The Reverend Freak

Inside the Terry Hornbuckle case

And just what kind of church was this? Who went there and why?

The Dallas Observer set out to find answers to those questions, but after interviewing several church members, attorneys and members of the victims' families, as well as hearing and reading the testimony of Hornbuckle's accusers in the criminal and civil cases against him, the answers proved elusive.

What the Observer did find is that the Hornbuckle case was even more sordid than many outsiders thought:

Leon Haley, one of Hornbuckle's defense attorneys, confers with the bishop. He derided one of Hornbuckle's victims as a "meth ho."
Leon Haley, one of Hornbuckle's defense attorneys, confers with the bishop. He derided one of Hornbuckle's victims as a "meth ho."
This $742,000 home in Colleyville is in Renee Hornbuckle's name. The Hornbuckles preached prosperity relentlessly from the pulpit.
This $742,000 home in Colleyville is in Renee Hornbuckle's name. The Hornbuckles preached prosperity relentlessly from the pulpit.

  • On Sunday mornings in the last few years, Hornbuckle was increasingly given to making bizarre statements from the pulpit. One time--in an incident remembered by every church member the Dallas Observer interviewed at length--Hornbuckle preached about bathing his adolescent daughter. "You men need to bathe your daughters," he exhorted his members. "Clean 'em up good."

  • One married church member, after a sexual encounter with Hornbuckle, began to complain of severe abdominal pain. A trip to the doctor revealed the problem: A metal cock ring--a sexual device used to prolong an erection--had been rammed deep into her abdominal cavity.

  • One young woman who testified during Hornbuckle's sentencing claimed he performed oral sex on her in the back of a church van during a trip to San Antonio. She'd come along on the trip as a nanny, and Hornbuckle told her he wanted to teach her how to have an orgasm.

In the end, jury members and the public were left with pieces of a puzzle: a self-appointed bishop who'd so finely tuned the mechanics of seduction that he was able to get away with it for more than a decade right under the noses of his wife and his elders--leaders who apparently looked the other way as the lives and faith of several of their fellow church members were shattered. The young women whose attentions the bishop cultivated during lengthy, exuberant church services fueled by the power of suggestion and incessant talk about money and success. The brazen defense strategy employed by Hornbuckle's attorneys--sure, he was an awful husband and pastor and man of God, but he wasn't a rapist.

In the end, none of the puzzle pieces quite fit together. But each offered a glimpse into the bishop's bizarre world of religion, money, sex and drugs.

In the Beginning

Before Terry Hornbuckle was the bishop, exerting power and influence over thousands, he was a lowly Bible study leader, teaching 15 congregants in Irving. That was in 1986. The next year, he housed the group in an old Grand Prairie Dairy Queen. The congregation grew, and he moved his small flock to a strip shopping center on Division Street in Arlington, a stretch of road known best for bail bond offices, used car lots and strip clubs. It was here, in 1992, that Agape Christian Fellowship first took shape--a nondenominational church with big dreams and a Pentecostal flavor.

People came to hear the charismatic man who'd started calling himself "Bishop." Attendance grew; people were captivated by his image of success, his message of prosperity. The Lord wanted his people to prosper and be blessed with "increase," an appealing message to his predominantly black congregation. Here, they found hope.

By 1999, Hornbuckle found himself preaching each Sunday to more than 2,500 people in a warehouse-sized megachurch. The bishop rose to see the kind of power and wealth he'd always dreamed of. He and his wife drove Mercedes-Benzes and Cadillacs. They lived in expensive homes and wore the best clothes. At the same time, week after week, he was imploring his members to give their all to the church, especially their finances.

That in itself wasn't unusual for a black congregation that had many of the trappings of Pentecostalism--prophetic messages, exuberant worship, exhortations to take steps of faith. In black churches, the leader often embodies the aspirations of his followers. If he looks bedraggled and drives a hoopty, it is a reflection on himself as well as his flock--and not a flattering one. Agape was full of young men and women who looked to their bishop to provide them the keys to prosperity. To reach down from his perch of success and pull them up too.

