Note: This article contains disturbing content and profane language. Reader discretion is advised. Assertions about Greg Locke’s behavior are based upon the testimony of those interviewed.
Last week, CNN featured Pastor Greg Locke and his church, Global Vision Bible Church, (GVBC) in a nationally televised segment about Donald Trump and his evangelical supporters in the state of Tennessee. The segment opened with a CNN camera filming Greg Locke from behind as he preached to his congregation. Locke, who often preaches in casual clothing, was dressed in a sharp-looking suit and tie on the occasion of CNN’s visit. “You, ladies and gentleman, must get right with God!” Locke exclaimed while pointing his finger at those in pews. The voice of CNN Reported Alex Marquardt provided narration:
“Sunday morning in a small country church outside of Nashville; Pastor Greg Locke preaches to pews full of white conservative, evangelical Christians. Most, he tells us, voted for Donald Trump…Trump’s support among white evangelicals is falling but the vast majority have stuck by him as he repeatedly tests the limits of Christian values and with allegations of misogyny, racism, adultery, and his support for accused child molester Roy Moore.”
Many evangelicals are indeed willing to look past the President’s moral failings. Greg Locke told CNN that he believes Trump “gives evangelicals a platform” and that “with a lot of evangelicals, it’s not just blind followship but it’s the end justifies the means.” It is often said that Christians vote for a president-in-chief and not a pastor-in-chief at the polls. According to such a mindset, since Donald Trump best represents the values of evangelicals in his governing polices, he is worthy of support at the polls even if he doesn’t himself represent or live by the moral values of evangelicals. A pastor would be expected to do so, but not the President.
Greg Locke is a pastor, albeit a self-appointed one. Like Donald Trump, he is an American success story. He has emerged from financial hardships to found a successful revenue-generating organization, Global Vision Bible Church. Locke and his Executive Pastor Jarrod Almond run GVBC without the oversight of a board of elders, deacons, or congregational votes. Like Trump, Locke is politically incorrect and social media savvy and has managed to build a large social media following. His Facebook page has over one million likes; he receives donations from all around the country. He tells conservative evangelicals what they want to hear, without any fear of controversy. He also tells the media his version of the evangelical story.
The state of Tennessee and its evangelicals were of special interest to Alex Marquardt. Tennessee is a deeply evangelical state and is home to the headquarters of both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Church of God. Evangelicals are not hard to find there. Alex Marquardt found Greg Locke, whose small church is not connected with any of the state’s major denominations. Greg Locke, who has been no stranger to print and video news media, was perfectly happy to host CNN at GVBC. Whereas other churches and pastors may have been hesitant to host a news crew to talk about politics, Greg Locke welcomed the opportunity to mix politics and religion. Despite the controversy surrounding Locke and his pending divorce, CNN made the trip to Mt. Juliet and interviewed Greg Locke.
With his conservative political views and confident bravado, Locke would make as interesting a political candidate as Donald Trump. Unfortunately, with his personal conduct, he is just as unqualified to fill the pastoral office as Trump. In his epistle to Titus, the Apostle Paul instructs Titus to appoint pastors as follows:
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Titus 1:5-9
On March 3rd, I sat down with Greg Locke’s estranged wife Melissa at a Georgia restaurant. Surrounded by her employer and the caretakers of the women’s shelter at which she now resides, Melissa Locke tearfully told me her story. She and her caretakers also showed me hundreds of text messages between Greg and Melissa. The vitriol with which Greg Locke addressed his wife of 20 years in those text messages is unbecoming of any man, especially a Christian pastor. Melissa revealed to me that Greg Locke has adulterous plans for his church secretary, Tai McGee, Melissa’s best friend. Locke has filed for divorce from his wife and plans to begin a romantic relationship with Tai once their divorce is final. Additionally Locke, during periods of losing his temper, has physically abused Melissa.
