Juanita Bynum, a preacher whose fiery and frank sermons about women’s empowerment have won her a national following, told police that she intends to file charges against her estranged husband who allegedly attacked her in a parking lot early Wednesday.
A spokesman with the Atlanta Police Department said Thursday that officers were making plans to meet with Bynum to investigate the case.
Bynum could not be reached for comment Thursday. Authorities said the evangelist, who has a home in the metro Atlanta area, had been whisked away by family as they decide what to do next to protect the preacher from her estranged husband Thomas W. Weeks III.
“She was pretty upset about the incident,” said Ron Campbell, spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department. “At this point, she is at an undisclosed location trying to stay away from him.”
Campbell said the couple was trying to reconcile at a restaurant in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel when their meeting went sour.
As the couple headed toward parking lot about 4 a.m. Wednesday, they got into a physical fight.
“He began to choke her, he pushed her down and started kicking on her and stomping her,” Campbell said. “The bellman of the hotel actually witnessed the incident and pulled Mr. Weeks off of her.”
Campbell said she was “bruised up and battered,” and had “purple bruising around her neck and upper torso.”
The husband, who is also a preacher, left the scene.
Police found out about the fray from a staff member at Piedmont Hospital, where Bynum was taken for a checkup.
Bynum apparently left the hospital before police could take photos of her cuts and bruises. Her sister, Tina Culpepper, took some snapshots and later handed them over to police.
Campbell said he was uncertain whether this was a first-time incident of domestic violence between the couple. A felony charge would only be brought if Bynum had serious injuries and had to be hospitalized for an extended period of time, he said.
Meanwhile, the phone lines at Weeks’ and Bynum’s metro area church Global Destiny International Center of Duluth were temporarily disconnected. An executive minister of the church empire Global Destiny International said he had “no comment,” about the incident or pending investigation.
A popular Pentecostal evangelist, Bynum lives in Hempstead, N.Y., but her administrative offices are in Waycross. She is open about her past, freely talking about sex and being on welfare, hospitalized with a mental breakdown, divorced and spiritually broken.
Once a homemaker, a hairdresser and a flight attendant, Bynum’s big break came when Bishop T.D. Jakes invited her to speak at one of his conferences several years ago. Her ministry took off a couple of years later after she gave her unrehearsed “No More Sheets” sermon on breaking free of sexual promiscuity at a singles event.
Since then, she has parlayed her tough-love evangelism into a one-woman industry, writing several best-selling books, recording inspirational CDs and preaching to millions through televised sermons.
She has been a regular at Megafest, Jakes’ four-day festival of worship, music, education and praise that drew thousands every year it took place in Atlanta.
Her 2002 wedding to Weeks, who started the Global Destiny churches nationwide, was televised and, according to media reports, featured a gown with a bodice covered in crystals and a 7.76-carat diamond ring.
Staff researcher Nisa Asokan contributed to this report.
Aug. 22, 2007
Saeed Ahmed and D. Aileen Dodd