The bishop encouraged their ambitions and cultivated their attentions. He would sometimes call up groups of single moms and bathe them in compliments and words of encouragement. He probably didn't fail to notice that many of them were beautiful, vulnerable and looking for a man to provide love and stability in their lives.

In recent years, the calls for offerings reportedly intensified. On Sundays, Hornbuckle would often ask everyone who hadn't given their tithe--a donation of 10 percent of one's income, a common practice in Pentecostal churches--to raise their hands. Many were embarrassed but took it as inspiration to work harder and give more to their bishop. Pay your rent last, he said, and give Agape your tithe, the "firstfruits." God will provide.

Gradually he became a figurehead in the black church world. Bishop T.D. Jakes wrote a laudatory blurb for one of Hornbuckle's self-published books. The bishop hung out with Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, he'd brag from the pulpit. He knew Quincy Carter. Emmitt Smith even wrote a letter to Tarrant County prosecutors extolling the virtues of Hornbuckle and his marriage to Renee. The couple had counseled Smith and his wife, he wrote, and he looked up to them. In his eyes, they had the perfect marriage.

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21 comments
ConsequeloAnn
ConsequeloAnn

I would like 2 shoot this garbage right in his ugly face..he needs 2 be tortured 2 death slowly..IM sorry  but this makes me sick

Eaw46
Eaw46

This is the first time I hv read this. I am 41 but I was 22 when he made me have sex with him. He gave me $120, bought me shoes and a bitter of perfume at Dillards. I was so young and shocked. I had no idea what I was walking into.

Revfoster
Revfoster

This is a very sad story! The article is very well written! My prayers go out to all of the victims. God have mercy! Christ have mercy!

Brenda
Brenda

This is so very sick.