The Text Messages
For three months, Bruce watched as Greg Locke preached to the GVBC congregation and his throngs of internet fans. For three months, Bruce watched as Greg Locke’s wife rode in the back of his van with him on the way to church, Locke’s followers unaware of what he was putting his wife through. Bruce is on the Board of Directors of the Georgia women’s shelter where Melissa Locke has been living since she fled Tennessee. He and his co-laborers at the shelter have seen their fair share of battered, abused, and downright damaged women. Melissa Locke is a special case, though no more or less important than the other women he’s helped, in that her husband is a nationally famous pastor who has preached everywhere from Ken Hamm’s Ark Encounter to in front of the cameras of CNN. The text messages Bruce had seen from Greg to Melissa weighed heavily upon his heart. Bruce wondered if Locke’s millions of followers would view him as such a fine pastor if they knew what he had done to his wife and how he had talked to her. These text messages were provided to me. I read them with disgust. In his texts, some of which were sent to a phone provided to Melissa by GVBC, Locke belittles and verbally abuses the woman who has stood by him for two decades.
Donald Trump fat shamed Rosie O’Donnell during their famous public feud. Greg Locke did far worse to his own wife. Donald Trump isn’t a pastor. Greg Lock is. All of Locke’s texts are too numerous to include here. However, it is clear from what has been provided that Greg talks down to Melissa in the vilest language, calling her a “b#&!h”, telling her “f#&k you,” predicting that she will be “sleeping with strangers,” and belittling her for weight gain. This is the language of a man who hates his wife and is less than fond of his own mother. This is also the language of a man who stood up on national TV, pointed his finger at a congregation of people of whom he is supposed to be the shepherd and said, “You, ladies and gentlemen, must get right with God.”
“If it wasn’t for the ministry, I’d divorce you before sun-up,” Greg Locke told his wife on the phone. It was midnight and Locke had left his house to get away from a heated marital quarrel. He stayed the night at GVBC. When morning came, he had more hard words for his wife, “You know Melissa, I just don’t want you anymore. I don’t care if you die and we have a funeral. I’ll just shed a few tears over you. I don’t care if you take all the pills in the house, I just want you not in my life.” Shortly thereafter, Melissa Locke left her home in Mt. Juliet to stay with a family friend in Murfreesboro. That is the account as told to me, through tears, by Melissa Locke. The rejection of her husband, not only of their marriage but of her very living, was too much to bear.
The incident Melissa described was the culmination of months of marital problems. Melissa began to feel that her husband was drifting away from her. A closeness that was there previously was missing. Greg Locke, a father of four, began to eat less and stay out late into the night. According to Greg, his nocturnal activity was prayer, at a tree he often went to talk to God. Greg’s distance took its toll on Melissa over the months. She began to feel despondent. She began to become suspicious of the time her husband and her best friend, Tai McGee, were spending together. While Melissa, who did not possess a driver’s license or bank card, was at home taking care of her household and homeschooling their kids, her husband was at work in the presence of his church secretary, Tai McGee. Melissa felt second to Tai, so much so that she began to speak of killing herself. At one point, she cut her wrist. She asked for help from her husband but, according to her, she received none. As his problems at home compounded, Greg Locke told his church to expect something difficult. He told the church, through tears, that God was breaking him and was doing something big in his life. Melissa, concerned that the change about which Greg spoke was about their marriage, grew increasingly worried. She confronted Tai McGee, who had gone so far as to offer to Melissa to step down as church secretary, with her concerns that the devil was attempting to orchestrate an affair between her and Greg. Tai was offended, upset, and defensive and let loose some curse words. Melissa wondered to Tai, “What if I die and y’all get together? That’s what I think should happen sometimes because I’m not just good enough.” Tai’s response was chilling, “Well, what if you did die, wouldn’t you want it to be me?”
Melissa Locke is a woman whose pastor and husband told her he didn’t care if she killed herself. She is a woman whose best friend asked, “Wouldn’t you want it to be me” to raise your kids if you died? Melissa Locke is a woman who filed for divorce at the behest of a husband who despised her very life, for the sake of not making his ministry look bad. This allowed Greg Locke to compare himself to the famous and venerated pastor Charles Stanley, who was divorced years ago when his wife left him. On multiple occasions, Greg Locke has justified his divorce, arguing that, like Charles Stanley, he was abandoned. Greg, however, left out some details that weren’t comparable to the Charles Stanley story. Unlike Charles Stanley’s wife, Melissa Locke filed to stop her divorce. Not two months after filing, Melissa Locke dismissed her divorce suit and sought reconciliation with her husband. The response of Greg Locke, who had already falsely claimed on social media that he was divorced, was to file divorce papers of his own. Charles Stanley never did that. In January, before it became public knowledge that Greg Locke planned to file divorce papers of his own, he told the Christian Post:
“She’s been in and out of mental health facilities but that is not where she is right now. She is at a place that helps ladies get on their feet again. The only reason why she is there is that the lady who runs it is like her grandmother, and so she’s there. She’s only there because of the comfort…the facts are she left. She lived across town for two weeks. She got on the bus. She left. We’ve done everything. I’ve sent money. I’m supportive. I’m in contact with caregivers on a regular basis. I’m getting updates…it’s not for a lack of trying. This happened four months ago…look at Charles Stanley. What am I going to do with that? Same thing happened with his wife.”
