Hill$ong sweeps Mark Driscoll interview from net


Chilling Effects reports…

“DMCA (Copyright) Complaint to Vimeo

Hillsong Church Ltd.

[Private], , ,Sent on July 30, 2015

Vimeo, LLC

[Private]New York, NY, 10011, USReceived on July 30, 2015

Re: Unknown



From https://www.chillingeffects.org/notices/11024398#

“Vimeo has removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Hillsong Church Ltd. claiming that this material is infringing: Mark Driscoll interview with Brian Houston

Removed on Friday, July 31, 2015 At 9:31 AM

A public record of this claim is available at: http://chillingeffects.org/notices/11024398 “

From https://vimeo.com/134722998


The Christian Post earlier reported…

“In perhaps the most humbling reaction to his controversial exit from Mars Hill Church less than a year ago, co-founder of the now defunct Seattle-based megachurch, Mark Driscoll, revealed in a tearful video interview with Hillsong Church’s Brian Houston that it was God who told him and his wife, Grace, to resign from the church because a trap had been set.

In the nearly hour-long interview where he addressed issues such as his domineering leadership style, his views on the role of women in the church and longtime online comments Driscoll and his wife revealed that the initial plan wasn’t to resign from the church.

Driscoll explained that after an evaluation was conducted at the church he was asked to work on the issues of pride, anger and his domineering leadership style with an expectation to return to the pulpit in January 2015.

The Lord, he said, had other plans.

“Our plan was to come back as volunteers. On that Monday night, I was in the bedroom, Grace was in the living room. He (God) spoke to me and He spoke to her in a supernatural way that neither of us anticipated or expected,” Driscoll began in explaining how God change his course.

“So Grace walked in and said, ‘I feel like the Lord just said what we are supposed to do.’ And I said ‘I feel like the Lord just spoke to me and said we’… it’s not what we wanted,” Driscoll noted prefacing his comments with a hint of pain.

“It’s not what we agreed to and it’s not what we planned for, and so I asked her ‘What did the Lord say to you?’ Because I didn’t want to influence her and she said …”

“We’re released from Mars Hill,” interjected Grace fighting back tears.

“She said ‘Well, what did He say to you?’ I said ‘the Lord revealed to me a trap has been set, there’s no way for us to return to leadership.’ And I didn’t know what that meant or what was going on at the time. He said we’re released and we need to resign.

“This is not what we anticipated and a lot of people thought ‘maybe he’s got another plan.’ We didn’t, we didn’t know what we were doing and Grace fell to the floor and she was just sobbing uncontrollably. I’d never seen my wife like that, she was devastated,” explained Driscoll who tried unsuccessfully to hold back his tears.

He said that even after what they felt was strong direction from God and what they were to do, they went down in prayer and consulted with trusted leaders before resigning.

Before that revelation Driscoll, who revealed that he started his ministry at the age of 25, admitted to making a lot of mistakes in his leadership of the church. He also said he was “devastated” over the people he hurt during his time at Mars Hill.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes and one of them was going too fast. There’s the Lord’s calling and then there’s the Lord’s timing. And I should have waited longer; I should have been under godly spiritual authority — for Grace and I to be under a godly couple that was senior pastor, so that we can learn and grow. My character was not caught up with my gifting and I did start too young,” he said.

“I believe God called us to start the church and He was very gracious to us, but had I to do that over again I would not look at a 25-year-old and say ‘Do what I did.'”

In her reaction, Grace said having to leave Mars Hill was difficult, especially for their children.

“It has been a hard year and we’ve seen God’s faithfulness amidst the trial and we are thankful for that. There’s been a lot of loss. We love our church and we loved being a part of it. And felt honored that God would call us to help lead such an amazing group of people. So that has been hard, and watching the kids and the pain they’ve had to experience in the grieving process,” she said.

Driscoll explained that since their exit from Mars Hill and the public eye they have been spending a lot of time with older, more experience spiritual leaders and in retrospect, he has seen many ways in which he can improve in ministry.

“I hope whatever the Lord has for me in the future is that I will draw people and not drive people. My empathy level will increase,” said Driscoll, who developed a reputation for being a bully in his ministry.

He said that reputation was a by-product of his driven personality and admitted to being that way at times, but he is now learning to manage it differently with help.

