Despite a firestorm of media reporting on his conduct, the congregation of a Tallahassee, Florida, pastor who was forced to flee naked after he was caught having sex with a parishioner’s wife are standing by their pastor but said they are “prayerful” about the situation.
In a defensive conversation with The Christian Post Wednesday about Simmons remaining as pastor at the church, a female representative said: “We’re not at liberty to discuss that right now and we’re prayerful about the situation.”
Just two Fridays ago on Jan. 17, according to the Tallahassee Police Department, the Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons Sr., 37, pastor of the popular Jacob Chapel Baptist Church was caught in bed with Claynisha Stephens, 34, by the woman’s husband, Benjamin Stephens III. Both Claynisha and Benjamin are his parishioners.
The woman’s shocked husband quickly reached for a small handgun forcing the frightened pastor to flee without his clothes.
Two days later, Pastor Simmons was back in the pulpit declaring to his congregation that God and his wife had already forgiven him for his infidelity and he had no plans to vacate his position at the helm of his church.
“What I want from God I’ve already received it and that’s His forgiveness. What I am asking of our members is something I may or may not get and that is your prayers. And I’m asking for your forgiveness,” Simmons said as his congregation said “amen” and gave him a standing ovation.
“I was reminded that I can’t run through this. And I got somebody who said, and I believe her, that she’s gonna walk with me,” Simmons added, apparently referring to his supportive wife and mother of his son.
He then declared that his sin should not prevent him from doing the Lord’s work.
He said he will not be deterred from God’s work regardless of what the public or dissenting members of his congregation might think of his decision to remain at the helm of his church.
“If I stop preaching, if I stop doing what the Lord called me to do over this, it presupposes that I was qualified to do it in the first place. If I quit, if I walk away over this, it presupposes that I deserved to preach last Sunday when there was no scandal. I was wretch [inaudible] I’m a work in progress now but what the Lord allows. We will move forward,” he reasoned with his congregation. “I’ll never be sorry enough for some people … I don’t have the energy for that right now. But I have to be clear that God is pushing us forward. Pushing us forward.”
Simmons’ speedy pardon of his behavior, however, has continued to attract strong rebuke from the public online who overwhelmingly believe he needs to step aside for biblical restoration.
“As a former pastor, this man needs to resign. He may have received forgiveness but that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences,” said Sarah Butler Laudadio. “A murderer may receive forgiveness but that doesn’t change the fact that they have to pay for the crime with life in prison or loss of their own life. I’m not saying he can never pastor again, but if he has issues this way, it is not the right career choice for him.
“… according to God’s word, he needs to step down for a time of correction and restoration by those he makes himself accountable to at the very least. He has disqualified himself from the Biblical requirements of leadership and as such should not be preaching anything to anybody right now,” she added.
Claynisha Stephens, the parishioner who was caught sleeping with Simmons, had previously threatened to press charges against her husband but as of Thursday afternoon, officials at the Leon County Court in Tallahassee told CP that there were no charges against her husband on record.