Nasty Fight Over Control of a Megachurch

The widow of megachurch pastor Zachery Tims Jr. sued the church she co-founded with her late ex-husband, in a nasty spat to try to keep control of the New Destiny Christian Center Church, Inc.

Courthouse News Service reports

Riva Tims sued the church, its board members Sam Anderson, Marguerite and Fred Esannason and the church’s new pastor, Paula White, who took the pulpit on New Year’s Eve.

Tims claims White ran her previous church into the ground, accumulating $26 million in debt, and that despite this proof of White’s “incompetence,” the board, in a “wide-ranging conspiracy,” hired her anyway, “as president of a megachurch with assets in excess of $4 million dollars.”

Tims sued on Dec. 29, seeking an injunction to keep White out. But White presided over a New Year’s Eve service, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

In her complaint in Orange County Court, Tims says: “The defendant White was the spiritual mother of the deceased Pastor Zachery Tims Jr., and by virtue of this position or intimate relationship” she became, with the board, “an active co-conspirator in a conspiracy or perhaps multiple conspiracies, acting separately or in concert at the same time, to control, monopolize and manipulate the tool and function business to the detriment of plaintiff and others qualified to be the succeeding pastor of New Destiny, by virtue of single handily [sic] and without the consensus of the congregation, appointing a new pastor.”

Tims claims she should be the pastor, and the congregation should have had a vote on it.

According to her complaint, she and her husband founded New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla., in 1996 after leaving their church in Baltimore. The church grew from six members to more than 8,000, according to its website.

The Timses went through a public divorce in 2008, amid gossip about Zachery’s infidelity. Riva then began Majestic Life Ministries, while Zachery stayed on at New Destiny. They have four children.

Zachery Tims was found dead in a New York hotel room in August 2011. Investigators promised to release results of a toxicology report, but Tims’ mother filed an injunction to prevent release of the cause of death.

As the church board pondered whom to hire to replace Zachery Tims, the public eye turned upon his ex-wife and White, who co-founded Without Walls International Church in Tampa.

The church hired White and Riva Tims sued on Dec. 29.

Tims calls White’s appointment unlawful and “part of a wide-ranging conspiracy.”

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This post was last updated: Feb. 8, 2012