“I think for sure on occasion, yeah. I think on occasion, strong leaders there’s a line, you’re wanting to advance a mission and everybody to be aligned with that and there are other times where there’s a lack of grace or empathy. One of the things that has been really helpful in this season for me is godly older families have opened their lives to us … there’s a more parental leadership style,” he said.

Driscoll added if he had to do it all over again he would have focused more on the emotional health of the people in his ministry and said that his lack of empathy at the time was also due to unresolved issues in his own life.

“I would have paid more attention to emotional health and well-being and any bitterness in my own soul so that there wasn’t anger or hurt or defensiveness that was driving some of my motivation,” said Driscoll.

“I would have been more keen to draw Grace out so that we could work through some issues in our past so that we would have been more aligned and better friends early in the ministry. In more recent years we’ve really worked on the friendship. And we’re very close but the early years we didn’t have that kind of connection that we do in more recent years. And that contributed to my tone and my anger, and it affected my disposition negatively and that’s my fault,” he continued.

Houston, who listened intently as Driscoll spoke, said he could see some hints of his own evolution as a leader in the former Mars Hill pastor.

“I think over the years my perception of strong leadership has changed dramatically. What I thought was strong then was probably hot-head … so I can identify to a point,” he told Driscoll.

In a recent post on his website, Driscoll also revealed that he and his family had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, after reconciling with a number of former leaders at Mars Hill.

“After meeting with many former church leaders for reconciliation and closure in Seattle, our family is in the midst of a new adventure as we have moved to the Phoenix area,” he said.

“There are no concrete plans for ongoing local church ministry as of yet. This remains a calling and desire, but my plan is not to rush into anything. Instead, caring for each member of our family, seeking the wise counsel of pastors we are walking with, and building local relationships with Christian leaders to help build churches locally and globally is our focus. Beyond that, we will see how the Lord leads. If anything more develops we will let you know,” he said….”

From http://www.christianpost.com/news/in-tearful-interview-with-brian-houston-mark-driscoll-and-wife-reveal-how-god-told-them-to-resign-from-mars-hill-church-142001/

David Cerullo’s multi-million non-profit


The Charlotte Observer reports…

“Inspirational Network CEO David Cerullo, long one of the nation’s best-paid leaders of religious charities, watched his total compensation soar to almost $5.7 million in 2013, according to the organization’s latest available tax filings.

That amount is more than double what he made the previous year and dwarfs the salaries paid by most nonprofits of comparable size.

For the past 25 years, the cable networks controlled by Cerullo’s Charlotte-area charity have grown rapidly. They sprang from the remnants of Jim Bakker’s bankrupt PTL Club in 1990 and now broadcast to 175 million homes in 150 countries.

From 1998 to 2013, the nonprofit’s revenues rose from just under $15 million to more than $165 million. Much of the network’s money has been raised by televangelists who tell viewers that God brings financial favor to those who donate.

While all of Cerullo’s pay is listed on the nonprofit’s tax form, 75 percent of his compensation comes from his work with the organization’s wholly owned for-profit subsidiary INSP, company spokesman Ronn Torossian said in a statement.

“David Cerullo’s compensation is and always has been established by a fully independent executive compensation committee,” the statement said. “This committee compares Mr. Cerullo’s compensation with other executive compensation of similar organizations … including cable television network CEOs, senior media company executives, CEOs of faith-based national ministries, and pastors of churches.”

Torossian declined to disclose who is on the independent committee.

Many philanthropy experts say it’s unfair to compare salaries in nonprofit organizations with those in the for-profit world. That’s because nonprofits get substantial tax breaks – a form of public subsidy. In exchange, they’re expected to keep salaries at reasonable levels.

Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, said Christian nonprofits particularly shouldn’t be using data from for-profit television stations for comparability data.

“I can’t help but laugh,” said Busby, whose council monitors the finances of almost 2,000 churches and Christian nonprofits. “I’ve never heard of a compensation that high in the Christian nonprofit world.”

By comparison, the president of World Vision, a Christian charity that provides humanitarian aid, was compensated $477,000 in 2013 – even though his charity had six times the revenue of Inspiration.

And the head of the Christian Broadcasting Network – Pat Robertson’s son Gordon Robertson – collected $401,000 in total compensation in 2013. His nonprofit had a budget nearly twice as large as Inspiration’s.

Several members of Cerullo’s family are also on the charity’s payroll.