NICOLLE
NICOLLE

I AM SPEECHLESS, AT ONE TIME IN MY LIFE I BELONG TO A CHURCH THAT WAS STRONG ON DISPLINE AND AUTHORITY ANDI NEEDED THAT IN MY LIFE AND HUNGRIED FOR GUIDANCE AND IF I COULD NOT GET AT HOME I KNEW I COULD GET AT CHURCH WHICH I GROW UP BELIEVING THIS SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL MY GRAND MOTHER TAUGHT ME THIS, SO I GOT LOST IN THIS BUILDING CALLED THE CHURCH EVERYTHING SEEMED TO HAD FINALLY COME TOGETHER IN MY LIFE BUT I WAS BLINDED FOR A SEASON WHEN I GOT SAVED AT THIS CHURCH I WAS 16 YRS OLD AND WITH A BABY BOY ABOUT 2 MONTHS OF AGE, I STARTED DATING THIS GUY AND EVENTUALLY HE INVITED ME TO COME TO CHURCH WITH HIM THATS HOW I CAME ACROSS THIS BUILDING THAT WAS SUPPOSE TO BE THE CHRUCH OF GOD (APOSTALIC)UPC.I LOVE THE WORSHIP AND PRAISE I HEARD IN THESE SERVICES THE PEOPLE WAS SO LOVING AND HUMBLE AND THEY CARED ABOUT YOU AND MADE YOU FEEL LIKE SOMEBODY IN GOD.EVERYBODY SOMETIMES IN LIFE WANT TO FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE PURPOSE AND THEY BELONG SOMEWHERE, BUT THINGS BEGAN TO CHANGE THE PREACHIN OF GOD TORE YOU DOWN INSTEAD OF UP LIFTING YOU,NOTHING WAS NEVER WAS GOOD ENOUGH AND I OFTEN WAS IN FEAR OF HELL FIRE, GODS JUDGEMNT THE WOE'S WOE'S I WAS ALWAYS IN FEAR OF!!!!!BUT GOD BEGAN TO OPEN MY EYES AND SHOW ME THAT IT WAS NOT LIKE HIM THEM WAS NOT THE FRUITS OF RTHE SPIRIT THAT HE WASS TALKING ABOUT, YES I HAD SEEN MANY OF THINGS THAT WAS NOT BIBICAL THAT HE WAS TRYING TO PUT INTO GODS MOUTH WHEN GOD BEGAN TO OPEN MY EYES IT BLOW MY MIND. PEOLPE WAS BEING MARRIED WITHOUT LISENCE BECAUSE WAS SUPOSED TO ORDAIN IT THAT WAY 15PERCENT TITHES BUILDING FUND FOR A BUILDING STILL NOT FINISH ETC....TALKING DOWN TO PEOPLE IN THE WROSE WAYS MOCKING PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH TELLING CHURCH MEMBERS NOT TO MESS WITH THEIR REAL FAMILY IF THEY WAS NOT SAVE THE RIGHT WAY DO NOT VISITED THERE CHURCH ARE THE YOU WOULD GO TO HELL. I DID NOT SEE TO MUCH PHYSICAL ABUSE MORE MIND CONTROL THAN ANY THIN MENTAL ABUSE!!!! POEPLE THEIR WAS LIVING OUT OF FEAR OF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENING TO THEM IF THEY DID NOT OBEY WOMEN HAD TO WEAR LONG DRESS THEY COULD NOT CUT THERE HAIR WEAR MAKE UP MEN HAD SHAVE THERE FACE ETC..... I THINK YOU GET THE POINT!PEOPLE WAS STRUGGLE TO PAY THEIR WON BILLS BECAUSE THEIR MONEY WAS TIED UP IN THE CHURCH AND PLEASING THE PASTOR AND FRIST LADY. WHEN I LEFT THIS MESS I WAS A MESS I WAS ALWAYS FEARFUL OF SOMETHING HAPPENING TO ME AND MY KIDS, SO MUCH STUFF I CANNOT BEGAN TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF ALL OF IT BUT THANK GOD HE BROUGHT BECAUSE MY LOVE FRTO THE TRUE GOD WAS GREATER FOR MAN BUT AT TIMES I STIILL DEAL WITH RESIDUE OF BEING THEIR FOR 7 YEARS STAIRGHT THAN GOING BACK OFF AND ON FOR 2 MORE YEARS AFTER THAT. THE GULIT I FELT FOR EVEN PEOPLE WINNING OVER TO BE MEMBERS OF THAT CHURCH I LEARNED THE WINNING SOUL METHOD REAL GOOD BECAUSE IT WAS ALL WAY PREACHED AND TAUGHT ON I CAN GO ON FOR DAYS WHT DO PEOPLE USE SOMETRHING SO PRUE FOR FOOLISH GAIN MENTAL PHYSICAL MONEY ARE JUST A POWER TRIP I AM ALWAY AMAZED BY THIS???

Lihn
Lihn

this is what the love of money will do to preachers.....

kill them!

get saved again please before it's too late.

B.Gilyard
B.Gilyard

Im not so sure about all the allegations,but one thing Iam certain about.When ever you take a stand to do GOD,s will ,spreading the Word,helping others,etc.There will be spiritual attacks at its highest level. I do believe the vision of an evil spirit by the young lady.How else can you explain why so many pastors and church leaders find themselves in simular situaions.Yes its all about the decisions we make.One thing we all can learn about these things,is to always put GOD first.No I dont believe Hornbuckle is a devil, just a man who like all of us ,must never forget he,s only a man and that GOD is GOD.We must never put our guards down as did brother Hornbuckle. I predict he will rise once more with the grace of GOD,even stronger but more wiser than before!

