What was expected to be a “plug and play” transition from one church to another has become a contentious legal battle with millions of dollars at stake as Redemption Church moves to evict Relentless Church from property in Greenville.
Redemption Church, the Upstate-born megachurch founded by Pastor Ron Carpenter and relocated to San Jose, California, filed an application for ejectment against Relentless on Jan. 2, alleging Relentless has not fulfilled its financial obligations as a tenant of the property that Redemption still owns. But officials at Relentless, the newly formed church led by celebrity Pastor John Gray, have claimed that they have made all of their required monthly payments to uphold lease of the property.
Use of the 17 acres off Haywood Road, the 4,000-seat sanctuary and the fitness center next door will be determined by the court once arguments and responses are complete.
Redemption’s sole request to the court is that Relentless be ejected from the properties whereas Relentless’ counterclaim asks the court to enter judgment against Redemption and award actual and punitive damages.
The two megachurch pastors’ cases are built on several key agreements, listed below, that are in dispute. Further arguments were filed in court Friday, further cementing each side’s argument in the dispute.
Transition agreement for Redemption Church and Relentless Church
► A transition agreement was signed by both Carpenter and Gray on Dec. 9, 2017, and it was included in court filings for the eviction case.
► Under the agreement, Gray would be appointed as the new senior pastor, president and chairman of the board of the Greenville ministries, including the sanctuary and The Imagine Center fitness center, effective May 13, 2018.
► Gray was promised full discretion to lead the ministry “in the vision God has given him for their future in propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
► Gray would have discretion to select a new name for the Greenville ministry in consultation with the ministry board, “so long as the new names are not confusingly similar to ‘Redemption’ or any Redemption-related entities.”
► Redemption agreed to ensure $1 million would be in a savings account by the transition date.
► Redemption agreed to pay Gray up to $75,000 in moving expenses.
► Part of the agreement included a retirement package for Carpenter, granting Carpenter a $6.25 million retirement payout in annual payments of $250,000 for 25 years, along with a retirement property in The Cliffs residential community in Landrum.
► The agreement also allowed Carpenter to maintain access to the Redemption television studio space to use for Carpenter’s ongoing ministry endeavors as needed.
► The mortgage balance on the church’s sanctuary was $8,715,250. The monthly mortgage payment for the Redemption sanctuary would be $69,994.
► The mortgage balance on The Imagine Center was $3,720,649.48. The monthly interest-only mortgage payment would be $18,603.25 with an annual principal payment of $500,000.
Redemption Church’s complaint
► Redemption has said the intent of the agreement was for Gray to assume leadership of the Greenville ministry under a rebranded name and for the Greenville church to be responsible for all of the ministry’s mortgage debt.
► Instead of rebranding the Redemption ministry, Gray chose to incorporate an entirely new entity, The Relentless Church. Gray emphasized a desire to purchase the Greenville assets through Relentless, according to the complaint.
► Both parties agreed to the asset transfer agreement, but Gray refused to execute and deliver the agreements, Redemption’s complaint states, so Redemption rescinded its previous approval.
► Due to a failure to execute the proposed leases, Relentless has been occupying the properties on a month-to-month basis, according to the complaint.
► Relentless has been unable to pay the debt on The Imagine Center, and it has failed to relieve Redemption of its debt and operational costs for the sanctuary, according to the complaint.
► Redemption moved to evict, but Relentless has refused to vacate, the complaint states.
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SOURCE: The Greenville News, Daniel J. Gross and Nathaniel Cary