Cerullo’s daughter, Rebekah Henderson, received more than $1 million in compensation in 2013. At the time, Henderson was an executive vice president and general manager of Halogen TV, a station that stopped broadcasting that year.

Cerullo’s wife, Barbara, was compensated about $276,000 for her role as an executive vice president. His son, Ben, worked as a minister and had compensation totaling about $228,000.

Although the IRS says CEO pay at nonprofits should not be excessive, nonprofits are allowed to look at salaries in the for-profit world when setting executive pay. Charities also are allowed to hire multiple members of the same family.

“In short, (the IRS) not only has a fuzzy standard, they also have very low enforcement, particularly in their very crippled status today,” said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership.

Cerullo’s pay jumped during a year when the network’s revenue rose by 77 percent. Sales of existing assets and a restructuring drove the increase.

Inspiration’s most recent IRS return shows the nonprofit received $52.6 million in 2013 from the sale of undisclosed assets. In his statement, Torossian said at least part of the increase in Cerullo’s salary was because of a one-time bonus he received for his work in securing a buyer for the company’s assets. He would not divulge the amount of the bonus or what assets were sold.

Inspiration did sell one large asset around that time. In December 2012, Participant Media announced it was acquiring the Halogen television channel from Inspiration. A spokesperson for Participant Media said the privately held company will not reveal the purchase price.

Torossian noted that Cerullo receives no royalties on the sale of his books, DVDs or CDs.

On Cerullo’s personal website, he tells the story of how he brought INSP out of bankruptcy to its current state as one of the nation’s fastest-growing networks. Both the nonprofit and for-profit organizations are now based at the spacious “City of Light” campus in Indian Land, S.C., about 20 miles south of uptown Charlotte. There, glass buildings tower over man-made lakes and statues of angels.

The ministry’s flagship Inspiration Network carries a variety of programming, from children’s shows to programs featuring controversial evangelists such as Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn. Many Christians take issue with a message that Cerullo and some of his on-air televangelists frequently espouse: that God will grant financial prosperity to those who donate to the network.

In a February broadcast that spoke of “supernatural debt cancellation,” Cerullo asserted that a product the channel was marketing would help consumers “break out of the struggle you’re experiencing and take you to a place of financial success.”

In a 2012 broadcast, he told viewers to “sow your seed of $100, $500 or $1,000 expecting a breakthrough harvest. … Please, do it now.”

In a 2009 interview, Cerullo told the Observer he earns his pay, working 60 to 80 hours a week overseeing four cable networks, a ministry and a television production company. He also said he had turned down “substantially” more pay in the past.

“I don’t need it. I don’t want it. I won’t take it,” he said then.

“Over the years, God has been good, and our organization has grown,” Torossian’s recent statement said. “As a result, so has David’s compensation.”

From http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article29586973.html


No Melbourne megachurch for Docklands – updated*



Docklands News reports…

“After a three-year bid-process, Places Victoria has admitted defeat over plans for a Docklands place of worship.

The State Government’s urban renewal authority last month confirmed it had terminated the lengthy bid process for a local place of worship, which started in 2012.

“Places Victoria acts commercially to revitalise neighbourhoods and despite our best efforts and those of the preferred bidder for a place of worship in Docklands, an agreement could not be reached,” Places Victoria general manager Simon Wilson said. “As a result, we have terminated the formal bid process.”

“We are committed to securing the best outcome for the Docklands community and will continue to progress opportunities for projects that contribute to the vibrancy of the area.”

It’s understood Places Victoria had been negotiating with CityLife Church for at least two years to build a place of worship at a site on the corner of Footscray Rd and Little Docklands Drive.

The Pentecostal mega-church is based in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, with multiple sites across the Knox, Casey and Manningham areas.

However, the two parties were unable to come to an agreement.

CityLife Church declined to comment when contacted by Docklands News.

Former Planning Minister and current leader of the opposition Matthew Guy first announced plans for a Docklands place of worship in 2012, to honour a Liberal Party election promise.

Mr Guy did not answer phone calls from Docklands News and his office declined to provide comment from the Opposition Leader.

Planning shadow minister David Davis said Docklands needed a “broader range of local facilities to strengthen the community”.

“It is time Daniel Andrews and Richard Wynne made sure that a full-range of community facilities, including opportunities for religious observance, was available in Docklands,” Mr Davis said.

