Last week, LaShonda Matlock’s angry, eyebrow-raising letter to her father, Pastor Bill Adkins, the preacher at Greater Imani Church & Christian Center in Memphis, Tenn., quickly went viral. And it’s no wonder.
The letter’s fiery claims and allegations were intensely personal, with the 33-year-old accusing Adkins, her biological father, of ignoring her for decades and depriving her of the father-daughter relationship she has always craved.
While the letter paints one picture, the preacher offers an entirely different one. Over the weekend, TheBlaze interviewed Adkins, to learn his side of the story.
How the Pastor Feels About the Public Letter
Considering the faith leader’s prominence in the Memphis area, seeing such troubling accusations go public must have been pretty shocking. When we asked how Adkins felt when he first saw Matlock’s letter, which was entitled, “Letter to My Father Bill Adkins: ‘Go to Hell,'” he said he was taken aback.
“There are situations and times when you’re just caught completely by surprise,” Adkins explained. “I have not heard from LaShonda in years and I’m very suspicious of the timing that the letter was written and how it was posted and how it was placed on her blog.”
This suspicion is rooted in his confusion surrounding why the contentious note was posted so publicly rather than simply delivering it to him directly.
Despite being hurt, the preacher said he did his best to try and heal the situation once he learned of his daughter’s emotional pain. It took only minutes after reading it for him to reach out to Matlock directly through Facebook and e-mail, but to no avail.
Adkins claims she has been unresponsive.
“I haven’t heard from her. I don’t have her number,” he said.
Prior to our interview, Adkins’ wife, Linda, shared his letter with TheBlaze (this is the same text that was sent to Matlock):
I read your post and am deeply saddened by your pain. Of course, some things you mentioned were in complete error but that’s okay. How can I help you now? What can I do to help alleviate your pain? There are times in our lives when we think we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons; and then find out it was all wrong. You do have a great mother and I always believed that you had a great life with her and your stepfather. You achieved much and accomplished even more. I actually thought that staying out of your life was best for you. You were a proud Matlock and I did not believe that you needed any extra confusion. I financially supported you for all those years, thinking this was basically what was most needed of me.
Let me invite you to come to Memphis and allow me the privilege of introducing you to the congregation. I want to do whatever I can to help you end your suffering. I have never denied that you are my daughter. I simply respected your family which seemed to be outstanding in every area and it appeared that I was not needed.
LaShonda I am in Christ, and most of us have things in our past that do not exemplify our present spiritual condition. I teach this at my church constantly. The sins of my past are just that; sins of my past. Let me help you.
Give me a call.
Explaining Their Relationship
Adkins told us that his daughter’s letter was “a very hurtful thing,” but he decided to send his own note in an effort to reach out to her, he said. Based on its contents, it does seem he wants to fix any wrongs. Obviously, the relationship is complicated.
In his interview with TheBlaze, Adkins had nothing but praise for Matlock’s mother and step-father (which was evident in the aforementioned text of his letter as well). He said he respects the former and called the latter a wonderful man.
As for why he was uninvolved in his biological daughter’s life, the preacher said that the details present in his daughter’s initial letter aren’t necessarily accurate.
“I never had any requests to look back on her life. She had taken the name of her stepfather,” he told TheBlaze. “I did the best thing I could do and I paid 18 years of child support. It looked like everything else was in good service. Great family, great education.”
There was no mention in Matlock’s initial letter of financial support, although Adkins said that it likely extended into the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. No matter, as he had no regrets and felt it was his duty to pay.
But for those wondering why he didn’t push for more involvement, the pastor said he simply didn’t want to make the situation more complicated.
“I just didn’t at the time — didn’t see any need for me to confuse things, because things looked so well,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those things that I didn’t want to be around.”
The minister also notes that he wasn’t a pastor when LaShonda was born. Adkins called it “a whole different lifetime” — one in which he wasn’t living a Christian lifestyle, was in the process of ending a bad marriage and had little stability. As a media personality, he was certainly not the man of the cloth that he is today.
“I have been a public figure over 40 years. Everybody knows me [in Memphis]. I’ve been in billboards, television. My life was an open book,” Adkins told TheBlaze of the years before he was a preacher. “When God called me to the pulpit, I said, ‘You’ve got to remember where I came from.’ God calls people who have been through things, people who can identify with the trials and tribulations that people go through.”
