A year to the day after two longtime parishioners and staff members filed suit against Bishop Earl Paulk, the parties will appear before a DeKalb County judge on Thursday to try to move the case along.
Lawyers for the suit’s plaintiffs hope to convince Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony that Paulk, who underwent major surgery in November, is able to be questioned.
The plaintiffs, Bobby and Mona Brewer — former leaders in Paulk’s Chapel Hill Harvester Church, accuse Paulk of sexual misconduct, saying he coerced Mona Brewer into an affair that lasted 14 years. One of Paulk’s lawyers has acknowledged that Paulk had a brief sexual relationship with Mona Brewer, but said she was the initiator.
Paulk’s lawyers have argued successfully in the past that he is physically unable to undergo a deposition. The Brewers’ lawyers say his condition has improved.
“He has been representing to his congregation that he is back in good health,” said Louis Levenson, an attorney for the Brewers. “We have witnesses who have seen him out in public.”
Paulk has been back in the pulpit at his South DeKalb megachurch in recent weeks, but gave his nephew, D. E. Paulk, the title of senior pastor in mid-August.
“We may be old but we’ve still got a lot of fire left in us,” Earl Paulk told his congregation on Aug. 6 as he announced the upcoming transfer of leadership. “Honey, you don’t talk about retiring. We talk about refiring.”
Paulk said in the service he had gone through serious “physical battles” after the surgery.”All those so far as I know are in the past,” he said.
But Dennis Brewer (no relation to Bobby and Mona), the Texas lawyer representing Paulk, said early this week that Paulk had been back in the hospital with an infection recently.
“His health continues to deteriorate,” his lawyer said.
Asked about Paulk’s return to the pulpit, attorney Brewer said, “It takes about two days to get him ready and two days to get him back to normal after he does that.”
Paulk and his lawyers meanwhile hope the judge will give them access to DNA tests that would show the parentage of children possibly fathered by Paulk, and access to Bobby Brewer’s tax records.
Neither Brewer, Paulk’s attorney, nor Levenson, the Brewers’ lawyer, would discuss any specific claims about parentage. Levenson has alleged in the past that Paulk may have fathered several children outside his marriage.
Meanwhile, attendance at Paulk’s South DeKalb megachurch, which suffered a decline after the lawsuit and Paulk’s surgery last fall, seemed on the rebound in recent weeks.
The new senior pastor, D.E. Paulk—formerly known as Donnie Earl—is the son of Paulk’s brother Don, a co-defendant in the Brewers’ suit.
D.E. Paulk, who grew up in the church and attended Earl Paulk Institute, a seminary affiliated with the church, left Chapel Hill Harvester about three years ago to form Grace Church in Stone Mountain.
As he returned to Chapel Hill Harvester, he brought Grace Church members and staff with him.
D.E.’s wife, Brandi Paulk, who returned a telephone call made to him, said her husband is looking forward to a new beginning at the church.
During his first full Sunday as senior pastor on Aug. 20, D.E. Paulk urged congregants to “call those who have left this place and tell them … to come on back in.”
“If we’re going to do this thing together,” he said, “we’ve got to get the rubbish out of the way. We’ve got to get rid of the hurts of the past.”
Aug. 30, 2006