After coming under fire for appearing to endorse open marriages, Jamal Harrison Bryant of Baltimore's Empowerment Temple AME Church backtracked, stating he was simply making a "joke."
During a recent episode of The Preachers, which Bryant hosts along with Lakewood Church associate pastor John Gray, E. Dewey Smith Jr. and Orrick Quick, the pastor told comedian Mo'Nique and husband Sidney Hicks, who have an "open marriage," that he, too, believes in open marriage.
"I think that's amazing and a lot of people think that is novel and y'all 'church people' are going to have a heart attack," Bryant said. "I believed in open marriage, I just forgot to tell my ex-wife about it."
He then went on to ask the couple how they "find that balance" biblically.
"Who am I to tell her what she can and cannot do?" Hicks, replied. "And, if I did tell her what she could and could not do, is there a possibility that she could still do it anyway?"
"And then that's called cheating," Mo'Nique added. "And then that's called what you guys consider a sin."
In turn, Gray quipped that in his marriage, an open relationship would lead to a "100% divorce rate."
The conversation drew widespread criticism online from viewers, who accused Bryant of insulting the sanctity of marriage by promoting open relationships.
"This immediately reminded me of the church of Corinth and how they were rebuked by the apostle Paul when he received report of a sexual relationship taking place in the church between a young man and his step-mother," wrote End Times Headlines Ricky Scaparo. "Did Paul commend the relationship? No! He rebuked the church for commending it and turning a blind-eye to the sin! He then went on to give instructions to the pastor of what to do about it."
In response, Bryant later addressed "all of [his] haters," saying that he made "a jest, a joke about open marriages."
He also responded to his mother, who reportedly told him that "God is not pleased" with his statement: "Please know, that I still believe that marriage is between two people," he said. "While I believe in that, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to have conversations with people who don't share my beliefs, don't share my faith, don't share my theology. "
"Many times the church is shut down because we will not have conversations with people who disagree with us," Bryant added. "Many years ago Franklin D. Roosevelt said, 'if they're not kicking your butt you're not up front.' The only way they can do it is you've got to be ahead of them...It's been a major adjustment, none of us have done daytime television. I took the greatest hit last week. Some 7.5 million of you watched a clip on YouTube so let me say thank you to all of my haters and thank you to all of my celebrators."
He also urged viewers to "pray for us, because God ain't finished with us yet."