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Megachurch Pastor Responds To Accusations He Plagiarized Apology After Sexist Joke Backlash

Texas megachurch pastor Josh Howerton sparked outrage over sexist advice he gave during a sermon about how women should act on their wedding night—and fueled even more criticism after his apology seemed eerily similar to a Florida pastor's apology for a sexist joke.

Pastor Josh Howerton
Lakepointe Church

A Texas megachurch pastor denied accusations of plagiarism in response to his apology for making a sexist joke.

An edited video clip of Josh Howerton, a senior pastor at Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, riled viewers for a sermon in which he told women they should do whatever their husbands instruct them to do on their wedding night.

In the service that took place on February 26, Howerton addressed the women in the audience and said:

"Ladies, when it comes to his wedding night–he has been planning this day his whole life–just stand where he tells you, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do."

Howerton assured female congregants that doing so would make their husband "the happiest man in the world."

Circulating clips, however, presented the advice out of context.

According to him, the partial statement was a punchline to a setup where he advised the man to do his wife's bidding on their wedding night because she's been planning for it her whole life.

Here is a clip of the sermon.

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But the inherent misogynistic tone of the edited statement got him in hot water.

Podcast host Sheila Gregoire said his remarks perpetuated harmful tropes about women and sex and that it signaled to men that "at the wedding night, you get to act like a porn director and direct her every move so you get exactly what you want."

Social media users were gobsmacked.

After the fallout, Howerton addressed the controversial wedding night advice and chalked it up as just a "joke."

He also suggested he was unfairly criticized as the media omitted the part about men doing whatever their wives tell them to on their wedding night.

"You can't trust the internet," Howerton continued.

“The Book of Proverbs says this: It says that careless words can stab like a sword, but that wise words lead to healing."

He told gatherers it meant that "sometimes even jokes can be a careless word," and that the church was "a place where you have a little fun." He said never intended to "toss something out there that feels like a careless word."

He added:

“If that joke fell on you the wrong way, I need you to hear three things."
“Number one, I love you. Now listen, Lakepointe Church, I love you more than you will ever imagine. ... Number two, I’m sorry."
"I’m sorry for something that felt like careless words. Let me actually, let me rephrase. I’m sorry for careless words. I’m sorry about that."
"And number three, thank you for your grace to me. I want to be doing this with you for decades and decades and decades.”

Here is Howerton's non-apology.

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Julie Roys, a writer for a Christian journalism site, noticed familiar elements in Howerton's speech.

Roys said it "was almost word-for-word the same apology" from a 2022 sermon delivered by Joby Martin of Church Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Florida.

In his sermon, Martin apologized for his "careless" remarks about how breastfeeding was "gross."

Here is a clip of the sermon Martin was forced to apologize for.

Roys found that Martin had also invoked the Book of Proverbs, like Howerton did, saying, “careless words stab like a sword, and wise words lead to healing."

Martin's apology concluded with Howerton's identical key talking points, including expressing love for the church, grace for honor of spreading the gospel, and the desire to continue doing so "for decades to come."

He said:

“Church, I need you to hear this, OK? Three things. I love you. ... I love this church. I love getting to do this thing together. And again, I am sorry."
"And I want to say thank you. Thank you for the grace that you give me every single week to stand up here and do what I get to do."
"And I hope, by God’s grace, I’ll get to do this for decades and decades to come.”

Roys shared a clip juxtaposing the two pastors' near identical speeches.

Social media users rolled their eyes.

After being called out for replicating Martin's speech, Howerton responded in a Facebook post, explaining:

“If you ever hear anything from me in one of Pastor Joby’s sermons, YUP–he’s got my permission and we probably texted about it."

He said that pastors are "constantly helping each other with communication" because they have "a heart to help and just want to build the kingdom."

He added:

"I send my sermon notes to dozens of young pastors and church planters every week who don't have the time or resources I do, because we all just want the same thing: People to know and become like Jesus."

The apology to the plagiarism allegation was accompanied by a photo of Howerton with his pastor pal.

While Howerton claimed his misogynistic "joke" failed to "land," so too did his string of apologies.

Howerton responded to "sermon plagiarism" allegations in a blog post in September 2022 and defended himself, saying:

"A church-sermon is not an academia-dissertation or a book/journalism-publication."
"I freely give away my notes to other pastors because pastors aren't preaching to make themselves look good, sound smart, or sell something proprietary."
"We're preaching for life-change and to grow the kingdom. Those differing goals of written communication in journalism or academia vs. the goals of verbal communication in preaching lead to very different standards."

He added:

"Frankly, this is why 'sermon plagiarism' accusations almost never come from other pastors, but from journalists, writers, or academics (or professional pastor-critics who need to manufacture new ‘scandals’ to generate clicks for their monetized sites 😉), trying to impose the standards of their industry onto another field."