Redemption Church filed for eviction against The Relentless Church in Greenville on Thursday, just over a month after Redemption terminated its lease agreement with the megachurch run by Pastor John Gray and told the church to vacate the property owned by Redemption by the end of the year.
The court filing asks for an application of ejectment and says Relentless breached its lease agreement because it failed to make all payments to cover the costs of the sanctuary and The Imagine Center, the sports and fitness facility operated on the church campus.
In a written statement emailed Thursday night, Gray said Relentless would address the matter through appropriate legal channels.
“We stand behind our original statement and are confident that the payment amounts required under the leases referenced in the complaint have and will continue to be paid,” Gray said. “Our efforts at mediation and with wise counsel to present every detail absent of legal have proven fruitless on their end multiple times.”
Then, Gray addressed his church family:
“To the Relentless Church family, please note, we have dealt honorably and have utilized every possible measure to resolve these differences to date. We will continue to serve the Lord, reach the lost, and serve the community. This unfortunate issue will not hinder the vision, work, functionality, or heart of this church.”
Gray asked the media and public to do their own “due diligence” and said he wouldn’t comment further “as we allow our legal team to proceed accordingly.”
Katari Buck, an attorney representing Redemption Church, said in a prepared statement emailed to The News late Thursday that since the two churches couldn’t agree on a date for Relentless to vacate Redemption’s property, Redemption took legal steps to protect its property.
“Redemption is unable to continue to absorb the mounting debts and past due accounts associated with the Greenville property during Relentless’ tenancy and therefore has no other option but to seek to regain possession of the property sooner rather than later,” Buck said.
The eviction filing says Gray broke the original transition agreement because instead of rebranding and assuming the debt and mortgage obligations of Redemption Church, he instead incorporated Relentless as a new organization and wanted to purchase Redemption’s assets rather than following through on its agreement, Redemption says in its court filing.
This all happened in March 2018, months before the Carpenters handed over the keys to the church to Gray and before he made his debut in Greenville in May 2018.
Redemption says in its filing that Relentless proposed an asset transfer agreement for the properties, which Redemption initially agreed to. But Relentless never delivered or executed the agreement, which included written leases, to Redemption, making it invalid, and Redemption withdrew its support of the agreement, the eviction filing says. Relentless had instead been operating on a month-to-month lease, Redemption says.
Relentless has been unable to cover the debt on The Imagine Center, which forced Redemption to pay the debt so it wasn’t foreclosed on, Redemption says in its filing.
The summons and complaint is addressed to The Relentless Church and was filed by Redemption’s Greenville attorney John Devlin.
The filing asks for a hearing within 10 days and for the court to require Relentless to show why it shouldn’t be ejected from the property. It asks for a judge to declare Relentless in default and that Relentless has no right to remain on the property.
“Redemption has failed and refused to vacate The Properties as required by South Carolina law,” the filing says.
Attorneys for the Carpenters and Redemption sent Gray a letter Nov. 27 terminating its month-to-month lease agreements and telling Relentless to be off the property by the end of the year.
That deadline passed as Relentless held its New Year’s Eve services on Tuesday. Just after the clock struck midnight, Gray told the cheering congregation; “As a matter of fact, we’re not even supposed to be here right now.”
Two weeks ago, at the church’s Dec. 15 service laying out its plans for 2020, Gray announced that Relentless would move to a new Greenville location. He said at that meeting he would announce the location to the church on New Year’s Eve, but he didn’t.
The Carpenters founded Redemption Church, formerly known as Redemption World Outreach Center, in Greenville in 1991, and they built the church into one of the state’s largest megachurches with more than 20,000 members in multiple locations throughout the Carolinas.
They pastored the Christian church with its Pentecostal roots until Dec. 2017 when they announced they would leave to take over a church in San Jose, California.
The Carpenters handed over the keys to the church to the Grays in mid-2018 but took the church’s name of Redemption Church with them.
After Redemption sent Relentless the letter ending its lease agreement, attorneys for Relentless released its own response and included a screenshot of a Facebook direct message purportedly sent by Hope Carpenter to various church members. The message called Gray “a shady guy” and “very dishonest,” and said “we will be taking our church back.”