JB
JB

When are we going to hear from God for Ourselves? Why are we not using our personal relationship with Christ to guide our lives along with linning ourselves up with Christ. All of you who say that this man caused people to fall must be People Worshipers and not Christ Worshipers. Yes he was a sad example but he does not hold salvation for people. The couple who got a divorce as said by the previous Blogger, they got a divorce because of them not this man. Also the Blogger who stated that his wife is a disgrace, How could you say that. You have no idea what she is feeling on the inside. Believe me, just because she was there to support her husband didn't mean she agreed with what he had done but I'm sure she asked herself what would Christ do? Christ was there at the trial just like she was. Christ still loves Bishop Hornbuckle and promises that he would reap what he has sow, same as his wife, I'm sure she loves him, forgives him and expects him to serve his time. She may or may not be with him after he serves his time but she is handling this like Christ would. Christians, who knows what test God may put you through. Obviously, this particular test is what God deemed appropiate for his Wife because he knows it's a part of her purpose. Think about this horrible situation and ask yourself, what would Jesus do in this situation and what does the bible say about it? God's written word (the bible) is the final authority in a Christians life and not men with titles (pastor, elder, missionary, etc.)

swyftyswyf
swyftyswyf

People (homo sapiens) have inhabited the earth upwards of 100,000 years. Organized religion has been developed over the last 5,000 years. It is time to start questioning the principles of religious authority. Free your mind and fight the lies! Religion is a disease.

Steven
Steven

I was lead to this article because I talked to a close friend that I had not talked to in some time. He was a member of this church and we drifted apart as he and his wife deemed me a bad spirit I suppose. For each time we would get together they were always talking about getting rich and buying expensive things because God wanted that for them. I basically told them I don�t believe that God works that way and that I would never ask God for anything like that. Conversations became fewer and fewer until we stopped talking period. Some years later I found out that he and his wife divorced. I guess not getting rich was a reflection on being with her husband now. This man wrecked a very good friend of mines life. I had not spent one day in their church and knew he was not preaching for God.

enayb
enayb

I'm glad he got convicted wasn't enough years for me. He's a disgrace to the body of christ and so is his wife. They ought to throw away the key on him!!!!

Linda
Linda

I am speechless to say the least. Men and women need to fear God once again. We as ministers are to be examples to the lost and teach them about repentance and not prosperity.

James
James

God reveals sin & the devil conceals it. Praise Him!!

Karman
Karman

It is stories of this nature that cause sinners to say "if that is God I do not want to be a part of a church because all that go to church are hypocites and people that are fake." This is a wake up call to the Body of Christ! The spirit of deception is running rampant in the land. If you do not stay prayed up, fasted up and constantly in the word of God. You too will fall prey to this spirit of this deception!

Truth
Truth

@ConsequeloAnn  What would Jesus do? In reading this it seems like his lawyers didn't even try. They didn't feel the need to call any witnesses! Really? They took his money and left him hanging. No real evidence just word of mouth! No young lady or woman should be alone with any older married man. We don't know anything about these women character and integrity except that they had the freedom or they were sneaking around to be alone with this married man!!!

Truth
Truth

@Brenda The story is but that's All it is.. a story.. I thought there would be proof but no one provided any real proof...Im not saying Im for him or against him.. but youre not supposed to convict somebody from word of mouth...

elnelg
elnelg

@B.Gilyard ...did you just say that Brother Hornbuckle simply forgot he was only a man? That's it? Not God, just a man who let his guard down. And what did the women do wrong? Just be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Unwittingly, you have just explained why men like Hornbuckle exist. Sadly, you also have shown disrespect, contempt and ignorance toward women.

Truth
Truth

@enayb The bible teaches not to talk about people that way.. There is no real evidence of the crimes and his lawyers felt like they didn't need witnesses. Im sure a lot of people know all about every single one of them. Talking about throwing away the key? next time please pray before you speak because like David said even after God took his had off of saul, " I will still Not touch Gods' anointed"

Truth
Truth

@Karman A spirit did creep in but that man truly is anointed. The gifts of God are given without repentence. Singers still have their gift if they glorify our Heavenly Father or the devil. If there is a perfect preacher I would like to meet him. I agree it does not make the body of Christ look good but none of us know the whole story. Its their side, his side and the truth and none of this should've ever happened. Married people should stay faithful and people shouldn't be alone with married people..

Truth
Truth

@elnelg It doesn't matter who the man is No woman Should ever meet up with or spend time with married men. None of this should've happened but there were wrong actions on both sides.. Everyone should have been home reading their bibles and praying...

 
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