Perry Stone has been away from his multimillion-dollar ministry in Cleveland, Tennessee, for three months, leaving many of his followers confused. But in an audio message played for a small, in-person group of church members several weeks ago - and obtained by the Times Free Press - Stone said he acted inappropriately with female employees.
In the message, Stone said women brought concerns about his actions and words to his Voice of Evangelism board of directors. The board then asked him to step aside from public ministry and receive counseling.
Stone suggested multiple times that his treatment of female employees was because his work as a minister is stressful.
"I confess at times I've been inappropriate in all this weariness of just non-stop ministry," Stone said in the message. "I let my guard down and I've asked, of course, God to forgive me for that. I sat down with my family, with my beautiful, precious wife Pam, the love of my life. I asked her to forgive me. And I very humbly and very sincerely ask those who have been hurt or offended by my actions to, please, also forgive me for those things."
Stone, 61, did not say specifically what occurred but said he "acted inappropriately with them, and with words and sometimes actions."
Under Tennessee law, non-consensual sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or creating hostile work environments, among other behavior, are considered sexual harassment.
Stone did not respond to a request for comment for this story. However, a statement from the Voice of Evangelism board of directors said Stone was placed on sabbatical first because of health concerns.
"Secondly," the statement said, "a couple of employees at VOE requested to meet with the board of directors to address concerns of inappropriate words and actions.
"Upon review, the board determined that the issues were civil in nature and not criminal, but that the behavior deviated from the biblical standards set in place for VOE leadership. So the board unanimously initiated his current sabbatical. This action was not reactionary but with much prayer, and was set in place to uphold the highest standards of integrity and transparency."
Stone told his followers in the recorded message that he has been gone from his ministry on an "extended and, honestly, some much needed sabbatical" at a "special location out of state and a special clinic to receive professional counseling every day."
Stone has made a multimillion-dollar career as an evangelist who claims to predict major events, such as George W. Bush being elected president, the attack on the World Trade Center and Osama Bin Laden's death. He travels the country, and sometimes the world, leading prayer events.
(READ MORE: How Cleveland evangelist Perry Stone built a ministry empire)
The Cleveland-based evangelist has nearly half a million Facebook followers. He has written dozens of books and recorded more than 100 DVDs and CDs. According to available tax records, Stone's ministry generates millions of dollars. In 2013, he built the $22 million Omega Center International building debt free.
Because of his prophetic claims and statements about religion and politics, Stone has often received national attention and scrutiny. In March, he said he predicted coronavirus and it was God's retribution for the United States allowing abortion and gay marriage.
In April, shortly after those statements, Stone stopped appearing in his ministry's livestreams and services. Many followers wondered online where he had gone. Little information was shared other than that Stone was on sabbatical.
In the recording obtained by the Times Free Press, Stone asked members of his ministry to forgive him for letting down the high standards he set. He said he is seeking professional and spiritual wisdom from the OCI board of directors.
"And above all, what I really want you to know, I have made pledge to God, myself, my family, and I'll make a pledge to you, that the remaining days of my life, I have a lot of days, I'm going to set up very strong and unmovable boundaries to ensure that my personal and spiritual life are held completely accountable every day to men who surround me in ministry and above all accountability every day to the love of my life Pam."
The Times Free Press is continuing to investigate claims of inappropriate acts with women by Perry Stone. If you have information that can help please contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6249.
The Voice of Evangelism board of directors did not respond to a specific question about what boundaries were being created or what steps were taken to restore damage done to those affected. The board said in its statement that Stone "sincerely repented for any words or actions said or done that made anyone feel uncomfortable or brought them hurt in any manner."
"The board has worked with Perry to set in place strong boundaries of accountability surrounding his future ministry speaking and travel schedules," the statement said. "They continue to evaluate the progress of his spiritual and physical health to determine future plans."
The board also did not respond to specific questions about whether it was aware of any other incidents involving Stone or whether law enforcement was contacted about the alleged misconduct.
In recent months, Stone's multi-faceted ministry has undergone several changes. The Ramp, an Alabama-based ministry with a location in Chattanooga, is now leasing Stone's Omega Center International building in Cleveland. Also, Remnant, the young adult dance team, is no longer connected with OCI or The Ramp. In an announcement posted to Facebook, the leaders of Remnant thanked Stone and other members of Voice of Evangelism.
