MONROE — The 62-foot King of Kings statue no longer stretches out its giant arms to motorists on Interstate 75, but a pastor of the Solid Rock Church says the June 14 fire was good PR for what the church is about: Christ.
“His name was mentioned more in the 24 hours after that fire than probably in 2,000 years,” said Lawrence Bishop, 68, who, along with his wife, Darlene, 65, founded the church in 1978.
The fire also shone a spotlight on the Bishops, who built Solid Rock from a dozen congregants in a tin-roofed building with folding chairs into one of the region’s largest churches, with a satellite church east of Cincinnati, a home for troubled women, 13 churches in the Philippines and an orphanage in Brazil. Clearly, the statue outside the church wasn’t the only thing about Solid Rock that’s larger than life.
Internet rumors have it that Lawrence, a rancher, got rich by smuggling bags of cocaine inside the body cavities of his horses. That the colossal King of Kings statue of Jesus that burned June 14 was a stash for drugs. That the church basement contains a stockpile of armaments.
The rumors, ongoing sources of speculation on Internet message boards, demonstrate the passions that the Bishops stir in people. They are the objects of anger and scorn, adoration and devotion.
Plenty of believers subscribe to the Bishops’ conservative, racially inclusive brand of Christianity. Solid Rock has some 3,500 members on the rolls, many of whom attend at least one of three weekly services in a sanctuary built for 2,100. While most area churches tend to draw either blacks or whites, Solid Rock claims a 50-50 racial mix. Services blend African-American gospel, country music, evangelical fervor and high-tech production values.
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The Bishops live on a 100-acre ranch near the church. Lawrence said he made his fortune in the sale of quarter horses, but the family’s religious work also pays handsomely. Solid Rock Church is tax-exempt and doesn’t have to report its finances — including the Bishops’ salaries — in public tax records.
But Darlene earns $250,000 a year from her nonprofit Darlene Bishop Ministries and drives a corporate Land Rover. Lawrence is a bluegrass recording artist with five CDs and a self-produced movie to his credit.
The Bishops have also been a lightning rod for controversy, some of it inside their own family. Darlene became embroiled in a family feud over the estate of her brother, Darrell Wayne Perry, a hit songwriter for Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and the Backstreet Boys. After years of bitter litigation, the estate is to be finalized Monday.
The co-pastor of an Ohio megachurch where a 62-foot-tall Jesus statue was struck by lightning said she will turn her brother’s estate over to her nephew after years of family feuding.
Solid Rock Church co-pastor Darlene Bishop has held control of the estate of her brother, country music songwriter Darrell “Wayne” Perry, who died of throat cancer in 2005 at age 55.
Perry’s four children say Bishop hastened her brother’s death in 2005 by promising to use prayer, instead of medical treatment, to cure his throat cancer.
Sixty-five-year-old Bishop says she encouraged her brother to see a doctor, but he refused.
In one of Bishop’s books, she says God cured her of breast cancer in 1986. Twenty years later, in a court deposition, she said she was never medically diagnosed with the disease, but believes she had it.
Her brother’s children said Bishop used that story to persuade her brother not to seek medical care until it was too late.