Pastor O. Jermaine Simmons stood before his congregation and asked for forgiveness. But he also tried to reconcile the man his parishioners had known for a decade with the adulterer being laughed at in church circles and the media.
Since he took over as pastor in 2005, more than 4,000 people had joined Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee. It had added 27 ministries, focusing efforts on the homeless in Florida’s capital and ministering to youth.
And Simmons had just released his first book, “I Need a Man,” a Bible-based paperback on modeling “Godly manhood.”
Then Simmons’ affair with another man’s wife went public in dramatic fashion: On Jan. 17, the 36-year-old pastor – a married father – found himself cowering naked behind a fence, hiding from a gun-toting husband who’d stumbled on the affair, police say.
“What I want from God, I have already received – that’s his forgiveness, ” Simmons told his congregation five days later.
The Jan. 22 message was recorded by someone in the audience and uploaded to YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 50,000 times.
“What I am asking of our members is your prayers and your forgiveness,” he said.
According to a Tallahassee police report, officers were called to the Sienna Square Apartments by a woman who said her husband had a gun – and was looking for her lover.
The naked man behind the fence was Simmons, who was also her pastor, she told officers.
She wasn’t sure where her husband was.
But she knew he was angry – and armed.
The pastor had come over to the woman’s house to “talk over starting a business, patents and trademarks, and providing less fortunate kids with clothes and shoes,” she told officers, according to the police report.
Instead, they ended up in her daughter’s bed, having sex, police said.
That same day, the woman’s 6-year-old son had gotten sick at school. Administrators couldn’t reach the woman, so they called her husband instead.
He picked up the sick child and headed home – where he found his wife cheating with their pastor, police said.
“The man yelled ‘I’m gonna kill him’ and went to their room and got a small handgun,” according to the police report.
Simmons ran out of the apartment naked and hopped a privacy fence behind some shrubs, the report said.
But his car keys and his clothes were inside the house with the woman and her enraged husband.
She tried to calm her husband down.
“She stepped in front of (her husband) and pled with him not to shoot Simmons in front of their son,” the report said. But the man “pushed past (his wife) and went out the door in search of Simmons.”
Unable to find the pastor, the husband came into the apartment and grabbed the discarded clothes. He told his wife he planned to drop them off at the church or expose the religious leader on Facebook, the report said.
Maybe, he said, he would show up at church Sunday to make a statement.
But authorities say he cooled down.
A parishioner gave the pastor a ride from the apartment, and police later helped him retrieve his clothes and car, the report said.
Police elected not to charge the husband, saying he never pointed a gun at the pastor or his wife, who said she never felt threatened he would shoot them.
But by that Sunday, the story had spread. And Simmons found himself making a statement of his own.
“I’m hurting because I’ve hurt you,” Simmons told the church on the video recorded by a parishioner. “I can’t speak to people on the outside. I am not Tallahassee’s pastor. I am not Florida’s pastor. I am Jacob Chapel’s pastor.
“It hurts me that you have to defend my actions. You cannot defend sin.”
The congregation responded with loud applause.
Simmons could not be reached for comment this week, and he’s been silent on Twitter since the day he got caught having an affair.
But earlier this week, Jacob Chapel Baptist Church posted an undated sermon from Simmons on its YouTube page.
“Beware of people that’s gotta tear down your reputation, throw dirt on your name, and throw salt in your game – not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because they’re so small, they gotta keep their foot on you, in order for them to feel like somebody,” he said in the video.
A woman who answered the phone at the church Tuesday told The Washington Post that “the official comment is we are still prayerful about the situation.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Cleve R. Wootson Jr.