Inquiry needed after bishop, 63, weds teenager he mentored
When the Iowa Attorney General’s Office released a report on Catholic clergy sex abuse last year, it also released a hotline for people of all faiths to call with similar concerns about this taboo subject in their own places of worship.
Since March 21, seven appeals have involved the 53-year-old Christ Apostolic Temple in Des Moines.
The appeals follow online discussions about the November 2021 marriage of the 63-year-old thrice-divorced bishop and church pastor to a 19-year-old to whom he had offered special counseling in as dean of the church school.
It is not illegal to marry someone so young if they have reached the age of legal consent, which is 16 in Iowa. he used his position to facilitate a personal relationship with someone over whom he had authority. They demand an investigation by outside authorities.
Information for this column was gleaned from in-depth interviews with seven people close to the church, hours of taped and live social media forums, including recordings on social media services Clubhouse and Facebook Live, and recordings of Reed’s Sunday services. Several people I interviewed said they feared reprisals and asked that I not publish their names. Reed announced at his Sunday church services that he would air out the dirty laundry of those who speak ill of him. And he followed through.
Dwight Reed and his wife refused through a church secretary to talk to me.
Former church member says pastor is ‘a predator’
In announcing their engagement, Reed and Jordan Goodlett said their wedding was God’s plan. But people close to the families suggest Goodlett was pressured, telling me she expressed reservations and made efforts to call off the wedding both the day before and the day. They believe she ultimately succumbed to pressure from Reed and her father, a salaried church musician.
A photo on the church’s website and a Facebook page shows the two smiling happily. A screenshot of a Facebook post attributed to Jordan Goodlett, sent to me by a source, says she had her doubts but married of her own free will and “I’m moving on and I have faith in God every step of the way.” It ends with “My last name is REED now.”
Although the wedding took place in November, many people affiliated with the church were urged to speak up after a former church member, Jazmn Napier, took to Facebook, under a pseudonym, to calling Reed “a predator posing as a man of God”. She accused him of using his power and privileges as a pastor to prepare a teenager for marriage.
Napier was among several people who told me that, a few years earlier, Reed had told the congregation that he would take Goodlett under his wing for special attention as she struggled with her parents’ impending divorce. They also said she had spent time at his house and on outings with him since she was around 16 and that he had bought her a car as a graduation present.
“It’s not right, it’s not normal, black women matter,” Napier said in reference to the church’s predominantly African-American membership and leadership. “I’m sick of black women being treated like we don’t matter. … We count; it is time for our stories of the surviving Apostolic Christ to be told!”
That post, which later denounced Reed, sparked national engagement on Facebook and Clubhouse. Reed has since dedicated his last two Sunday services to the fightback.
Texas bishop says he plans trip to Iowa to rally against Reed
Returning my call to Dwight Reed, church secretary Sherrie Pruitt said the bishop would not speak while the church “pursues legal matters,” and she guided me to the Facebook page of the church, where a March 23 letter from the Quilty law firm is posted. He is addressing a Houston bishop who has openly called for Reed to be criminally investigated and removed from office.
Bishop Demetrius Sinegal is Presiding Bishop of Kingdom Churches in Covenant and pastor of The Kingdom Church of Houston, Texas, which is also from the apostolic denomination. He is also the founder of Safehouse Unmuzzled, an advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse. Letter from Quilty law firm accuses Sinegal of making ‘false, malicious and defamatory statements’ about the couple and Dwight Reed’s past behavior with women, and threatens legal action unless he removes statements from its social media platform.
Since coming across Napier’s post and doing his own digging, Sinegal has been organizing against Reed. He also started a Change.org petition calling for a criminal investigation by police and the Polk County District Attorney.
He said he was planning a trip to Des Moines in April to rally people to action.
Teenage marriages are not uncommon in Apostolic churches, Sinegal said. In the old days, he says, “women were literally property” and could effectively be “sold” by their fathers. But such a large age disparity, he said, is unusual.
What is the Apostolic Temple of Christ and who are its leaders?
The Apostolic Churches are a Christian denomination with Pentecostal origins. The name refers to the 12 apostles of Jesus. Bishops are usually consecrated by an ecumenical council of bishops within a region.
