Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Pastor John Gray told his congregation he is not backing down during Sunday morning's sermon at his Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

"I have heard that we are being evicted," the embattled preacher said, as the first lady Aventer Gray looked on. "We are not being evicted because we have paid our bills."

Gray took over as pastor of the former Redemption Church after the original owners, Ron and Hope Carpenter, moved to San Jose, California to take over another church.

But now the Carpenters want their church back after what they say is financial mismanagement and failure to pay the rent.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

The drama peaked earlier this year when Pastor Gray asked his flock for $250,000 for repairs on the roof. He asked 2,500 church members to tithe $100 each toward the fund. He said the Carpenters left the church in 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."

In April 2019, Hope Carpenter made a surprise visit to Relentless and addressed the congregation. "I cut people" and "I got a knife right there in that pocketbook, so Greenville News, come on," she said, according to The Greenville News.

In November, the Carpenters served an eviction notice on Gray, giving him until December 31 to clear out of the church he renamed "Relentless" after taking over in 2017.

But Gray told his congregation that the lease is all paid up and they are not going anywhere.

In his 8:30 a.m. sermon, Gray said "We are quietly working behind the scenes, and it's unfortunate that something was shared outside the body of Christ... We are not going to adjudicate this in public."

The scandal forced Greenville residents and Gray's supporters to take sides.

"[I don't know] what John Gray did or did not do. But my problem is with the bigger issue of white preachers pastoring majority black congregations, who, when the money (back to them) ain’t right (allegedly), they want to come back and "rescue" the church from the inept black pastor," tweeted seminary student Kevin Vandiver.

No photo

Gray urged his congregation not to "trash talk" the Carpenters. He encouraged his followers to stay focused and not become distracted.

"All of this is a distraction because the enemy wants us to fight each other," he said, according to The Greenville News.

"I promise we are not leaving this city," he said, adding that Relentless will be open next Sunday and the Sunday after that.

"We're going to be here. We're going to be in Greenville. We're going to be Relentless Church for as long as Jesus says so."

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Ron and Hope Carpenter served Pastor John Gray and his Relentless Church with a 30-day notice to clear off their property.

The scandalous events surrounding the falling out between Ron and Hope Carpenter and Gray's Relentless Church in Greenville began with a partnership in 2017.

The Carpenters, who owned the Redemption Church and the land that it sits on, announced they were moving to California to take over another church. They handed over the keys to Gray, who served as associate pastor at Joel Osteen's Lakewood megachurch in Texas.

Gray renamed the church to Relentless. A parade of influential pastors, including Osteen, traveled to Greenville to formally install Gray as senior pastor, according to The Greenville News.

In late 2018 Gray begged his wife for forgiveness after confessing that he cheated on her.

In August 2018 Gray visited President Donald Trump at the White House to attend an "inner city pastors" meeting.

Photo: Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images

Gray later said attending the meeting was mistake and he promised he would not meet with Trump again.

In November 2018 The Greenville News reported that Gray urged the needy to take from the church's collection plates. He also pledged support for Picken's County's first homeless shelter.

In December 2018 Gray presented his wife, Aventer Gray, with a brand new $200K Lamborghini SUV for their eighth wedding anniversary. The lavish gift sparked a public outcry.

In a post on social media, Gray acknowledged the public's outrage and assured his congregation that the money for the vehicle came from his non-church income.

In addition to being an author, Gray also has a reality TV show on Oprah's OWN Network.

Photo by Marcus Ingram/WireImage

Aventer defended her husband in a social media post.

"I don't see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$$ to see them play in arenas and on fields. We don't live for people! We live for God!"

In December 2018, The Greenville News reported the Grays lived in a $1.8 million mansion in Simpsonville that was purchased by the church.

Church leaders said the opulent mansion was necessary to lure a pastor of Gray's caliber to Greenville.

In March 2019, Gray told his congregation the Carpenters left the church "millions of dollars in debt." He said the church needed a new $250,000 roof and he asked 2,500 people to give $100 or more.

"(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."

In April 2019, Hope Carpenter made a surprise visit to Relentless Church to address Gray's allegations. "I cut people" and "I got a knife right there in that pocketbook, so Greenville News, come on," she said.

Everything came to a head last month when the Carpenters sent Gray a 30-day notice ordering his congregation off their property. The letter gave Relentless Church 30 days to get out.

According to The Greenville News, Relentless Church responded with a legal letter outlining counterclaims and saying it had paid the church's lease in full.

The controversy blew up on social media, with Gray's supporters calling the Carpenters racists and opportunists.

"[I don't know] what John Gray did or did not do. But my problem is with the bigger issue of white preachers pastoring majority black congregations, who, when the money (back to them) ain’t right (allegedly), they want to come back and "rescue" the church from the inept black pastor," tweeted seminary student Kevin Vandiver.

No photo

No photo

But Gray's critics sounded off as well.

One Twitter user wrote, "I guess they had to evict John gray & they blew through all the money. I feel like Ron trusted gray to be trustworthy".

Another user tweeted:

"John Gray and them getting evicted !?? You mean to tell me that lambo truck didn’t tip they asses off months ago!?!? .. and this man STILL has supporters + a wife!?? .. Chile."

No photo