When the bid process for a Docklands place of worship was launched in 2012 interested parties were required to submit proposals that would also offer a community benefit, such as co-sharing premises with other denominations or providing education and training facilities.

At the time it was anticipated the project would be well underway by 2015 and two other religious agencies were initially short-listed during the bid process.

The Faith Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV), a Victorian multifaith organisation, withdrew its bid for the site in early 2013.

Chairperson Murray Davies declined to comment on this story.

Pentecostal Christian church Planetshakers had also been keen to develop a place of worship in Docklands, but by 2013 was out of the running for the project.

Spokesperson Darryn Keneally also declined to comment.”

From http://www.docklandsnews.com.au/editions/article/worship-plan-has-gone-to-god_11125/

Abuser’s church to close


The ABC reports…

“The South African-based Acts Christian Church is closing its only Australian branch after revelations the leader was involved in a paedophile ring.

Pastor David Volmer is one of eight West Australian men accused of sexual crimes against a 13-year-old girl over a period of two years.

The 41-year-old has pleaded guilty to 12 offences including drugging and raping the girl.

Originally from South Africa, Volmer moved to Australia and set up a branch of the Acts Christian Church in Perth’s northern suburbs in 2013.

Church leader Reverend Peter de Fin, whose grandfather founded the church, said he was shocked by the charges.

“This is the first time we’ve had to deal with such a case,” he said.

“We were very disappointed and of course we are not happy our church is associated with such a crime or incident.

“We don’t make any excuses for a minister of the church behaving in this way.”

The Perth parish had about 50 members attending at one stage and was the church’s only branch outside South Africa and Mozambique.

It is now in the process of being closed.

Reverend de Fin flew to Perth this month to speak to parishioners.

He was not able to meet with the victim but said he wanted to apologise on behalf of the church.

“We wanted to offer counselling and also apologise to her and her family,” he said.

Reverend de Fin said the church had failed the young victim.

“The church upholds moral standards and in this way the church has failed,” he said.

Volmer was also the manager of the WA Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry that visits jails, runs camps for children and supports victims of crime.

Prison Fellowship Australia chair Michael Wood declined to be interviewed by PM but said Volmer was asked to resign as soon as the organisation was made aware of the charges against him.

He said Volmer was not involved in running camps for children and his offences were not connected to his work with the fellowship in any way.

Volmer was charged as part of Operation Ripstop.

WA Police on Wednesday revealed they had charged eight men with more than 500 offences.

It is alleged the victim’s father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, allowed the men to abuse her over a period of two years.

Police believe the victim’s father is the only link between the alleged offenders.

WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan described the case one of the most disturbing investigations he had encountered.

“I was just staggered. I can’t remember … something like this in Western Australia,” he said.

“Really bizarre and really disturbing from my perspective. It’s just an awful situation.”

“It’s important that people do stay switched on,” he said.

“It’s important people understand what their children are doing online as well because there are cyber predators out there that will groom children online or even try to meet them.

“This is a terrible case but it is a reminder there are people out there who will prey on our children.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we are vigilant, particularly with online matters.”

The girl is being cared for by the WA Child Protection Department.

“Child protection is everyone’s responsibility,” said Emma White, director-general of the department.

“You may have the smallest piece of information about a young person that is in fact really, really important.

“Don’t wait to make your own determination about what’s happening. When in doubt, act.”

Volmer has been granted bail and will appear again in the Perth Magistrates Court next month.

Seven other men are due to appear in court in the coming weeks.”

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-30/wa-church-to-close-after-leader-charged-with-sexual-offences/6660980

Gunshot evangelism


Florida News Time reports…

“A Texas pastor shot and wounded a would-be burglar robber who broke into his church, and then got him to recite a sinner’s prayer as he lay in his own blood.

Benny Holmes took the law into his own hands when Lee Marvin Blue Jr, 27, entered the Church of New Beginnings in Baytown on Tuesday.

Holmes, who made headlines last year for pointing a gun at a grandmother who stole parcels from his front lawn, was asleep inside when the suspect kicked down the door.

Benny Holmes took the law into his own hands by shooting Lee Marvin Blue Jr, 27, when he broke into the Church of New Beginnings in Baytown on Tuesday

He woke up when he heard someone moving inside the church and grabbed the weapon. 