Dwight Reed “was baptized by his father and pastor, and filled with the Holy Spirit in 1972 at the Calvary Church of God in Des Moines,” says a biography on the church’s website. “He started his preaching ministry at 18.”
He succeeded his father as minister at Christ Apostolic Temple Inc. a few years ago, shortly before his father died, according to the website.
According to a 2018 obituary, Bishop Jeremiah Reed became a pastor in Des Moines in 1969. He helped develop programs to help young offenders and those struggling with drug addiction and hunger, according to the obituary. “His ministry touched the lives of thousands locally, but also reached billions more through the Apostolic Oneness Network television channel, worldwide,” the obituary reads.
A nonprofit agency formed by the church in 2003 came under scrutiny a few years later for alleged expenses.
Teenage marriages described as commonplace
Dwight Reed previously preached at a church in Louisiana. Sinegal is one of many people, including Reed’s family, who have said that Jeremiah Reed excommunicated his son from the Des Moines church. Dwight Reed returned in 2017 as his father’s health declined and took the helm.
Under Reed’s late father and predecessor, Napier wrote on Facebook, “The Apostolic Temple of Christ has been marrying maidens for decades.
A longtime church member I spoke to, who was present when Jeremiah Reed was bishop, said his 16-year-old daughter was engaged to an 18-year-old man in 2006 as the surprised mum watched virtually religious service. “My late mother called me and said, ‘Your daughter is getting married,'” she said. “I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to be harassed by his father. He wasn’t nice when you didn’t do what he wanted you to do.”
Under Jeremiah Reed, “15, – 14 -, 16-year-old girls were married off to young men,” she said. “I know of at least 10 shows. Only one of those couples is still together.”
Napier, who saw such arrangements occur, described them thus: “The females rode like cattle and the males picked them up.
Responding to a Clubhouse Live discussion of such practices, Dwight Reed during a Sunday sermon insisted his father never forced people into marriage. “You jumped when he asked who wanted to get married,” he scoffed. “You raised your hands.” It was unclear if he was referring to the teenagers or their parents.
Sinegal says people are leaving church every day in this climate. “People are emotionally, spiritually and mentally tired,” he told a Clubhouse forum. “…There are many proven histories of attempts to intimidate, mute and muzzle people’s mouths.”
He also criticized what he called a level of apathy within the broader African-American community “about our responsibility to one another, especially as the people of God.” He said the abuse of power is made possible by admonishments to “mind your own business. No one is perfect”.
The pastor answers from the pulpit
Reed has devoted his last two Sunday services to decrying his critics and, in some cases, personally shaming them. Of Sinegal, he said, “We have a preacher in Houston who speaks his mouth and is gay! He then suggested his followers “get excited” against same-sex marriages. Sinegal said he is not gay, but such a complaint against others arms the idea within the church that homosexuality is ungodly.
In response to a woman who left the church and claimed on an online forum that Reed had threatened her, Reed chastised, “You slept with a pastor for eight years and he was married. Keep talking, I’ll put your stuff over there.”
He called his nieces, one of whom spoke out publicly against him, “my rotten, useless nieces,” called another critic a “(expletive) liar” and an agent of Satan, and responded with this way to a woman who said Reed showed inappropriate interest in her when she was 15: “Looks like a gorilla!” He shouted, “You’re lying! No one has chased you since you were 10.”
Neither the Iowa Attorney General’s Office nor the Polk County District Attorney’s Office will likely launch an investigation into the matter, according to people from both agencies, unless police file a criminal complaint against Reed. The Attorney General’s office focuses on providing victim assistance to people who need it.
People say they called the police but couldn’t get any interest. Des Moines Police Department spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said the department has not received any reports and has no ongoing investigations involving Reed.
A marriage between a 63-year-old man and a teenager is troubling, especially when that man, as pastor and dean of the parish school, was in a position of authority over the young woman. Iowa lawmakers should also consider raising the age of legal consent; 16 is terribly young to get married. Another concern is a question Sinegal has raised about the tacit acceptance by church members, sometimes expressed in the mantra to mind one’s own business. A type of groupthink and even complicity can set in when loyalty to a charismatic leader – especially one who interprets the word of God – becomes paramount.
Now, some longtime church members are choosing to leave, believing that the church hierarchy cannot objectively investigate themselves. This warrants an outside investigation.