Greg Locke’s abandonment narrative has unraveled and his own actions prove the condition of his heart. Melissa’s caretakers are disgusted with Greg. I sat at the table with them while I interviewed Melissa. They have been appalled at his actions. Melissa has spent a total of seventeen days in the hospital with chest pains after receiving the harshest of contact from Greg. Greg has ordered Melissa to remove her wedding ring. This is not a “Charles Stanley” being abandoned. Greg Locke is a man who, if his statement to the Christian Post is to believed, considers his wife to be mentally ill. Yet, ignoring any “in sickness and in health” marriage vows he may have taken, has brought a divorce suit against his wife in the Wilson County, Tennessee court system. He has also shown disregard for the marriage vows of Tai McGee, whose marriage ceremony he himself officiated. During our interview, Melissa Locke informed me that Greg has told her, “As soon as the divorce is final, (Tai and I) are getting together. We see each other at work, at church, and most evening for dinner. You know Melissa I hope somebody else loves you because it will never be me.” Charles Stanley was allowed by wise church to stay in the Pulpit with the understanding that he would never again marry. Greg Locke already has romantic plans for his church secretary.
Greg Locke is not a one woman man. God’s word requires that pastor be one.
The Physical Abuse
It was at the end of our interview that I asked Melissa Locke about physical abuse. I had known the moment was coming all day and I was not looking forward to it. In preparation for the interview, I had asked my journalist friend at CNN for advice on how to approach the situation, but nothing prepares you for the real thing like the real thing. Our dialogue went as follows:
“Has Greg ever been physically abusive with you or any of the kids?”
“He’s not with the kids, no.”
“Okay, but he has hit you?”
“We’re not talking about that. That’s not…I do not want that put in the paper, please.”
I stopped my note-taking.
“So, not physically abusive with kids.”
“Right, thank you.”
“But was he with you?”
“I don’t want you to put that in the paper. Just because somebody hits you, like two times, does not mean…”
Melissa’s caretaker, Carol, was sitting next to Melissa. Unlike me, Carol had seen this kind of thing before. Carol, who has been sheltering battered women since before Greg Locke was born gently spoke up, saying, “Melissa, your mother has told me about the holes he’s knocked in the wall and that they had to be patched and replaced, where he’s slammed you in the wall and hit the wall with his fists. Your mother has told me that she’s seen the holes. He has a very bad temper.” Bruce began to speak up about the situation. “If a man hits a woman,” he said before being interrupted mid-sentence by Melissa who said:
“He’s only hit me twice.”
It was at that point that Melissa could not continue. She excused herself to the restroom to gather herself. When she returned, we talked further about the abuse. Melissa emphasized that it had been years since Greg had hit her. Though it was in the past, the hitting took place during Greg’s tenure as pastor of GVBC. Pastor Greg Locke hit his wife. Melissa also shared that Greg had spit in her face during the previous summer and broken her phone as she tried to calm him down during a fit of rage. Her busted phone was church-issued. In Greg Locke, GVBC has a pastor who abuses both earthly property (a phone) and God’s property (his wife). Melissa, almost in defense of Greg, stressed that he was only abusive when he was under stress. “It’s just because he gets mad and he gets stressed,” she said, “Greg’s not always like this, it’s just when he gets upset.” I reminded Melissa that ‘Pastor’ is one of the most stressful jobs anyone can have. “I know,” she replied, “so that’s why I excuse it.”
The Faithful Wife and the Faithful Savior
At the end of our interview Melissa added one final thing. She wanted the following to be known to all:
“Melissa didn’t want to hurt her husband at all and wants him to come back.”
