Author’s note: This was posted first at Polemics Report, and shared here with the permission of the author, JD Hall.
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.
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