TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The leader of a popular congregation in Florida is refusing to resign after being caught in bed with a member’s wife—fleeing naked—as he states that he has “already received” God’s forgiveness.
“What I want from God I’ve already received it and that’s His forgiveness,” O. Jermaine Simmons, pastor of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee, told his congregation on Jan. 22, just days after the incident.
“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,” he continued, receiving an “amen” from those gathered, as well as a standing ovation.
Simmons, who is married, said that he was sorry that his members had to try to defend him, and that acknowledged that sin cannot be defended. But he contended that he cannot step down from preaching because it will appear like his worthiness to serve as a pastor is based on his performance.
“I have to be clear that God is pushing us forward,” he stated. “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. Does that make sense? If I quit, if I walk away over this it presupposes that I deserved to preach last Sunday when there was no sin.”
According to reports, the incident occurred on Jan. 17 with member Claynisha Stephens, 34, who attends Jacob Chapel with her husband Benjamin Stephens III. Stephens told police that she had been in a relationship with Simmons since October.
That day, Simmons went to Stephens’ house to “talk over starting a business, patents and trademarks, and providing less fortunate kids with clothes and shoes.” But during the get-together, the two went to Stephens’ daughter’s room to have sex.
In the meantime, Stephens’ husband came home unexpectedly and found his pastor in bed with his wife. He grabbed a gun and yelled “I’m going to kill him,” according to reports.
Simmons fled the couple’s home naked, and Stephens called the police. Her husband took Simmons’ clothes and belongings and threatened to go to the church about the matter, as well as to expose the pastor on Facebook.
However, in negotiations with police, he agreed to arrange for the return of Simmons’ possessions and surrendered his gun to the NAACP.
While the congregation is largely supportive of Simmons’ refusal to resign, others find the situation deeply concerning.
“He made his sexual sin of adultery into a sermon. Yes, yes they say. … Get out of the pulpit, seek counseling, and be under church discipline. This is Scriptural reconciliation,” one commenter remarked. “If he remains in his position without any consequences, he will continue to [commit sin with] other men’s wives and it will spread throughout the church. He is only sorry he got caught. The show must go on.”
“He said if he stops preaching over this it presupposes that last Sunday he was okay to preach when there was no sin. What is he talking about? The man’s wife said they had been getting together … for months,” another noted. “It is the right thing to do to openly apologize if you truly meant it, but as far as preaching he needs to be sat down for a while. … He is fortunate that he didn’t lose his life that day.”
Simmons was just about to hold a signing of his new book “I Need a Man,” which “offers a fresh perspective on the issues of godly manhood and mentoring.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 reads, “But I subdue my body and I enslave it, lest I who have preached to others would be disqualified myself.”