Pastor Jamal Bryant broke the news to his congregation that he was leaving the Northwest Baltimore church he founded 18 years ago. He said they didn't take the news well.
"The news did not go over well, at all," Bryant said in an extensive interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There was a great gnashing of teeth. Nobody was expecting it."
The megachurch, which boasts 10,000 members, was founded by Bishop Eddie Long who died from an aggressive form of cancer in 2017.
Bryant was still married to reality TV star Gizelle Bryant when rumors spread that he impregnated a member of his church.
Bryant and Gizelle, one of the stars of Real Housewives of Potomac, share 3 daughters.
In her divorce filing, Gizelle accused the randy pastor of adultery, cruelty, and "excessive vicious conduct" that caused "unreasonable apprehension of bodily suffering so as to render cohabitation unsafe," according to an article in The Sun newspaper.
Bryant said a message from God convinced him to cut his losses and move to Atlanta.
He said God told him "this is not your church; it belongs to the people. I had a sense of ownership that had leaped into entitlement. I began to think this (Empowerment Temple) is me, but God tapped me on the shoulder and said hold on. Not so fast. I had no reason to leave Baltimore but for the prompting of God," Bryant told the AJC.
He said he discussed his move with his father, John Richard Bryant, a retired bishop at the AME Church.
Bryant was one of 138 names in consideration to replace Bishop Long's successor, Bishop Stephen A. Davis, who resigned a year after taking the position.
"Yes, he made some mistakes in life, but he's learned from them and grown to understand he has to move forward," said Thomas W. Dortch Jr., chairman of New Birth's board who voted to give Bryant the job. "If you can't find redemption in the church, then where do you find it?"
Bryant says he wants to grow New Birth's congregation and regain the community's trust after the sex scandal that forced Bishop Long to step down before he died.
"We've got to rebuild trust and bring the church collective through the grieving process that I don't believe they have really gone through," said Bryant. "It’s just been shock after shock. They don't need a speaker, but a shepherd to help lead and guide."
Tracy Johnson, a member of New Birth for 20 years, says she is pleased with the new pastor.
"I believe he's that pastor who will reignite the fire that New Birth had for a long time."
Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images