Throughout our interview Melissa Locke acknowledged, almost to a fault, her own shortcomings. In all the texts that I reviewed, I never once saw Melissa return insult for insult. She constantly expressed her love for Greg. She was apologetic for her shortcomings and again and again expressed her desire for marital reconciliation. The same can’t be said for her husband. While Melissa seeks reconciliation, going as far as to rescind her filing for divorce, Greg has shown no desire to get back together. Greg filed for divorce himself when his plans to coerce his wife in taking action to end the marriage failed. Yet, his wife is still willing to forgive and reconcile. Ironically, Melissa Locke is showing the kind of forbearance that Paul exhorts husbands to show their wives in Ephesians 5. Her husband, though he is a pastor, is demonstrating a vitriolic hardheartedness that is cause to doubt his very salvation. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is nothing rare in estranged couples. Lots of men do this. So, why make such an issue out of the Locke’s story?
Greg Locke is an American pastor. In the United States, the people are blessed with the right to exercise their religion freely. However, there is no government oversight to stop unqualified and even unsaved men from manning a pulpit in the name of Christ and calling themselves “pastor.” Since Greg Locke’s church is an independent Bible church (founded by him), there is no conference, presbytery, or synod to remove him. There is not even a Baptist denominational association to censure him and disfellowship GVBC. Locke’s right hand man, GVBC Executive Pastor Jarrod Almond was described by Melissa as “evil.” He is standing by Greg’s side and recently purchased new cars through the church for he and Greg to drive. The congregants of GVBC itself cannot vote out either Greg or Jarrod. Like many American entrepreneurs, Greg Locke has created for himself a self-built brand. Unlike those in business, however, Greg Locke is essentially unregulated. A doctor who committed malpractice would lose his license. A lawyer who failed to advocate for his clients would be disbarred. Greg Locke can fail to tend to the sheep of his flock, put his wife away, take up with his secretary, and still be the face of evangelicalism to every American watching CNN.
This cannot stand. Greg Locke cannot be the poster boy for Christ’s church. His behavior as a pastor has brought reproach to the body of Christ. It is the body of Christ, not outsiders and skeptics, who must stand up for the truth, call for reconciliation, and bathe the afflicted in prayer.
If Greg Locke is to continue to have a local congregation and millions of Facebook followers, let it be known to them who they are following. They are following a “pastor” who spits in his wife’s face, fat shames her, cusses her, and initiates a divorce from her so that he can date his secretary. He is currently enabled by a staff willing to work for him, a congregation willing to continue to sit under his preaching, and a social media following willing to donate to him. If you are one of these people, it’s time for you to decide whether or not you believe in the standard of the Bible or the standards of Greg Locke. Perhaps Greg can be a leader by the world’s standards but his unrepentant behavior has no place in the kingdom of God.
Grace, mercy, and forgiveness, however, do. Some of the people reading this article know they are, deep down, no less sinful than Greg Locke. Those people need to know that Jesus Christ can save them from their sins. He bled and died on a Roman cross so sinners could be reconciled to God. By repenting of your sins and asking Christ to be your savior, you can be reconciled with God. You can have fellowship with Jesus Christ and his church. That’s real. Maybe some pastors on TV and the internet aren’t, but the gospel is and it is the power to save for anyone who believes it.
Don’t let Greg Locke, seeker of internet fame and his church secretary be the image of Christ’s church in your mind. Rather, let the example of the brothers and sisters who have come behind his wife to give her shelter, love, and care show you that the hands of Christ are quick to hold up those in need and the feet of Christ are quick to run to those in need. Jesus will never leave or forsake his bride.
Pray for Greg Locke. Pray for Melissa Locke. Pray for the sheep without a shepherd at Global Vision Bible Church. Finally, praise God, who works all things out according to the good of those who love Him.
[Contributed by: Seth Dunn]
*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 at 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.
**An earlier version of the article indicated that the phone Greg Locke destroyed was church property. Melissa Locke has clarifed the destroyed phone was not church property. The phone that was given to her to replace that phone was. Greg Locke has since confiscated that phone. Mrs. Locke also clarified that Greg had struck her and punched holes in their wall but not thrown her into wall.
***When reached via phone, Greg Locke confirmed that the text messages included in this story were indeed those of him and his wife. He further stated that his wife had not said anything about physical absuse prior to this story. He also that his wife previously denied that he and his secretary were in a Romantic relationship.
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