After about 15 minutes of aggressively defending himself and his church from jokes and criticism during an explosive Facebook Live interview with online media personality Larry Reid and his guest, Genesis Warren, in the aftermath of a jewelry heist at his church on Sunday, Bishop Lamor Whitehead, pastor of the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn, told them “you can both kiss my a**.”
The brazen attack on Whitehead’s church, which was caught on video, made international headlines after multiple gunmen were shown robbing the bishop and his congregants of jewelry he says is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Information from the New York City Police Department cited by The New York Post said three masked gunmen burst into Whitehead’s church at around 11:14 a.m. The video of the incident shows Whitehead quickly surrendering to the gunmen as they relieved him, his wife and their congregation of their precious stones.
In a statement during an Instagram Live session Monday, Whitehead, who is now offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunmen, said reports that the value of the stolen jewelry exceeds $1 million are incorrect.
“And just to clear things up. I know CNN has reported and also the [New York] Post, that over a million dollars of jewelry was stolen. That’s inaccurate. … Everybody is, ‘Oh, you have a million dollars.’… Stop believing everything,” the 44-year-old preacher said.
The robbery has generated significant chatter on social media. Before their explosive interview with Whitehead on Monday, Reid and Warren, who leads Geneses Warren Ministries, speculated that the robbery could have been a set-up, echoing the sentiments of others online.
Warren and Reid also poked fun at the appearance of Whitehead’s church, pointing to, for example, a sheet stuck to a wall with “thumb tacks.”
“Baby, I was screaming,” Warren said.
“It did look kind of Tyler Perryish to me,” she continued about the robbery, referring to the work of movie producer Tyler Perry.
“I’m not saying that the pastor had anything to do with [it], I don’t know. Maybe someone that knows him had him set up because he said in one of the videos that they took one of the chains from him that was inside of his robe. Well, how would someone even know that that was there? So that made me think that it was someone that he knew,” she added.
Reid also alluded to Whitehead’s criminal history. The Brooklyn bishop was arrested in 2006 for a $2 million identity-theft scam. He served some five years in prison but was released in 2013. He claims he was “falsely convicted and arrested for a crime I did not commit.”
Reid also raised concern about Whitehead’s biblical position on sexuality and raised concern that he was homophobic.
When Whitehead eventually appeared on the show after he was alerted about the discussion, he wasted no time in pushing back against the characterization.
After the interview, Whitehead said he felt like he’s being bullied by establishment Christianity, which does not embrace unorthodox Christian leaders from the street like himself.
“The devil is busy and one thing about Bishop Whitehead, I ain’t never scared. I tell you all, I ain’t never scared, at all, never scared. And at the end of the day, I ain’t never in my life been bullied. I’m not going to wait until I get into the church to let this gang bully me, never in life. I’m not going to let it happen. And let me tell you all something, nobody is going to make a mockery of my church being robbed,” Whitehead said after his interview with Reid.
Reid, well-known in particularly black church circles for his critique of ministry, sometimes exposing misconduct among church leaders, was also slammed by Whitehead as the “Wendy Williams of Gospel,” where the focus is always on “gossip, gossip, gossip.”
“As I sit there and watch Larry Reid, who I respected, never had a difference with him, but as I watched … how he talked about me and my church, how he talked and made jokes of my church being robbed and make jokes about not hearing about the gun being put in my 8-month-old baby’s face. Right, and you all want to follow him. You all want to sit here and make it seem like he’s righteous? He’s a division to the body of Christ,” Whitehead said. “All he do is gossip like a woman. That’s all he do is gossip, gossip, gossip, gossip. … I ain’t grow up in the streets to make the church bully me.”
Whitehead, who has often been criticized for being too flashy because he drives expensive cars and adorns himself with jewelry, has also boasted about his connections with powerful people in entertainment and politics, such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
He prides himself on being a man of the streets and lists rappers Curtis James Jackson III, known professionally 50 Cent, Foxy Brown and 6ix9ine, formerly as Tekashi69, among the people he has led to Jesus.
In an Instagram post on Monday, even 50 Cent appeared to rebuke Whitehead’s flashy lifestyle as unwise.
“Bishop, now you know damn well, you can’t do this in Brooklyn if you ain’t smacking s**t,” Jackson wrote.
Whitehead defends himself and his actions as him simply being his authentic self.
“I don’t care what they say. My church looks good. And we already just purchased another church. We purchased a whole block, so who cares what these people talking about,” he said.
“I’m going to speak my piece because the church is so in fear of these gangs. I’m talking about the bishops, the prophets, the pastors, and these bloggers. I’m going to stand 10 toes down … because that’s who I am.”
The pastor said he’s not accepted by the Church because he’s from the “streets,” adding: “The Church didn’t birth me. My mother brought me to the Church, but my daddy wasn’t a pastor, my mama wasn’t a pastor. I wasn’t born into this thing. I was thrown into this thing.”
Whitehead also argued that he splurges on expensive things because of his life experience, not to “stunt” or boast.
“It’s not stunting. It’s my lifestyle. Favor is not fair, and when I was illegally put in prison, sent away to prison for 11 1/3 to 34 years, and God vindicated me after six years, I was getting paid $1.27 a week,” he said.
“The Lord has blessed me to be in real estate and to be into entrepreneurship where the Lord has blessed me financially. I’m not on payroll of my church, right, and I help so many men and women out here in these streets. So why can’t I buy what I want to buy? Why can’t I wear what I want to wear? The reason why you use the terminology of stunting is because that is the environment you’re from,” White said.
“The environment that I’m around, it’s not stunting. It’s wearing nice clothes. So if you change your friends and if you change your community, of that type of understanding you wouldn’t see it as stunting,” he continued.
Whitehead also pushed back vehemently against Reid’s claim that he is homophobic.
“Larry Reid expressed who he is; I’m expressing who I am. You ain’t bullying me,” the Brooklyn bishop said.
“Larry Reid is the Wendy Williams of Gospel. Larry Reid, you admitted that you were a homosexual at one point in your life. You admitted it. That’s what you admitted, but don’t sit here and tell me that I don’t like people of a different gender status because I love all people.”
“I love them all,” he continued. “Whatever you choose to do, this is America; this is the world. You do what you want to do, but it’s not going to stop me from preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination, and I’m in that Scripture, I’m not going to jump over that. That doesn’t make me homophobic. … I have to preach the unadulterated word of Jesus Christ.”