushmail account or Wickr (both are encrypted, private forms of communication), and none gave me their names or would follow up. Because I have not seen their evidence, I reserve judgment until the time it comes forward. However, I believe there certainly are others. It is time for it to come into the light.
If you are one of those women, please contact the polemicists at Pulpit & Pen.
A final word:
To all the groups, churches and organizations who have had Jennings speak and you may have had “good results” and now have youth or young people devastated over this all…you should have seen the guy coming a thousand miles away. Seriously. Did you not see the unadulterated, unapologetic, gratuitous self-promotion? Did you think that Gospel servants behave this way, by self-conscious, self-focused stylistic, narcissistic peacocking? While I have great sadness for those who put their faith in Jennings, I have little sympathy for you pastors and leaders who traded every ounce of Biblical substance and even the slightest capability to accurately exposit Holy Scripture for a man rhyming shallow, vain babblings, wearing more decorative accessories than your average tween girl or grandma. I get it – Jennings is attractive and fun and he makes women want him and young men want to be like him. But, you could’ve had an actual expositor, some old fuddy-duddy Bible teacher in a suit with a modicum of exegetical prowess teach your people something, but no. You wanted the guy in the scarf. Folks, you get what you ask for. When you ask for novelty, you get it. You very intentionally opted for cool. You should’ve opted for soundness.
[Editor’s Note: For more articles on this topic:
Capturing Weak Women: Clayton Jennings and Blake Reynolds
Celebrity Preacher, Clayton Jennings: Sex, Alcohol and the Morning After Pill
Clayton Jennings: His Admission, New Victims and FAQ
After Victim Comes Forward, Clayton Jennings Postpones Events, But Plans a Comeback
Clayton Jennings: Another Victim Comes Forward (No. ANOTHER one)