“Somebody seen him hanging around
At the old dance hall on the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance, he had a face like a mask
Somebody said from the Bible he’d quote
There was dust on the man
In the long black coat”
Bob Dylan, Man in the Long Black Coat
On November 3rd, Polemics Report broke the story of a young woman who had been seduced by popular and glamorous heart-throb evangelist Clayton Jennings. According to her testimony, which has been substantiated with textual and audio evidence, Jennings expressed a sudden and intense interest in the woman after initially making contact with her. Over a period of weeks, Jennings methodically cultivated a romantic relationship with the young woman. Her story includes being asked for nude selfies by Jennings, being plied with alcohol by Jennings, fornicating with Jennings, and being asked to take the “morning after” birth control pill by Jennings. Not long after her first and only night with Jennings, she was dumped. This came as quite a shock to her as Jennings had repeatedly expressed an interest in marrying her. Very soon after the young woman was dumped by Jennings, he married his current wife and former grade-school sweetheart Jamie.
Also, on November 3rd, another popular evangelist, Tony Nolan, tweeted that he was “honored to mentor” Clayton Jennings. (Long-time readers of Pulpit & Pen will recall that Brewton-Parker College’s erstwhile President, Ergun Caner, once claimed that 108 decisions for Christ – roughly 14% of the tony school’s enrollment – were made after Nolan preached a chapel service at the college in 2014). Nolan was quickly made aware of his protegé’s misdeeds via the Twitter platform.
In the days immediately following November 3rd, three additional families reached out to Polemics Report and Pulpit & Pen with similar sexual seduction stories involving Clayton Jennings. These stories sounded eerily similar to the one initially published. Not long after these stories started to break, Jennings’ cancelled his upcoming speaking events (He was scheduled to speak with Nolan at Winter Jam and the Winter Xtreme Conference, both events are geared towards young people).
Shortly after canceling his speaking engagements, in a baffling turn of events, Jennings and Nolan released the following video:
In the video above, Tony Nolan claims (over light piano music) that he was approached by Jennings “in a spirit of humility and repentance over some sins of his past that are still haunting him in his present.” This statement in itself strains credulity as Nolan was informed via social media, on November 3rd, of the previously unreleased lurid tales of Jennings’ behavior. Are viewers to believe that Nolan, upon being made aware of Jennings’ misdeeds, didn’t first approach Jennings about these accusations? Furthermore, Pulpit & Pen is in possession of weeks-old audio in which Clayton Jennings claims, in front of his father Pastor Don Jennings and one of his accusers, to have repented of his misdeeds. Did Clayton Jennings repent to both his father upon facing an accuser and later to Tony Nolan when the story was made public weeks later? Which account of repentance is to be believed? Nolan goes on to state that Jennings has agreed to undergo a “process of restoration” which entails the cancelling of his speaking engagements. Whatever this ill-defined process of restoration is (seemingly being quiet until everyone forgets about the scandal), it does not involve Jennings’ shutting down his website which, as of today, is still accepting donations and offering his book, his movie, and his apparel for sale. Is Clayton Jennings sorry or sorry that he got caught?
In an even stranger turn of events, the video above transitions from Nolan to Clayton Jennings standing outside at sunset on the shore of a lake. Jennings, obscured by shadow, proceeds to read a poem, set to music, about his supposed repentance. In his monologue, Jennings implies that he has been experiencing suicidal thoughts and apologizes to “his fans”. For some reason Jennings deemed it necessary to have someone (his wife?) film a planned, scripted, and edited video of himself reading a poem about how sorry he is. This video is very similar to other Jennings productions and leaves the viewer wondering, “Is this just another part of his act?” Videotaped “confession” poems are nothing new for Jennings. Imagine being one of the young women whose traumatic experience is made into an (revenue-generating) art piece by a famous evangelist. Jennings’ first “confession” production is shown below. He did not stop his speaking tour after making this first vague “confession”.
It’s truly astounding that Tony Nolan believes that it is a good idea to eventually “restore” Clayton Jennings to the very ministry that gave him access to vulnerable girls whom he seduced and with whom he entered into sexual sin. Shouldn’t Nolan want to protect impressionable young girls from a man who is arguably a calculating sexual predator? Furthermore, if Jennings truly is suicidal (and not just saying as much to engender sympathy from his female fan base), shouldn’t he be in the care of a licensed therapist instead of a professional storyteller like Nolan?
Clayton Jennings, like any sinner, can be restored to a right relationship with God. Hopefully, such biblical restoration will come to pass. But should this man, who has preyed on the hopes of many a young woman to whom he was supposed to be witnessing, ever be restored to vocational ministry? Of course, not. The “restoration” project in which Tony Nolan has engaged is endemic of larger problem in the professional evangelist culture. No matter what happens, professional evangelists strive to keep one another in business…as if there is no one else who can tell the world about Jesus. The evangelist restoration culture must once and for all be put to rest. Tony Nolan can start with Clayton Jennings.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church to which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.