‘I commanded him to stop twice, and he didn’t. So fearing for my life, I did what I had to do,’ he told ABC 13.

After gunning him down, Holmes went over to Blue and started to talk to him.

‘I led him through the sinner’s prayer while he was on the floor. He repeated the sinner’s prayer after me. And that was about it. I’m going to go visit him.’ 

Blue has an extensive criminal history dating back to 2005 – including trespassing, burglary of a vehicle, and assault.

He was taken to hospital and police believe he will survive the injuries. 

When he finishes his treatment, he will face burglary charges.  

Baytown police do not anticipate charges against Holmes.

In September 2014, Holmes directed his firearm at 57-year-old grandmother Laurie Ferguson when he caught her snatching packages off his Baytown porch.”

From http://www.floridanewstime.com/regional/116602-texas-pastor-benny-holmes-shoots-would-be-burglar-who-broke-into-his-church.html#sthash.NEfgDDTi.dpuf

Church snake-handler dead


WKYT reports…

“A man died after he was bitten by a snake Sunday during a church service, according to the Bell County Sheriff’s Office.

John David Brock, 60, died after a snake bit him in the left arm and he refused medical treatment, according to the Bell County Sheriff’s Office. Brock was handling a snake during a church service at Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church in Jenson.

A church member says Brock was bitten by a rattlesnake. Brock refused medical treatment and went to his brother’s house where he died four hours later. Bell County Coroner Jay Steele was called to the residence and pronounced Brock dead.

Steele says Brock’s death is under investigation. He said Brock had other health problems.

The coroner said an autopsy will not be conducted, and Brock’s official cause of death will be determined using medical records.

Brock, who believed in the Holiness faith, had been a coal miner for 36 years, according to his obituary.

Snake handling at religious services is said to date back to the early 1900s, when a Tennessee preacher connected it to Mark 16:18 (NIV), which says:

“They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Stoney Fork is a small community in Bell County where people say faith is very important and for some that means handling snakes during a church service.

“Certainly people take it literally … the verse where it says people take up deadly serpents or poisons,” Jack Green of Stoney Fork said.

Green says he doesn’t believe in handling snakes but stopped short of criticizing those who do.

“It is people doing what they believe. It isn’t anything to sneer at,” he said.

Most snake-handlers are found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The practice is actually illegal in Kentucky, but rarely enforced. A state law passed in 1942 that bans the use of any kind of reptile during religious services, punishable by fines.
It is estimated that as many as 300 churches nationwide still use snakes in service.

Brock is the second person to die from a snake bite during a Bell County church service in more than a year.

Jamie Coots, a snake-handling Kentucky pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation,” died in February 2014 after being bitten by a snake. Coots refused medical treatment and later died.

In an interview in 2012, Coots told WKYT that he knew snake-handling might eventually kill him but he said it was how he preferred to go. Coots said he believed the venomous snakes couldn’t hurt him as long as he had the power of God.”

From http://www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Bell-County-man-dies-after-being-bitten-by-snake-at-church-service-318848131.html

Church factions court fight


News 24 reports…

“Members of two factions of the Shembe church exchanged blows outside the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on Monday, over who could enter the courtroom to attend a hearing, eNCA reported.

In a video recorded outside the courtroom, members of the church are seen fighting one another. They then stand at what appears to be one of the entrances into the courts, forcefully removing a police officer standing guard at the door.

The men continue to fight among themselves and what appears to be a liquid is sprayed at one group, by the other.

The church has been embroiled in a leadership battle since the death of Vimbeni Shembe, who was the leader of the largest faction. Last year, the court heard that, according to a will, Vimbeni chose his cousin Vela Shembe as his successor.

However, some senior leaders of the church wanted Vimbeni’s son Mduduzi to take the reins. After failing to convince the church’s elders that Vimbeni had nominated him, Vela took the matter to court in 2012.

According to the SABC, members of one faction was making its way to court in a peaceful march on Monday morning when it came across the other faction. Chaos then began outside the court. 

The church is known to be among the richest in Africa with assets worth hundreds of millions. These assets would remain frozen until the leadership dispute was resolved, SABC reported.”

From http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Church-factions-exchange-blows-for-seat-inside-court-room-20150728

JW’s did not report abuse to Police


The Guardian reports…

“Jehovah’s Witnesses destroyed notes about child sexual abuse to stop them falling into the wrong hands and to “protect their wives”, a church elder has told a national hearing in Sydney.

