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Pentecostal Preacher Sherman Allen Turns Out to Be Reverend Spanky

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Veronica left. Outrage was welling up inside of her. He had made a fool out of her, she says. She took her complaints to a high-ranking COGIC official, spilling about the butt-whuppings, the sexual shenanigans. She won't identify the official publicly. His response, according to Veronica? "If you want to keep working in this church, you better keep quiet."

These were sobering words, but the rage still found an outlet.

One Sunday morning in 1991, Veronica was at Shiloh. She'd warned Allen never to creep up behind her, but he did it anyway.

What followed was a blur—Veronica says she hardly remembers a thing—but this much is confirmed: "I went berserk on him."

Next thing she knew, Veronica says, Allen was lying on his back on the church floor with a bloody nose and one of his shirt sleeves ripped off cleanly.

The service abruptly ended.

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The prophetess was freaked out. Juanita Bynum told the people she'd never experienced anything like this since she'd first been saved: The previous night in her hotel room, she said, 14 sex demons held her down and licked her all over.

You need to get on your knees and repent, she told the crowd at Shiloh. I don't know what you're doing, she said, but if it doesn't stop, some of those standing in the crowd this very day will be dead within a year.

A spiritual shockwave rolled through the packed sanctuary, and soon there were 75 or more men and women on their knees at the altar, crying out to God. "Boy, she tore that place up," says Elder Thompson, who attended the special service in late 2000.

Bynum pledged to stay there all night if necessary while people repented. The prophetess was already one of the biggest names on the Pentecostal scene, and she'd come to Texas to preach for her friend, Sherman Allen.

Prophecy was the new wave in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, but it was old hat for Allen. Now he positioned himself at the vanguard of the trend through his annual Prophetic Summits, which featured national speakers.

While anguished men and women surged toward Bynum at the front of the church, Allen made a move of his own. He walked out of the sanctuary and shut himself in his private office.

Pentecostal prophets would come and go all the time at Shiloh, taking the pulpit while Allen was traveling or presiding over special services. Did they discern anything unusual about the man who blessed them with fat checks? Former Shiloh members say some did, like Bynum, and they didn't appear again. Though Allen was probably at the height of his influence, hosting his popular prophetic conferences and hanging out with some of the biggest names in the Pentecostal world, everything was not as it seemed. His wife Edwina was unhappy, several sources say. She would die in 2003 of complications from scleroderma, a disease that causes the skin to harden and crack.

Allen, left with two children, was heartbroken, a family friend says. The competition to be the next Mrs. Allen, however, began anew.

Meanwhile, a woman had joined Shiloh who would end up telling the entire church world about Allen's alleged abuse. She was Davina Kelly, daughter of a California COGIC pastor. While others had become discouraged seeking justice through private channels, Kelly would take her fight to court.

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Kelly was raised COGIC, and her leaders instilled in her the biblical saw many churchgoers cited to the Observer: "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." So, the teaching goes, one should never rebuke a man or woman of God who's caught in wrongdoing; leave it to God. While this Scripture is arguably ripped out of context, the interpretation is still widespread.

"It's not for us to say or do anything about it," Kelly says. "God will take care of him...he'll punish him."

Kelly, however, would throw off that teaching after allegedly enduring months of abuse from Allen, her former pastor and employer, starting in 2001. Kelly, 34 and a married mother of three, claims in her lawsuit that Allen coerced her into a sexual relationship; paddled her repeatedly during private counseling sessions, causing severe bruising and even bleeding; and forcibly sodomized her. Allen has denied all of the allegations in a court filing and in statements from the pulpit, calling his accusers liars.

Kelly and her husband joined Shiloh in 2001, and not long afterward Kelly began cleaning the church and then Allen's home. She also sought marriage counseling from Allen, whom she admired as a man of God.

The counseling sessions, most of which took place in Allen's private office at Shiloh, followed an unusual course. They began with Allen asking her to read several Scriptures about disciplining children. Allen would ask, "What does that mean to you?" If Kelly didn't get the drift, he'd steer her there.

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons