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‘I cut people,’ a megachurch pastor threatened as she preached. Her target? The local newspaper.

Pastor Hope Carpenter called out the Greenville News during a sermon at her former church, Relentless Church, in Greenville, S.C., on March 31. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Hope Carpenter was met with resounding applause before her monologue at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday. The crowd was excited about their guest pastor — after all, she’d led the congregation with her husband for nearly three decades before they moved their show to a church in San Jose last year.

In her return, Carpenter delivered a fervent lecture on the importance of “holding fast” to confessions of faith, a message she claimed to have received from God that morning. She appeared fatigued by the end of her soliloquy, using its closing moments to express gratitude toward the church’s new, controversial leaders — pastors John and Aventer Gray — who stood directly behind her.

“I love you Pastor John and Pastor Aventer. I believe in you,” Carpenter said. “I’m praying for you. I’m rooting for you!”

Then, her monologue took an abrupt, violent turn.

“I cut people. I got a knife right in that pocketbook,” Carpenter said, gesturing toward her seat. “Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. I’m still here, and guess who else is still going to be here?” She pointed to John Gray, who nodded in agreement.

The crowd roared once again.

The apparent threat toward the Greenville News, a daily newspaper, comes after the outlet published several stories casting a negative light on the Grays. In December, for example, the outlet reported on John Gray’s purchase of a $200,000 Lamborghini as an anniversary present for his wife. In a tearful Facebook Live video, the pastor maintained he used “not a nickel, not a penny” of church funds to buy the car.

Should a megachurch pastor be lambasted for buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini?

In January, the paper published a story after a reader tip revealed Gray was living in a home worth $1.8 million funded by Relentless Church. Officials at the church told Greenville News the home was included in a compensation package for the pastor, adding, “This is a practice that is done with every denomination in the nation.”

Then, in late March, John Gray asked churchgoers to help bankroll a $250,000 repair to the church’s roof. Gray told his congregation that the church was millions of dollars in debt, Greenville News reported, and suggested the money could be raised easily if 2,500 people gave $100.

He offered to pay $300 himself, but reportedly gave those in attendance a deadline of April 3 to raise the rest of the money.

Earlier that month, the pastor and his wife appeared on a daytime talk show to deny rumors of an extramarital affair. While on air, Gray defended the Lamborghini purchase as well as his 2018 visit with President Trump to discuss prison reform. He was publicly criticized for meeting with the president and accused by some of being a “pawn” for Trump, according to the Greenville News.

John Gray, a pastor at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., attended a meeting of pastors at the White House on Aug. 1, 2018, about prison reform. (Video: The White House)

In a statement to The Washington Post, Greenville News Executive Editor Katrice Hardy said the paper strives to “cover every organization in our community in a fair and unbiased way.” Its coverage of Relentless Church includes a Friday story on the church’s commitment to help fund a homeless shelter in Pickens County, Hardy noted.

The statement did not directly refer to the apparent threat from Carpenter, who faced her own controversy in 2017 for chastising the NFL players who decided to silently kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

“THE NATIONAL ANTHEM IS OUR NATIONS SONG!” Carpenter wrote in the Facebook post, which was deleted and captured in an image by The State. “Yes there are things in our country that’s wrong but our country is not yo blame [sic]. You don’t like it? Move or be apart of the healing of our nation!”

Her husband, Ron Carpenter, Jr., apologized for her comments soon afterward, stating that he and his wife “woefully underestimated how racially insensitive” her remarks were, Greenville News reported at the time.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Relentless Church spokeswoman Holly Baird said that Carpenter was given the microphone Sunday “out of honor,” and that the Grays had no idea what she was going to say.

“Neither our pastors or anyone in our leadership would agree with any type of communication that would encourage or incite violence against another individual or entity,” the statement read. “While we believe Pastor Hope was joking, we completely understand how her comments could be received in today’s climate. There is no place in our society for words that could fan the flames of discord.”

Hope Carpenter did not return a request for comment.

As she concluded her exuberant Sunday monologue, the woman embraced the church’s current leaders before John Gray began to speak again.

“Tell somebody you came to church on the right Sunday,” he joked with his congregation. “Unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

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