In video that has been viewed more than 3 million times, a young volunteer at Potter’s House Fort Worth church filmed herself being assaulted by a church security guard and handcuffed by police during service on Sunday in a dispute about her appearing on the church stage.
Audrey Stevenson, the 22-year-old former volunteer who attended the T.D. Jakes Ministries church led by Pastor Patrick E. Winfield II, said she quit her position of welcoming visitors after she was handcuffed, assaulted and physically removed from the building.
In the recording of the incident, Stevenson is heard having a discussion backstage with the church elder, identified as Rhonda Lewis, about being “sat down” (a.k.a., removed from leading church activities).
Lewis is heard telling Stevenson: “So I want to be clear. On the stage, you are not allowed to do anything on the stage. Now they just said to me that you said the pastor said you could do stage?”
Stevenson told Lewis that she spoke with the pastor’s wife, who informed her that was, in fact, not “sat down.”
“She had no regulation on me serving under any type of restriction,” Stevenson tells Lewis, adding that the pastor’s wife said she and her husband would meet with Elder Lewis and other staff members to discuss the matter.
But things went left after Lewis indicated that Stevenson was out of pocket for going above her head to the pastor’s wife. Lewis declared there would be no meeting as she is the church administrator. She further called Stevenson a manipulative liar and reminded her that she had been “sat down” and thus should not be on stage.
Stevenson asserted that she has a right to call the pastor’s wife and told the elder she should be “ashamed” of herself.
Things got physical when Stevenson attempted to leave the room. A church security official, identified as Brandon Amie, blocked her path, saying he needed to “explain something” to her. She was then handcuffed and restrained as she begged him to let her leave. At one point, she indicated Amie had his knee in her back while she continued screaming.
When other church security officers arrived at the scene of the dispute, Amie explained that Stevenson was refusing to follow the systems established by the church administrator.
“She’s been told by her supervisor — she’s a volunteer — she can’t be backstage, she can’t serve. She was on the stage,” Amie said, explaining what led to the dispute. When he asked the production manager the identity of the person who allowed her on stage, the manager said that Stevenson told him “Pastor did.”
“I know pastor didn’t say that,” said Amie. He then went searching for Stevenson backstage and that is when the dispute occurred with the elder.
“Tried to talk to her. She rises up on Rhonda. Rhonda explains to her the system of the church. All we wanted to do was have a conversation about the system, she rises up and started to be loud,” he told the officers.
In another video posted to Stevenson’s Facebook page, her mother, a member of the church since 2014, said there had been an ongoing issue between her daughter and Elder Lewis since January, according to The Christian Post. She said she tried to work out their differences prior to the blowup but Lewis would not allow her access to the pastors.
“I initially reached out to pastor. I called the church. Rhonda Lewis was the gatekeeper. She never passed the message on to Bradley so that I could speak to pastor,” Stevenson’s mother said.
She explained that when she tried reasoning with officials respectfully again on Sunday about how her daughter was treated, she was not allowed inside the church.
“The church I’ve been going to since 2014, have never had a problem with anyone there, I paid my tithe and offering faithfully, and when I asked to speak to first lady because I wanted them to know how my daughter had been slammed,” the incensed mother said.
“These are despicable, ludicrous, demoralizing, hideous acts happening in the church of God. And these are the people who are in leadership, I want to tell you if they get away with this, they’ll do this to somebody else’s child. Or to someone else’s sister. This is a woman. Audrey is 22 years old. 5′ 2″. I’m short. I’m only 5′ 5″ and they would do this to her? What kind of people are these?” she asked.
A statement from Pastor Winfield posted to the church’s Facebook page on Sunday night called the incident, which has been viewed on Facebook nearly 3 million times as of Tuesday morning, “unfortunate.”
“When those in service are removed, we expect for that process to occur privately to protect the dignity of all involved. Unfortunately, that did not occur in this case,” wrote Winfield. “An incident report was made with the proper authorities at the time including the Fort Worth Police Department. A full investigation is underway.”
Winfield’s post, however, was removed hours later and another, more apologetic post was shared on the church’s Facebook page by Bishop T.D. Jakes, himself.
“I’m extremely disappointed and apologize for how Ms. Stevenson was treated and the ill-conduct she received,” Jakes wrote. “Privately, we will be reaching out to Ms. Stevenson to offer her the apology she rightly deserves.
“The safety officer in question’s tenure with us has been a positive one, this unfortunate incident however has endangered his continuance with our ministry pending the outcome of a comprehensive review which is consistent with our protocols.”
Read Bishop Jakes’ full statement below:
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