"While it's hard to announce that Remnant will no longer be placed under Omega Center International, it's also extremely exciting to let you all know that we aren't finished!" the group wrote on Facebook. "God has greater things in store for each of us, and we feel confident that Remnant is supposed to continue."
On Tuesday night, Stone made one of his first public appearances at Omega Center International in a service held by The Ramp.
Stone told the crowd, and those watching the livestream, he had been away because he was taking family time and working on a project about a "great treasure" that will soon be discovered. He said he had a "physical collapse" from the stress of running a $14-to-$15-million ministry and that God told him to partner with The Ramp to continue his work.
There was no mention that his stepping away was due in part to his treatment of female employees.
Karen Wheaton, founder of The Ramp who is now running the ministry at OCI, did not respond to questions about whether she knew about Stone's actions toward women and, if so, why that information was not made public to people in her church.
Neither Stone, nor the board of directors, responded to a question about why Stone did not share the full story about his departure from the ministry.
The Times Free Press sent a series of questions to Stone and VOE regarding Stone's conduct around 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Around 9 p.m. Wednesday night, Stone posted a video on Facebook saying he recently had a dream of being hunted by a giant snake that sucked people into its belly. He said in his dream he evaded the snake by climbing onto a filing cabinet of negative information. Stone has regularly posted videos on Facebook detailing the Biblical meaning of his dreams.
Stone said in the video the snake represented an attack from the devil that was coming against him and his ministry.
"I decree in Jesus' name, by the help and grace of God, I'm going to stay above the snake," Stone said in the video. "I'm not coming down to the level of gossip. I'm not coming down to a level of trying to defend myself. I'm not coming down to a level to separate truth from untruth. God spoke to me and He said, 'You keep your mouth shut with everything you hear, with everything you say. With what's coming, just stay calm. Stay in my presence.'"
Stone then asked his followers to pray specifically, "God, give Perry two fighting angels to fight these battles" against him and his ministry.
Contact Wyatt Massey at email@example.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.
Perry Stone's audio message, played for private church gathering
Recently some female employees at VOE requested to meet with our board of directors to address complaints that I had acted inappropriately with them, and with words and sometimes actions. The board gathered the information that was needed to question me concerning this and after several weeks, the board did the right thing and they asked me to step aside from all pulpit and traveling ministry for an extended period of time.So, today I remain under the authority of our board of directors and have taken an extended and honestly some much needed sabbatical away from the [inaudible] of ministry. I’ve been spending several weeks in a special location out of state and a special clinic to receive professional counseling every day and also to get the medical help that I feel like I need. Let me say, and I’m saying this from the deepest part of my heart and spirit, I sincerely with everything that’s in me regret any words or actions that I have said or done that made anyone feel uncomfortable or that may have brought them hurt in any manner. And I confess at times I’ve been inappropriate in all this weariness of just non-stop ministry. I let my guard down and I’ve asked, of course, God to forgive me for that. I asked, I sat down with my family, with my beautiful, precious wife Pam, the love of my life. I asked her to forgive me. And I very humbly and very sincerely ask those who have been hurt or offended by my actions to, please, also forgive me for those things.I also want to ask the OCI family to forgive me for letting down the high standard of ministry that we all have sought to achieve, including myself. It’s my hope that through the grace of God we will all be able to walk in future healing and restoration. We know that forgiveness is the foundation to starting any type of restoration. So I’m going to remain on a long sabbatical absent from public ministry and this is for several weeks, first of all to seek God intently, which I’ve been doing for several weeks on a daily basis, you know, morning, noon and night throughout the day, to remain under the decision and the authority of the board of directors to seek wisdom and counsel professionally and spiritually.And above all, this is what I really want you to know, I have made pledge to God, myself, my family, and I’ll make a pledge to you, that the remaining days of my life, I have a lot of days, I’m going to set up very strong and unmovable boundaries to ensure that my personal and spiritual life are held completely accountable every day to men who surround me in ministry and above all accountability every day to the love of my life Pam.I believe a time is going to come when God will make me whole in body, mind and spirit and in the future this is going to make me a better man, a better husband and I’m intent on finishing my race strong. I admire, I appreciate and I dearly love my OCI family and I want to thank you because I have felt your prayers for myself and I want you to continue to pray for me and the family, and for the staff, and for all those who are involved in any way who also need healing and restoration as well. So, thank you for your time. Thank you for allowing me to do this. I miss you. God bless you and thank you. Continue to pray for us, amen.