Popular Oklahoma Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church has apologized to his more than 1.8 million fans across social media after receiving public backlash for wiping globs of spit on the face of a man he has identified as his little brother during his sermon on Sunday.
“It’s never my intention to distract others from God’s Word and the message of Jesus … even with illustrations! I apologize for my example being too extreme and disgusting!” Todd said in a statement on Twitter Monday afternoon.
During his message on Sunday, Todd referenced the Bible verse Mark 8:23, which highlights the story of Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting into his eyes privately.
Todd highlighted how Jesus chose not to spit in the blind man’s face publicly. But Todd’s actions during the service seemed contrary to how Jesus handled the situation with the man in Bethsaida. He hawked loogies from his throat into his hand three times before wiping them over his brother’s eyes in front of the congregation.
“I watched it back, and it was disgusting. Like, that was gross. I want to validate everybody’s feelings. That was a distraction from what I was really trying to do — trying to make the word come alive and make people see the story,” Todd said in his apology video.
“It [the demonstration] got too live, and I own that, and I just want to make sure people know that we want to help people. We want people to see Jesus. We want people to feel loved. We want people who are desperate to be able to find hope.”
Todd added that he is sometimes so “passionate” that he tries “to do extreme things to help people get it.”
“And yesterday, I crossed the line,” he admitted while encouraging people who have only watched the clip of the spitting demonstration to watch the entire sermon. “There is some truth and some life in there that could potentially change your whole life.”
The pastor assured his followers that his brother did not suffer any harm in the demonstration.
“When Jesus spit on that man, he was blind and then he could see,” he said. “For my brother, who I love and honor so much, I called him. He was bald before I spit on him, and he’s still bald today, so no miracle here. So next time, I’ll rethink and do something differently.”
Christian writer and theology student Dante Stewart, who recently authored Shoutin’ In The Fire: An American Epistle, condemned Todd’s actions as spiritually and theologically abusive.
“That Mike Todd video has so many layers of terribleness wrapped up in it, I don’t know even where to start. The audacity. The cult energy. The spiritual and theological abusiveness. The hocking and rubbing and spitting and deflecting. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ain’t no way,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I legit want to have the energy to talk about this but y’all, I legit can’t. This is more than terrible theology or performance or arrogant views of one’s self and power. I don’t know a word for this but it ain’t nice or holy or pastoral or good.”
Stewart contends that people have been raising concerns about Todd’s theology for years.
“I’m legit grieved for the brother who literally was shamed like that in public and I’m grieved for so many who feel they can’t say anything or have to brush it off because it’s Mike Todd,” Stewart wrote. “Nah, fam. This ain’t it. Never will be. It’s abuse and trauma.”
Jemele Hill, a sports journalist, tweeted that she had “never heard of ‘Pastor’ Mike Todd before today.”
“But I truly understand now why the elders used to frequently tell us that we’re in the last days,” she wrote.
Bishop Carlton Pearson, who once led one of the largest churches in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 1990s and stirred controversy for declaring there is no Hell, came to Todd’s defense.
Pearson is the senior minister of Christ Universal Temple, a large New Thought congregation in Chicago, Illinois. He is also the head of a new Higher Dimensions fellowship in Chicago and an affiliate minister at Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church. He said Todd and his brother are like family to him.
“Michael Todd is like a nephew to me. His brother on whom the spit was smeared is my godson,” Pearson said in a Facebook post.
“They grew up in Higher Dimensions the church I founded in 1981, the same year I hired his parents and moved them to Tulsa. He’s a highly gifted, passionate, generous and anointed young man.”
Pearson admits that Todd “crossed the line and was excessive to the point of disgusting millions.”
“[B]ut he is not a criminal, cheat, fake, hypocrite or self-centered preacher,” Pearson said. “He’s young with success none of us expected him to have. He’s by no means perfect, but he’s a called man of God and good.”
“If you wanna throw someone away, it shouldn’t be him or anyone like him,” Pearson concluded. “He’s the real thing.”