Apostle Travis Jennings, who caught the heat for a video that showed him body-shaming his female congregants and critiquing their hair and sex lives before the pew, has apologised for it, insisting he was taken out of context.
Last week, during a group mentorship session at his Harvest Tabernacle Church based in Georgia, USA, the middle-aged charismatic leader asked for volunteers from the audience to be “critiqued” in front of the audience about why they were single.
Two female volunteers showed up.
To the first volunteer, the minister said;
“Alright, so you need to lose weight. Find a good bra,” and suggested that she go to Intimates—the same store where he took his wife, who he says “knew nothing about anything” until he intervened.
He then instructs the congregant to wear stretchier clothes because, “if you keep wearing these big clothes with breasts down to your belly button, that’s not attractive.”
The preacher then moved onto his second volunteer: a woman with long, curly hair that he quickly proclaimed is “too much.” He told her to “work on being sensitive and cute,” and added:
“When a man sees your hair he says, ‘OK that’s wild, and wild means sexual.’” When the volunteer looks surprised, he tells her it’s because she’s a “tease.”
When someone in the audience reacted negatively, Jennings responds:
“If you don’t like what I’m saying you can leave now, baby. This is my church.”
In the recorded video, the audience responds largely positively, clapping and cheering and laughing along with Jennings’ jokes. Several of the women even smile and nod through the soliloquy.
However, when the clip was circulated online, it was a different story.
“This is tacky and embarrassing and out of line for a man to tell a woman in front of a group of people about her bra and breasts,” one commentator wrote on YouTube.
“This is straight up FOOLERY!!!! Wild hair means sex???,” another wrote. “There is nothing biblical about anything that has come out of his mouth.”
Other commentators swarmed Jennings’ professional Facebook page, which appeared to have been shut down by Monday night.
“You have no place degrading that woman or any woman at that,” one wrote. “As a pastor you’re supposed to preach positivity and the word, there’s nothing like that in the Bible.”
Burnt and scalded by the negativity floating around the interwebs, Apostle Jennings was quick to address the outcry on Sunday.
In another recorded session, he brought the body-shamed two women onstage with him to “clarify” the situation which he insisted had been taken out of context.
He asked them to confirm that the church had not paid or coerced them to be there and that they had requested coaching on their appearance and did not, feel humiliated by the situation.
“This man has not offended me. He has not hurt me. I am not depressed. I am not embarrassed. I am not ashamed of anything,” one of the women said, to applause from the audience. “I value his coaching, I value the words that come out of his mouth because he is the prophetic voice that God has set me in this house to listen and follow.”
The apostle apologised profusely for streaming the mentoring session, which he said was meant to be a private experience.
He ended by begging his followers to share a video of the day’s sermon on social media.
On Monday, Jennings again expressed remorse for streaming the coaching session to a local tabloid The Daily Beast but declined to apologise for what he said.
“I apologise that the narrative got lost. I apologise for anything that was offence to anyone,” he said. “…Can I learn from my actions? Yes, ma’am. But those who know me know that my intent is to love, but things can get exacerbated when people don’t know the full narrative and the full context.”
Jennings also said several men had been coached before the audience at the same event. When asked for a video of the full event to confirm that, however, he hung up.
Jennings did not provide the name of his coaching seminars, but the website for Harvest Tabernacle advertises a program called “Maximized Life Singles Ministry.”
A minister and women’s studies professor at Xavier University who was appalled by Jennings’ behaviour and posted about it on Twitter, Kimberly Chandler said the coaching was actually teaching women to be subservient to men.
Watch Apostle Jennings’ Apology here:
Hallelujah Magazine is committed to publishing reliable, trusted, quality and independent Christian journalism. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and is not influenced by wealthy people, politicians, clerics or shareholders. We value our readers’ feedback, suggestions, and opinions. Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.