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Pentecostal Preacher Sherman Allen Turns Out to Be Reverend Spanky

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"They told the same story everyone else is telling," Chris says of the two girls. "[Allen] started off counseling them about 'you should read your Bible,' then the mother took the child to him a couple times for spanking, because of grades. Then it turned into a more deviant-type thing, a sexual thing...just unthinkable."

After hearing the girls' stories, Chris says Haynes asked, "Can't y'all just forgive him?"

Chris says he sat back in his chair in disbelief.

Allen, he says, was "arrogant, combative" throughout the meeting. He denied everything. But one comment is etched in Chris' memory. "If I go down," Chris says Allen told his bishop, "you all go down with me."

Nothing became of the meeting, Chris says, though the proceedings were recorded on audiotape. Superintendent Battles, who set up the meeting, was extremely discouraged by the outcome, Chris says. "Oh, man, Battles was brokenhearted," he says. "He couldn't believe that Bishop Haynes did nothing." (Battles is no longer alive.)

Chris claims that Allen continued to harass the teenager, and that's why he drove to Dallas to confront him. Disgusted with Haynes' seeming inaction, Chris would eventually leave the Church of God in Christ. "All of these women that followed them, they didn't have to be hurt," Chris says. "Because it could have been stopped."

A prominent COGIC pastor tells about another secret meeting in the mid-1990s that sounds remarkably similar. Allen, the pastor says, was cocky and sat in a chair wiggling a leg constantly; Haynes tried to be conciliatory. Several other COGIC sources confirmed that this meeting took place. A single woman and a married woman, who came with her husband, accused Allen of paddling them. The single woman, the pastor says, alleged that she was forced to undress and was beaten so hard she was left with scars. She claimed Allen sexually assaulted her, and she tumbled down a flight of stairs trying to get away from him.

The pastor says he sat right next to Allen, who showed no emotion as the women spoke. After hearing the women's stories, the pastor says, Haynes commented that he hadn't heard anything "concrete." He left the meeting for another engagement. A district superintendent took over, and he asked Allen if the allegations were true.

Allen's response, according to the pastor: "Some of the charges are true, and some charges are not."

The pastor turned to Allen and pressed: "Which are true, and which are not true?"

"I don't have to answer to you," Allen replied.

"You are a disgrace," the pastor responded. And sooner or later, he added, "You're going to be brought to justice."

Elder Thompson told the Observer that he has counseled dozens of women who claimed Allen had paddled them. "There are a lot of people that have been destroyed," he says. "I noticed he preyed on weak people. Anybody in a weaker state is looking for somebody strong. And the weaker state you're in, you're more vulnerable to deception.

"A lot of people were excited over what they thought was a very strong sense of spirituality. 'He's so spiritual.' And yes, he's spiritual. Because he comes out of the Spiritualist church. When they see this wild stuff [he engages in], they think he's cool. He's on the cutting edge."

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After joining the Church of God in Christ and plugging into its huge network of congregations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Allen's ministry began to grow on the strength of his authoritative preaching and people-pleasing manner. Veronica would see it swell from 15 to 1,500 before she left in 1991. The prosperity gospel was coming into vogue in the Pentecostal-charismatic world, and Allen made it his own. Image was everything to him, Veronica says, even if the image was a fraud.

She recalls driving around in Allen's Mercedes in the heat of a Texas summer with the windows rolled all the way up and the air-conditioning broken. Allen, she says, endangered her children's lives so he could hide the fact that he couldn't afford to get his car fixed. Veronica noticed other hypocrisies too. If Allen were ministering at the church of a righteous-living COGIC pastor, Allen would fast and pray and make pious talk. But in private, Veronica says, Allen wasn't even remotely devout. He didn't pray. He didn't fast. He didn't talk about the Word of God. Yet his prodigious mind and oratorical gift kicked in every Sunday morning; he preached like a virtuoso.

Veronica says she asked him once, "How do you sleep at night?"

Allen didn't miss a beat. "Like a baby."

Veronica's departure from Shiloh came on the heels of another woman—Edwina Cunningham, who would become Allen's wife in 1991. Cunningham was married when she came to Shiloh, Veronica says, but dumped her husband in the course of receiving counseling from Allen. The preacher wooed her while Veronica was still living in his home.

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons