Whether it be sexual indiscretion, fraud, or physical abuse, here, NewsOne looks at five “men of God” whose questionable actions made for a steep fall from grace.
1) Creflo Augustus Dollar Jr.: As the leader of his mega-church, the World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., and with a congregation of about 30,000 members, Dollar is best known for his prosperity-infused theological teachings — and rightly so. The married Father of five reportedly owns two Rolls-Royce vehicles, a private jet, a million-dollar home, and a $2.5 million apartment in New York City, which he sold for $3.7 million last year.
Unfortunately, the man, who has consistently refused to disclose his financial worth, was arrested in June of this year for physically attacking his 15-year-old daughter after they argued about her going to a party at 1 a.m. The child told police that her pastoral dad strangled her, threw her to the ground, and hit her with a shoe, with her 19-year-old sister corroborating the accusations. Dollar was charged with simple battery and cruelty to children, then released on $5,000 bail.
Watch news coverage of this attack here:
2) Eddie Lee Long: As the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Ga., Bishop Long made headlines two years ago when he was accused of sexual crimes, the very ones that he so fervently preached against with his fire and brimstone deliveries from his bully pulpit. The very man who has for years passionately denounced homosexual behavior now stood accused of using his teachings to coerce four young men in to having sexual relationships with him — with a fifth man emerging later. The accusers filed lawsuits against Long, claiming sexual misconduct on his part and stated that Long bought them expensive gifts, treated them to elaborate trips, and quoted scriptures in order to justify his acts. Long has denied all of the sexual allegations against him and the lawsuits have been settled out of court. The details of each settlement have not been publicly disclosed.
Watch some of Bishop Long’s accusers speak here:
3) Henry Lyons: Nicknamed the “Deacon,” Henry Lyons was known for being charismatic and God-fearing. He was known for spending most of his free time at the church, counseling his congregants and raising money for church projects. So when the Deacon became president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. (NBC) in 1994, it was no surprise. The NBC has the largest predominantly African-American Christian denomination in the United States and is the world’s second-largest Baptist denomination with a membership of around 10 million. Yet only four years later, when Lyons was indicted by federal prosecutors for fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy, and tax evasion, his downfall shocked everyone who had come to know him.
Lyons pleaded innocent to the charges and claimed racial prejudice, but in 1999, a court sentenced him to five and a half years for misappropriating more than $4 million from the NBC while he was president. In 2003, he was released from jail on probation and returned to preaching in Tampa, Fla.
4) Gaston Smith: A highly respected community leader in the Liberty City area of Florida, Gaston Smith was accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the low-income area that he had been honored for saving. As pastor of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Smith, who was known for his dapper attire and pricey gators, was convicted in 2009 of looting $10,000 in county funds that were supposed to help Miami’s poor.
The felonious pastor faced five years in prison but was spared because he had a clean criminal record. Instead, he received five years probation and five years monitoring. Smith, whose congregation seemingly backed him 200 percent during the trial, also had to repay all of the stolen monies.
5) Thomas Wesley Weeks Jr.: As a Pentecostal televangelist, Bishop Thomas Wesley Weeks III is a prophet, author, television and conference host, and a highly sought-after motivational speaker. He, along with his former wife Juanita Bynum, co-founded Global Destiny Christian Community, which was headquartered in Washington, D.C. The man who delivered life applicable biblical principles and truths — empowering and transforming countless lives — was witnessed beating, stomping, and choking his pastor wife in the parking lot of a hotel in the wee hours of the morning on August 22, 2007. The couple had allegedly come together to discuss their estranged union but instead wound up in a battle that was so intense, a hotel bellman reportedly had to pull Weeks off Bynum. Weeks, who fled the scene before police arrived, left his wife badly battered with purple bruising around her neck and all over torso. Weeks initially pleaded not guilty to the charges of aggravated assault and terroristic threats filed by Bynum, but he was convicted on March 21, 2008, and sentenced to three years of probation, 200 hours of non-church community service, and anger management counseling.
Watch news coverage of the attack here:
The couple, who married in 2002 with an extravagant wedding that cost $1 million, wound up divorced six years later and disgraced. Since then, they have gone their separate ways, with Weeks marrying Pastor Christina Glenn on October 20, 2009. The spiritual prophetess Bynum is continuing her pastoral work and over the summer announced that she has had lesbian affairs with women, which sent shock waves through her followers.
Watch their wedding ceremony here: