One week after a sex-tape scandal involving him made headlines across the country and region, self-proclaimed pope Philbert London yesterday used his church’s pulpit to break his silence on the issue, apologising to his congregation while asking that he be allowed to continue to minister to them.
The parishioners, of predominantly women, in turn bellowed chants of forgiveness as they screamed praises for London; a move that seemed to have brought their leader to tears as he continuously wiped his eyes and his face contorted.
“I am here to tell you, from the depths of my heart, that I am sorry for any pain, sorrow, embarrassment or shame that many would have experienced, and in many cases are still experiencing, as a result of what has happened,” London said as he read a prepared statement from his i-Pad.
London last week found himself at the centre of a sex scandal after videos as well as photographs featuring him went viral on social media. He continues to trend both locally and internationally and media houses in the region have also been reporting on the scandal.
When Stabroek News contacted him on Thursday, London had refused to address the issue and directed that all questions be taken to his attorney Jerome Khan.
In an interview with Stabroek News, Khan did not dispute the authenticity of the sex tapes that have been the focus of the scandal involving his client, but stressed that no crime had been committed and only London’s congregation should pass moral judgement.
“There is nothing that I have seen, as a lawyer, that is criminal in nature and he has not committed any crime,” he stated.
“It is the publisher of the images who has breached the privacy of both Dr London and any other persons whose images may be recognised. These are consenting adults. There are no children involved in any of the images that I have seen. There are no persons under the age of 16,” he added.
Dressed in a white suit with matching white hat and shoes, London walked into the Beacon Ministries’ Miracle Centre, located on Joseph Pollydore Street, Georgetown, as the women sang Tina Turner’s billboard chart topper ‘Simply the Best’. London had been absent from the church last Sunday after the scandal broke.
After setting into his gold-coloured Chair on the pulpit, he announced that he would be making a statement and wanted it to be broadcast on all social media sites, since he wanted accuracy in reportage on it.
‘I am about to make a statement. So you all should listen, so get your phones out, stream it, put it online on Facebook… because I see the press is here and sometimes they write what was not said. So stream it live so it wouldn’t even need any adjustment…This is being streamed live so you can’t change the content,” London asserted.
He related that since the scandal broke it has been a heart wrenching time for him, though he did not go into specific details.
“These last few days have been the saddest season of my life. Had it not been for the Grace of God and the kindness and support of my immediate family, ministers, congregation and friends, I could not even be here before you. I am not here to make any excuse. For my part it has become not only a nationwide but also a worldwide scandal. I am not here to declare the end of those who for whatever reason saw it fit to embarrass me but others, our loved ones our friends and those …who consider me to be their mentor and spiritual guide…,” the Beacon Ministries leader read.
“When some other ministers of the faith stumbled, and I have sympathised with them… I had no idea what they would have went through and the pain they would have felt, but now I know. Beloved friends, I can’t wish an experience like this on my worst enemy,” he added.
He was interrupted by the frequent shouts of ‘we love you papa, we forgive you, you taught us well, Hallelujah, amen’ from his ardent followers.
“So I would advise to the other two or three persons who may have stored personal or highly sensitive material data on your device to take note. It would be wise to desist so this never happens to you. There may only be two or three other persons who may have done that. For me and those involved, and our relatives, friends and loved ones, the pain has been so excruciating that I must take some time to thank those persons who daily sent me an encouraging scripture, song or thought; please keep them coming they have meant so much to me in this time.
Pulling verses from Psalms in the Holy Bible and likening himself to David, London said he was comforted in words “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” and others. “Because in a moment like this you can’t find a rock for yourself”, he exclaimed.
The embattled Christian leader said he had introspective moments questioning his own life. “I asked God why he called me. He knows the end from the beginning and he knew me from my mother’s womb and the fleshly road that he sent me into this world …I asked God why he called me to be a preacher of righteousness…I questioned this and I said ‘God you could have prevented the exposure of such a damaging thing you could have destroyed it before it reached the public,” he posited.
“At one time I thought it would have been better to die, to continue preaching and teaching and come to think of it I died so I am only standing here before you because of the grace of God and the resurrected saviour Jesus Christ.”
He told the congregation that it was not presumptuousness that caused him to continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ but it is the burden and commitment to show that “God is not mad with mankind but madly in love with mankind.”
Pointing to scriptures of forgiveness and God’s love, London continued to reason with the church as he said that he was but a mortal man.
He asked that he be forgiven and allowed to continue to lead the church. “As a result of what has happened I am also sorry if I gave the impression, through my teaching and preaching or living that I was perfect and flawless. I am sorry if I ever gave you that impression. I am sorry if I ever communicated to you by word or action that I could not fail in morality or social ethics or standards if I did that, I am sorry I made you feel that way. I am sorry if I led anyone to believe I was saved by my own goodness and not by the grace of God. I am sorry,” he said.
“I want to say how sorry I am for this disappointment, hurt and anguish …I hope you will find it within your heart to forgive me and allow me again to be your father,” London said to screams of ‘of course’ and `Papa we love you’.