TAMPA – Todd Bentley, an atypical evangelist who drew thousands to a series of summer revivals in Lakeland, plans to divorce his wife amid revelations that he is romantically involved with the nanny of his children, according to his ministry.
Rumors of an extramarital affair surfaced near the end of the 15-week revival, and, in August, Bentley resigned from the board of directors of Fresh Fire Ministries. He plans to move to South Carolina, where he will undergo counseling by ministers who are focusing on his “restoration,” according to a statement on the ministry’s Web site last week.
Bentley is resolute in seeking a divorce from his wife, Shonnah, amid “his increased familiarity with a female staff member” during the revival in Lakeland, the letter states. “Todd admits to being 100 percent responsible for the divorce.
“With the development of more friction in his marriage relationship, Todd began to make irrational decisions,” the letter states. “Alcohol, movies and leisure time spent with a few of the younger, more impressionable members of his staff and road-crew began to replace the hours of soaking in the presence of God in which Todd had engaged during the early days of the Outpouring.”
The tattooed and body-pierced preacher has not seen his estranged wife or his children since July.
Fresh Fire Ministries writes:
There is a difference between covering Todd and covering for him. We refuse to expose explicit details of his failings over the last few months, but neither will we pretend there haven’t been any. “Covering” is a biblical term as in “love covers over a multitude of sins” or as in the case when Noah’s two sons draped him in a blanket when he unwittingly discovered what happens when you drink too much fermented grape juice. “Cover for” is a contemporary idiom meaning to lie or misrepresent the truth in order to enable another to get away with or to continue to be involved in illicit behavior. We have been slow in responding up until now, because we wanted to bring you a positive report, full of hope and the promise of restoration. All of that is still entirely possible and we pray to that end, however, further silence on our part would be misrepresenting the truth by allowing you to believe that what we said in our first two statements (which were true to the best of our knowledge at the time of their writing) is still the case. Unfortunately that is not so.
Here are the facts:
- Todd has yet to enter into a clear system of accountability with the leaders he identified that would be involved in such a process. Todd has visited Rick Joyner in Fort Mills, South Carolina, and indicated early on in September that he would be moving there soon to become a part of the community there and to receive counseling from Rick Joyner, Jack Deere, Bill Johnson and others that Rick might feel to bring alongside. Todd is in regular contact with Rick Joyner and has agreed together with Rick that he will move to Fort Mills during the first few months of 2009.
- Having spoken with Todd in recent days, he is resolute in his intentions to divorce Shonnah, and in his mind, the restoration he is seeking is one which would not include reconciliation with his wife. Todd admits to being 100% responsible for the divorce.
- It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future. She is understandably hurt by Todd’s infidelity, but is not asking or pressing for a divorce. The legal separation from Shonnah was initiated completely by Todd and he has not seen her or the children since the last week in July. To our knowledge, Todd’s relationship with the female staff-member, who was a former intern and also, at his initiative, a live-in nanny in his house for over a year, is still ongoing. We believe that there are currently no biblical grounds for Todd to leave his wife and children. While it has been maintained that no physical contact happened between Todd and the former female intern until after he filed for legal separation from Shonnah, in the Boards’ eyes, the nature of the present relationship between Todd and his former staff member is that of adultery.
Having said all that, our sincere desire is to see Todd first restored to Shonnah and the children, though at present this seems unlikely. We are optimistic that should Todd keep his word and move to Morning Star, Rick and his team are well equipped to be the Lord’s instruments in a process toward restoration. With genuine accountability, inner healing, counseling and deliverance we are confident that it is entirely possible for Todd to come through and gain victory over a number of significant personal issues with which he is struggling.
LAKELAND | Controversy continues to swirl around Todd Bentley, the evangelist who led a faith-healing revival that drew thousands to Lakeland from around the world.
Within the past few days, a phone conversation between Bentley and the pastor who invited him here and a letter from the board of Bentley’s ministry have revealed new details about Bentley’s conduct and raised questions about the legitimacy of the faith-healing revival he led between April and August.
The Rev. Stephen Strader, pastor of Ignited Church, where the Lakeland Outpouring revival began, said he talked to Bentley by phone Monday. Bentley left the revival Aug. 5 under a cloud of rumors about infidelity and drinking bouts, and Strader had not spoken with him since then. He said Bentley called from California, where he has been staying since leaving the revival.
Strader said Bentley defended himself against a couple of allegations contained in a letter from the board of directors of Fresh Fire Ministries, the British Columbia-based organization Bentley ran until August. The letter, released Friday on the ministry’s Web site, broke months of silence about Bentley’s status.
Strader said Bentley did not deny the relationship, and Strader said he agrees with the position of the board.
“I’m uncomfortable with (the relationship). I would probably stand with their letter at this point,” he said.
But Strader said Bentley told him he did not have a problem with alcohol as described by the board’s letter. He said Bentley admitted he had gotten drunk in the weeks he was in Lakeland, but the incidents were isolated and he has resolved not to drink again.