The opening day of a royal commission hearing into abuse within the church has heard how 1,006 allegations of child abuse since 1950 were dealt with internally and never reported to police.

It has also heard that victims were made to confront their abusers and left feeling as if they had sinned.

Max Horley was an elder for the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Narrogin, Western Australia, in the late 1980s when a woman, known as BCB, was interviewed about her relationship with another church elder, Bill Neill.

On Monday, BCB, 47, told how Neill, who is dead, groomed her from the age of 15. She said he would molest her and spy on her when she was in the shower.

She was friendly with Neill’s daughter and spent a lot of time at their house, where “uncle Bill” would tongue kiss her.

When the abuse was revealed, BCB was asked to attend meetings with two elders and Neill, who joked about what he had done. At meetings BCB said she felt guilty and found it hard to detail the abuse.

Neill denied any intentional misconduct.

Horley said Neill was later stood down as an elder because the allegations cast a shadow over his qualifications to teach the word of God. Horley, an elder in the church for more than 30 years, said notes about sexual abuse allegations were not kept in case they fell into the wrong hands.

“We do not want our wives knowing our stuff – what sort of things we are dealing with,” Horley said.

He also said they destroyed notes because they wanted to limit the number of people in the congregation who knew about the abuse.

Horley also said he did not realise at the time the abuse was a criminal matter, and it was not the church’s practice to report allegations of sexual abuse to police.

The elders would go for advice to the Branch – the body that oversees congregations in Australia – if they had any hesitation about how to proceed “legally and scripturally”.

In an opening statement, counsel advising the commission Angus Stewart said the organisation, which has 68,000 members in Australia, had dealt with all allegations internally. He said the church was preoccupied with sin and sinning.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and interpret it literally. He said that documents would be tendered which showed the elders considered the spirituality and seductiveness of the complainant in determining the allegations against Bill Neill.”

From http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/27/jehovahs-witnesses-destroyed-notes-about-child-sex-abuse-inquiry-told


Too much Forex for pastor


The Cape Town Sunday Times reports…

“Only God can provide the cure to our sinful human nature, Pastor Colin Davids posted on his Facebook page this week.

Apart from using the social media platform to dish out moving spiritual messages that allude to the darker side of life, Davids utilises it to punt his allegedly illegal foreign-exchange trading business.

But the charismatic Cape Town clergyman may soon be singing from a different hymn sheet after the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) this week seized goods worth R138-million on suspicion that Davids is running a pyramid scheme.

Among the goods seized were upmarket homes in Plattekloof and Hermanus, several bank accounts and seven cars, including three top-of-the-range BMWs, two Jaguars, a Range Rover and a Volvo.

His luxury lifestyle is aptly summed up in his quotes on his Facebook page: “Don’t wait for things to happen – make it happen. You are destined to be a success. Be good, do good.”

The AFU said Davids, a sole member of the company Platinum Forex, allegedly lured unsuspecting victims to invest in a pyramid scheme with promises of as much as an 84% return on their foreign-exchange investments. But because of the unrealistic returns, the scheme collapsed.

Davids, who is alleged to have collected more than R100-million since he started the scheme in 2013, is a pastor at New Direction Grace Church in Parow. His wife, Charlyn, is due to launch her debut gospel album next month.

Coincidentally, notorious Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie visited Davids’ church in May to ask for forgiveness. Staggie was released on parole recently after serving a lengthy jail term for gang-related crimes committed on the Cape Flats.

The AFU, which falls under the National Prosecuting Authority, brought an application to have Davids’ assets frozen after a probe by the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Financial Services Board and the Hawks.

The High Court in Cape Town granted the preservation order on Monday pending an AFU application to have the assets forfeited.

The court will appoint a curator to compensate scheme victims if the order is granted.

The Hawks are also investigating a criminal case against Davids and his company.

NPA Western Cape spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said the court order had saved hundreds of people from falling prey to Davids’ alleged scheme.

“Davids [allegedly] used some of the investors’ funds to pay for two immovable properties, in Plattekloof and Hermanus, motor vehicles for his wife, Charlyn Anthea Davids … and household expenses from retail stores such as Woolworths, Checkers and Pick n Pay. These assets are regarded as proceeds of unlawful activities,” Ntabazalila said.

