This story has been updated to clarify the contents of a letter sent to Relentless Church based on a copy of that letter provided by the church’s spokesperson.
Redemption Church, which owns the property now occupied by the Rev. John Gray’s Relentless Church, has threatened to evict Relentless by the end of the year.
The eviction letter is shedding light on what is potentially a larger conflict between the two churches. The eviction comes less than two years after Relentless formed when Redemption’s Ron and Hope Carpenter moved their ministry to California and placed the Greenville congregation in Gray’s hands.
In a sermon at Relentless on Sunday, Aventer Gray, John Gray’s wife, made a reference to emails and direct messages and threats against the church. In a response to the Carpenter’s eviction notice, the Grays disclosed Facebook messages to church members that included negative comments about John Gray.
“I have a message for you, devil. You can’t do anything with Relentless Church. Agree with me. You can’t do anything with Relentless Church,” Aventer Gray said during a sermon at Relentless on Sunday.
Ron and Hope Carpenter did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment. Greenville attorney John Devlin, who sent the initial letter representing Redemption, declined to comment.
The Carpenters and Redemption still own the 17-acre property in Greenville. They made an agreement to lease the land and buildings to Gray and his newly formed Relentless Church, the churches announced during the transition in 2018.
In a letter delivered to Relentless on Nov. 27, Redemption terminated its lease agreement with Relentless and instructed Relentless leaders to vacate the property, Gray’s spokeswoman, Holly Baird, confirmed to The Greenville News in an email.
But Baird said John and Aventer Gray have been current with their lease payments and all financial obligations.
In a letter responding to Redemption on Thursday, Relentless attorney Steve Welch wrote that Ron Carpenter could not “follow through” on an original transition agreement. Therefore a new lease was negotiated to allow Relentless to lease the property until Relentless had an option to obtain the property. Under the new lease terms, Relentless has paid and is current, and the church potentially overpaid based on rent increases dictated by Ron Carpenter, the letter states.
The response letter from Relentless includes claims that Hope Carpenter sent Facebook messages to Relentless members calling John Gray “a shady man.” In those messages — purportedly written by Hope Carpenter and with copies provided to The Greenville News by Baird — Relentless is said to be three to four months behind on bills and John Gray is said to be “very dishonest.”
In those messages attributed to Hope Carpenter, plans are laid out for “taking the church back” and for the Carpenters to preach there once a month as it returns to be a Redemption campus.
The letter to Relentless calls for Relentless to vacate the property by Dec. 31, according to Baird.
Relentless Church has had about 15,000 members and has had more than 200,000 online views of its sermons on a single Sunday.
Aventer Gray used part of Sunday’s service to make apparent references to the Carpenters’ claims.
“I need you to praise him when people spew unnecessary ignorance you’re way hoping that you trip, hoping that you fall,” she said. “I need you to stand up Relentless Church, because it doesn’t matter what email was sent about you. It doesn’t matter what DM (direct message) was sent about you.”
The Larry Reid Live show reported the letter from Redemption to Relentless Wednesday night. The internet-only show — which describes itself as a live entertainment talk show — reported that Relentless has failed to pay $26,000 per month for roughly the past 17 months.
The letter the Carpenters sent to Relentless that was provided by Baird does not mention missed payments, only that Redemption has “elected to terminate Relentless’ month-to-month lease.”
No related eviction notices had been filed in Greenville County court records by Thursday afternoon.
John Gray came to Greenville in 2018 after the Carpenters announced they were moving. Gray was an associate pastor for megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and still occasionally preaches at that church. He has also published several books and starred in “The Book of John Gray” on Oprah Winfrey’s television network.
Gray made national headlines and drew criticism shortly after arriving in Greenville when he bought his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini as an anniversary present. The Greenville News then reported that Relentless Church bought Gray a $1.8 million home in Simpsonville to be used as the church parsonage.
In a February sermon at Relentless, Gray sought $250,000 from the congregation to help pay for repairs to the church’s roof. In that sermon, he explained Ron and Hope Carpenter left the church with millions of dollars of debt.
“(Ron Carpenter) handed us keys. The keys were not to a paid-off building; the keys were to an opportunity, an opportunity to continue the work,” Gray said. “Nothing you see is paid off. It wasn’t paid off when we got here.”
Gray said during that February sermon that he believed Relentless would be debt-free within 24 months.
Check back for more on this developing story.
SOURCE: The Greenville News – Daniel J. Gross, Nathaniel Cary