Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III is a man suiting up for spiritual war.
He’s preparing for the conflict ahead by drawing on the word of God and the strength of the lineage of pastors in his family dating back more than half a century.
The 40-year-old senior pastor of Global Destiny Church and its international ministries has been accused of abusing his famous wife, national evangelist Juanita Bynum.
He says he is facing a war on three fronts —over the future of his Duluth church, which is losing members and money; over avoiding jail time for felony charges; and over peace at home. His wife is divorcing him.
Since the alleged attack in an Atlanta hotel parking lot on Aug. 21, Weeks, once known as an enterprising, spiritual leader with a vision for growing churches, is now being called on some Internet chat lines a “wife-beater” and a man who was jealous because his wife’s international success dwarfed his own.
Weeks, who says he is innocent, recently shared his story with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bynum, who is developing a domestic violence ministry, has held local news conferences on TV and radio to discuss her accounts of the marriage. She has said through a spokesperson that she will consider an AJC request for a one-on-one interview but she has not set a date.
Weeks maintains that publications and broadcasts about his stormy marriage do not paint a complete and accurate picture. He maintains that he is successful in his own right having built Global Destiny’s membership to 2,200 strong in two years. He says he put $100,000 of his own money down to start the church. The ministry covers nearly 70,000 square feet of space in an office park.
Q: Why did you become a minister?
A: I was called by the Lord himself in my freshman year in college … Everyone in my family is in ministry. We have pastors, ministers, evangelists, bishops —legacy. It was something that was passed on by a mandate in our family lives. My grandmother and grandfather were in the ministry before they came from the British West Indies to the U.S. My grandfather is the senior bishop in one of the oldest pentecostal denominations in the world.
Q: Tell me how you started the church? Did you start it with your wife?
A: I started it in Washington D.C. 10 years ago. [The church] was known as Promise Ministries International … We extended the ministry to Georgia in January 2006. We had four churches I was pastoring this year until August. They were Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angles and London. Because of the situation, I have put other pastors over those churches because of my need to be over this house.
Q: How did you meet Juanita Bynum?
A: She came and spoke at a conference in 1998, one of my father’s conferences … Praise Power Celebration.
Q: How long did you date before you got married?
A: We dated sincerely about six weeks. Both of us had been through a number of things in our prior relationships …We thought it would be best per her request, to go ahead and get married … My family history was very clear, solid. She said out of her own mouth it’s like marrying a pedigree of legacy. There were no outstanding issues or things that were kind of quirks for her to take major second guesses … We wouldn’t have dated each other if she didn’t think I was marriage material or vice versa.
Q: When did you get divorced from your first wife?
A: I received divorce papers from my first wife in 1998.
Q: How long were you married before you began to have problems in your relationship?
A: As any couple, we had problems immediately … You make the adjustments as you go through marriage. When did we come to major problems? I’d say within two years. We dealt with it and made adjustments … There was pressure from outsiders … If people did not interfere with where [we] wanted to go with our relationship early on, it probably could have developed into something tremendous.
Q: It has been said that you were having financial troubles when you met Bynum. Did she help you out of debt?
A: She became a supporter of the ministry … Juanita Bynum is a great giver. From there we were able to continue to grow.
Q: Did you want to get married on television?
A: Over 80 million people watched the wedding … I think the wedding gave a very tasteful presentation of her desire to present a wedding at the level of Juanita Bynum.
Q: You said she asked you to marry her. How did she pop the question?
A: It was over a telephone call one afternoon. She was sharing her heart … We got married in July [July 21, 2002] … in Las Vegas at the courthouse … The major TV wedding that was on TBN was in April 2003. It was Juanita’s desire to do it that way.
Q: Why did you wait before you announced your marriage?
A: The first word she said to me after we got married is she felt like she was stuck … She wanted to make an adjustment into marriage. She wanted to be married a year before we told people. She wanted to keep her base. She is the queen of “No More Sheets” so how would all the women who support her ministry, who are single, feel about her getting married. A note was put on her car from someone that said they knew that we were married … she decided to make an announcement … on TBN.
Q: Why did your wife seek a separation and send you the cease and desist letter?
A: She requested a separation in June via … fax. The separation was over a studio … Juanita thought I was holding back a studio from her. It was a very strong disagreement about steps and processes.
Q: Did you have incidents of abuse in your relationship?
A: There were moments of dysfunction, not physical abuse. Certainly there was heated fellowship. … I never hit or did anything to physically harm her. I have been the one that has been physically abused. I kept it quiet and silent for over 90 days. I have been struck on the face and in the head … with a fist. I have been choked … We had gone to counseling.
Q: Did you give your wife those bruises in an attack on Aug. 21?
A: I did not choke my wife, I did not beat my wife, I did not kick nor stomp her. A woman said to be kicked, punched, choked and brutally beaten by her husband, does she show up at the hospital four hours later … and refuse to let the police take official pictures of all of the bruises?
Q: Are you grooming a successor [at Global Destiny] while you go and defend your criminal charges?
A: There are other great leaders here that can handle the ministry.
Q: Before this happened, how many members did Global Destiny have?
A: Over 3,400. We lost 1,600 members in this church alone. It started in June … absolutely in August.
Q: Was there a separation or attempt at divorce other than this one?
A: There had been 10-day to two-week separations. The first divorce papers that Juanita prepared was because some adviser in her life concocted a story that I was gay; never have been one fraction of a second. She retracted that … before the major wedding that was on TV.
Q: Why did you write and then pull the book “What Love Taught Me” [from publication]?
A: Juanita made a statement that when she heard about the book she felt like she had been hit in the head by a bat. That got back to me. I felt the pain of what she said. That is why I apologized to her. I started focusing putting tog[the book] after the Essence [article about Bynum]. That was nothing but a … villianization of who I am as a person.ether
Q: There is a restraining order in effect, but in your [online] apology last week it appears that you both have been communicating?
A: I have never been able to contact her and I have not attempted to … She sent me a prayer shawl … [and] text messages. People don’t think I have text messages from her but I have more than 100 … from Aug. 1 to Oct. 27 …. the night before my 10-year anniversary [as a minister].
Q: Would you like to reconcile with your wife?
A: I would like for us to be friends in the future. I don’t think there is an absolute possibility that we will never reconcile.
Dec. 19, 2007
D. Aileen Dodd