But Davids this week derided the NPA’s claims and vowed to defend himself in court.

He said his business had never purported to be an investment company and he had communicated this to the Financial Services Board numerous times.

He said his company did not get money from investors, but from creditors as loans, which it then used to trade in the forex market, using the profits to pay off the debt.

“It is basically a very vicious attack to discredit and derail a sound business because they haven’t done their homework properly and don’t have facts and information together.

“We have very strong proof. We have put a case together to show that the NPA’s case is just replete with erroneous information, that it is trying to discredit a healthy and normal-functioning business.”

In a testimonial letter written in March in support of Davids’s application for an operating licence from the Financial Services Board, Davids’ spiritual leader, “Apostle” Peter Barnes, described him as a generous giver to the church.

“I know him as a person of high morals, impeccable character and a person of great integrity,” said Barnes.

“He has a strong belief in community transformation and has a very generous heart towards community upliftment.”

From http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/stnews/2015/07/26/Cape-Towns-pyramid-pastor-lived-the-high-life-on-forex-scheme

Megachurch loses millions in inside job


Courthouse News Service reports…

“A New Jersey megachurch claims in court that its accountant bilked it of $5 million and spent the money at casinos and luxury cars.

Agape Family Worship Center sued Donald Gridiron Jr. and the Western States Golf Association on Wednesday in Federal Court.

Agape says it hired Gridiron, an “expert in church-related accounting matters,” in 1992. It says it paid him $5,000 a month, and raised it to $5,500 a month plus expenses in 2009.

Agape describes itself in the complaint as “a large, nondenominational church with approximately 4,000 members.” It was founded in 1990 as The Love Church by the Rev. Lawrence Powell.

Gridiron, of California, traveled monthly to the Agape campus in Rahway, N.J., to work with its bookkeeper, review books and records, and meet with Powell and others.

Agape says its chief financial officer left in 2007 and was not replaced. That’s the year when Gridiron began pocketing church funds, Agape says.

“In 2007, Gridiron began writing unauthorized checks to himself and third parties drawn on AFWC’s bank accounts, and sending unauthorized wire transfers to himself from AFWC’s bank accounts,” the complaint states.

Agape claims Gridiron made 800 unauthorized transactions from its bank accounts, from 2007 to 2014.

“Unbeknownst to AFWC,” it says, Gridiron also was accountant and treasurer for the Western States Golf Association, and had “exclusive access and control” of its bank accounts.

The WSGA, based in Corona, Calif., is an association of golf clubs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Created in 1954, the WSGA provides college scholarships and sponsors an annual golf tournament for its members.

The church claims that Gridiron transferred $3 million from Agape accounts to himself, $1.9 million to the WSGA, and $40,000 to Gridiron’s personal American Express account.

The lawsuit does not say why Gridiron sent money to the WSGA.

It claims that Gridiron, 50, confessed the thefts to the Rev. Powell in March 2014, “but significantly misrepresented the total amount stolen.”

Weeks later, the complaint states, Gridiron filed for bankruptcy. His financial affairs statement claimed more than $4.8 million in gambling winnings, “almost the exact amount that AFWC identified as funds stolen from it by Gridiron,” the church says.

Federal agents arrested Gridiron in Los Angeles in December 2014. He was charged with wire fraud. “Gridiron is a criminal defendant in Case No. 14-6082-SCM; United States of America v. Donald Gridiron, Jr., pending in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey,” according to Agape’s lawsuit.

The church says it was “shocked and disheartened” by the embezzlement.

“We were betrayed by a trusted certified public accounting professional who without authorization, secretly accessed our church financial accounts, improperly took millions of dollars, and then took systematic steps to cover up his dishonesty,” Powell said.

“I feel betrayed because this man used to be my friend,” Powell said. “It hurts, but we serve a God who will get us through this.”

Powell said he and his congregation would pray for Gridiron.

Gridiron also provides, or provided accounting services to one or more large churches in the Los Angeles area, the lawsuit states.

The WSGA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Agape seeks punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligence, civil theft, money had and received, unjust enrichment, and receipt of stolen property.

It is represented by G. Michael Jackson with Jones, Davis & Jackson, of Valencia.

Agape is Greek for brotherly love, as opposed, or distinguished from, eros.”

From http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/07/24/megachurch-claims-accountant-rolled-it.htm


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