Adkins believes that his personal life experience — and his mistakes — have helped his ministry flourish. He said he has never been one to sit above others and judge, as his own past has helped equip him to serve and encourage others.
Clarifying Matlock’s Accusations
Adkins spent some time clarifying key sections of his daughter’s letter. In addition to the omission of child support, he said that many of the details simply weren’t accurate or true. As for the claim that one of his daughters resulted from an affair, he claimed that this was a lie.
Specific examples from the letter rooted in falsities or exaggerations, he said, is an incident during which Matlock claims he came to her school — something he doesn’t remember.
As for the dramatic incident during which she confronted him at the age of 29, the pastor’s account of what unfolded is radically different from his daughter’s.
In her letter, Matlock recalls running into her father on a trip to Memphis back in 2009 (she eventually left the area). When she saw him, she remembers feeling like a child again. She attempted to approach him, but to no avail. When a bodyguard served as a barrier, Matlock says she yelled out, “I forgive you,” but says her father simply nodded in return — and that was all.
But Adkins, who remembers the event clearly, said it unfolded much differently. Rather than a security guard, he said he was with a deacon from his church. And as for a gun, no one could have possibly reached for one, the pastor says, because no firearms were present.
“When I saw her, when she saw me, she asked me, ‘Do you know who I am?,”‘ he recalls.
When Adkins responded that he was aware, he then spoke with her about what she was doing for a living. Adkins claims it ended very differently from Matlock’s account and that there was “no confrontation.”
It’s not as though Adkins doesn’t have regrets. Like anyone else, he’s made mistakes — something he openly admits.
“When you get around 60, you’ll look back at your life and say, ‘I wish I had done that [better],” he told me (after asking my age; I said I’m 30). “You’ll have a whole lot of misgivings. Of course, when I look back I wish I had not been the way that I was at that time.”
Matlock obviously sees things very differently than her father. In an e-mail interview with TheBlaze, she attempted to further explain her letter:
As anyone would react, it is extremely hurtful and alarming as well. I am simply recounting my personal experiences and feelings with him from my childhood. The blog post is from my perspective. If my father was divorced from his first wife and not yet married to Linda Adkins at the time of my birth I sincerely apologize. Again, I am only stating my personal experiences, feelings, and our relationship through my eyes.
Stating that he does have the absolute right to defend himself, but by doing this it has also brought up several other questions as well. Linda Adkins now acknowledges two other children, whom she states were born prior to their marriage (see below). But both William Westbrook and Antionette Patterson have yet to be publicly acknowledged. Though they both have encountered many of the same obstacles I have when attempting to establish a relationship with him. I only sincerely hope he reaches out to them one day as well.
The frustrated daughter also noted, though, that, in the end, the situation isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. Instead, she said that “it is the story of a father and a daughter understanding both sides, learning from past mistakes and creating a new healthy relationship.”
Where Do They Go From Here?
Matlock, so far, hasn’t reached back out to her father, but Adkins tells TheBlaze that he’s concerned for her. And, based on what she told us, she’s holding out some hope that they can reconcile.
“I think she’s a fantastic young lady … a beautiful young lady, so articulate, so smart,” he said. “We can sit and talk about the past forever, but moving forward is the big thing.”
With full knowledge that Matlock is clearly hurting, the pastor said he’s willing to help. While he feels he doesn’t need family therapy as she has requested, he and his wife claim that they are fully willing to speak with her and begin a restoration process.
“If she’s feeling this hurt from elementary school … if she’s revisiting all these things in her past and she’s 33-years-old — if she’s revisiting all of this stuff in her life — that tells me there’s some deep seated hurt there,” he added. “She needs to get on with her life and not even be thinking about what didn’t happen 33-years-ago.”
When asked if he intends to have a relationship with Matlock, he said he’s open.
“I can be whatever she needs me to me. I flung the door open,” Atkins told TheBlaze. “I hope the best and wish the best for her.”
Matlock did confirm to TheBlaze that her father reached out.
“Yes, my father did reach out to me first via Facebook and later by email. Unfortunately I would prefer we open a dialogue and attend family counseling before going in front of a congregation,” she said.
Will the two move past years of disconnect? That, of course, is up to them.