Visitors worshiping at the Prophet’s House in Northeast Washington this week each received a DVD that displayed a photo of a smiling Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III with his wife and co-pastor, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, in better times.
In 2002, Weeks, 54, and Bynum, 48, launched their marriage and joint ministry with a 7.7-carat diamond and multimillion-dollar wedding on Wall Street. Since that time, the couple has shuttled in and out of the District as leaders of a national ministry that has attracted thousands through DVDs, conferences, television appearances and a book they co-authored, “Teach Me How to Love You: The Beginnings.”
While Bynum, who often preaches in flowing white robes, and Weeks, who sports dapper suits and bow ties, were a highly marketed dream team, officers from the Atlanta Police Department responding to Piedmont Hospital early Aug. 22 found a different story.
“Ms. Bynum went to Piedmont Hospital. She said she had been assaulted by her husband,” said Officer Ronald Campbell, a spokesman for the Atlanta police. “That’s why we got involved. There were a lot of bruises to her neck, face and on her thighs.”
Campbell said Bynum told officers that she and her husband were meeting to reconcile their differences when things went wrong.
“When they left the restaurant of the hotel, he began to choke Mrs. Bynum,” Campbell said. “He pushed her down to the ground and began to choke her. He began to kick and stomp her when the bellman of the hotel intervened and pulled Mr. Weeks off Mrs. Bynum.”
Weeks is free on bond, facing charges of aggravated assault and terroristic threats.
For the past five years, the couple has shuttled between Duluth, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and the District to preach in both cities. There are also churches in Los Angeles and London.
On Sunday, according to the Associated Press, Weeks told the congregation in Duluth, “We’ve got certain things going on right now, but I refuse to stop coming to the House God built.”
On Tuesday night, the leaders of the Prophet’s House, their Global Destiny church in the District, launched a three-day fast and urged the flock to focus on God.
“Get off the phone. Now is not the time to gossip. Now is the time to seek the Lord,” preached Evangelist Azizah Morrison, during a fiery sermon. “You wasn’t there. You don’t know what happened.” She told the 150 people gathered for the service that Weeks would follow his lawyer’s advice and not make any public comment at this time.
With a powerful voice and a hardscrabble story of how God delivered her from abuse, divorce and welfare, Bynum vaulted to national prominence during Bishop T.D. Jakes‘s “Woman Thou Art Loosed” conference in 1998 with her sermon, “No More Sheets.”
Since that time, Bynum has become a popular conference speaker and host of “Weapons of Power” on cable’s Trinity Broadcasting Network.
In the past decade, Weeks has also developed a growing national following. He has published several books, and his Web site biography describes him as a bishop, prophet, conference host and “highly sought after motivational speaker.”
In an interview this week, Jakes said people must not lose their faith every time a minister gets into trouble.
“It is important that we see the minister appropriately,” Jakes said. “He is only the mailman. The worshipers’ eyes must be fixed on God.”
But he said ministers do need more options for rehabilitation.
“We need a place where fallen ministers can be restored,” he said, adding that “some of them have medical issues. . . . People have personality disorders and need professional help.”
After reading from the Old Testament books of Joel and Hosea during the service in the District, Morrison urged the congregation to “ask God to vindicate the name of our pastor.”
Sep. 1, 2007
Hamil R. Harris