Growing in Grace Archive

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More trouble for fiery ‘Antichrist’ preacher

The South Florida preacher who gained fame after declaring himself to be Jesus Christ has fared poorly in divorce court.

The Christmas season was not kind to the self-proclaimed Antichrist.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, who gained international notoriety by declaring himself first to be Jesus Christ, then the Antichrist, roundly lost his divorce court bid to protect his church from financial claims by his most recent ex-wife.

Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Roberto Pineiro essentially ruled that de Jesus’ Growing in Grace church was his personal business, rather than a religious nonprofit organization, and awarded Josefina de Jesus Torres the more than $2.2 million she sought in the divorce — the amount her lawyer deemed was half the assets of her ex-husband and his church.

”I think the judge did what was right and awarded Josefina what she was entitled to under the law,” said Torres’ lawyer, Norman Segall. “The church has millions of dollars . . . and I’m sure if [de Jesus] issues an edict from up above that he needs money, it’s available to resolve the situation.”

The ruling marks a downturn in the fortunes of the colorful preacher, one that affects not just him but others in his life. His daughter, JoAnn de Jesus, is fighting contempt charges related to the case. His father and first wife face possible eviction from properties held in his and the church’s names that the judgment awarded to Torres if he doesn’t pay up this month.

De Jesus disappeared in August, when the judge declared him in contempt of court and ordered him to surrender to authorities for not paying Torres $15,000 a month in alimony. The divorce trial went ahead without him that month.

JoAnn de Jesus has since testified that her father has been living in Houston — in a house that Torres could soon own, according to the ruling.

De Jesus’ lawyer, Leonardo Renaud, is in the process of appealing the ruling and is filing a request to halt the property transfers until the appeal is heard.

De Jesus exploded into popularity — and controversy — in the past few years after he declared himself to be Christ. He later claimed that his teachings replaced those of Jesus and so he should be called the Antichrist. He and his followers then began tattooing themselves with ”666,” a practice that generated protests and headlines.

Growing in Grace has since expanded to more than 300 churches in 30 countries, with de Jesus’ sermons broadcast by satellite to thousands of households worldwide.

During the trial, de Jesus’ representatives argued that neither he nor the church were as rich as Torres’ team claimed, especially since the value of many of the properties have fallen in the past two years. They also said that donations have dropped since the start of divorce proceedings, with the revelation of de Jesus’ tangled finances, including disclosures that he paid his first wife’s alimony with church funds.

Many of his followers believe that de Jesus’ divorce court difficulties are further proof that he is Jesus’ Second Coming, quoting biblical prophecies of persecution such as Luke 17:25, which says “first, He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

”These life events are further proof that Jose Luis de Jesus is the reincarnation of the same spirit that dwelled in Jesus of Nazareth,” said church member and spokesperson Axel Poessy. “We are privileged to be witnessing the days of the Son of Man, the last manifestation of God on Earth, who is here to reign over all nations.”

In explaining his decision to treat de Jesus’ and the church’s finances as one, the judge wrote that de Jesus “dominates the ministry like only a god can. . . . In what other corporation does the board of directors literally worship the president?”

Daughter JoAnn de Jesus, the ministry’s finance manager, potentially faces contempt charges at a Jan. 21 hearing when she must explain why the church has not complied with an order to deduct Torres’ alimony from de Jesus’ salary.

De Jesus owes Torres $121,000 in back alimony, above and beyond the divorce judgement.

Shortly after the judge issued the August deduction order, JoAnn de Jesus switched her father from a salary of approximately $21,000 a month to paying him as a private contractor, with monthly payments of about $12,000 a month. She began writing those checks to cash, which she then used to pay his bills.

In a November deposition, she said that she cut his salary because the church was in financial trouble, not because she was trying to avoid paying Torres’ alimony.

JoAnn de Jesus said the church has been kicked out of its Doral location and is being sued by the landlord for $80,000. The church now has a new meeting hall in Hialeah. She said that de Jesus — who often boasted of his lavish lifestyle and the ”box . . . of Rolexes” provided by donations from his followers — had closed one of his local bank accounts and had a negative balance in another.

– Source: More trouble for fiery ‘Antichrist’ preacher, Casey Woods, Miami Herald, Jan. 13, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also

Life with the Antichrist: The wife of a controversial Miami-based preacher is divorcing him but staying married to his teachings. (Miami Herald, June 28, 2007)
More about Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda (Apologetics Index)

Antichrist misses court date, but divorce case goes on without him

Fiery preacher a divorce court no-show

The Antichrist is on the lam.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, the Doral-based church leader who first claimed to be Christ, then the Antichrist, disappeared after he was declared in contempt of court for failure to pay alimony to his soon-to-be ex-wife. Their divorce trial went ahead without him this week, with wife Josefina de Jesus Torres alleging abuse, abandonment and infidelity.

She’s seeking half of both the Growing in Grace church assets and his personal property, which her attorneys argue are the same because they claim de Jesus controls the church’s finances.

Torres’ number: $2.2 million.

Miami civil court Judge Roberto Pineiro, who is presiding over the case, had ordered de Jesus to pay up or surrender to authorities by Aug. 6 after he failed to pay five months of alimony — more than $72,000 — to Torres.

De Jesus’ attorney, Gregory Betancourt, told The Miami Herald that Torres’ accusations of mistreatment are part of a gold-digging legal strategy.

De Jesus ”categorically denies all those claims,” Betancourt said, adding that he has not spoken to his client for more than two weeks. ”She just wants to obtain as much money as she possibly can,” Betancourt said.

The three-day divorce trial ended on Friday, and Pineiro asked both lawyers to submit settlement proposals within three weeks, after which he will rule.

The Growing in Grace empire, which has spread to 300 churches in more than 30 countries, attained international notoriety in the past two years after de Jesus declared himself to be Jesus Christ. De Jesus, 62, later claimed the title of Antichrist because, he argued, as he is the Second Coming, his teachings supersede those of Jesus. He and other followers got ”666” tattoos to illustrate their devotion.

Testimony in his divorce case ranged from the spiritual — with one church leader explaining why he now considers de Jesus to be God — to the sordid, with Torres claiming that during their marriage de Jesus cast her off for another woman in Houston — a woman his inner circle now calls his “wife.”

Torres, 45, also claimed he pushed her against a fence on one occasion and emotionally abused her by threatening to send ”angels of destruction” to her and her children.

”He didn’t hit me, but in my mind he destroyed me,” she said. “In that moment, I believed he was chosen by God with power over angels.”

Betancourt and church board members say that the church’s wealth is far less than Torres’ legal team claims and that as a nonprofit religious institution, it should not be considered his property. They also say donations have dropped since the start of the divorce proceedings — along with its revelations about de Jesus’ financial situation, including the annual $144,000 alimony he is paying to his first wife and the $15,000 monthly alimony he has been ordered to pay Torres.

De Jesus’ daughter, JoAnn de Jesus, the ministry’s finance manager, testified that because of the drop in donations, the church is two months behind on the rent at its Doral headquarters and she is hoping for ”a miracle” that will allow them to stay. Several church members implied that Torres’ statements criticizing de Jesus in the press played a role in the financial problems.

Betancourt highlighted de Jesus’ other financial difficulties, including possible tax penalties de Jesus faces after the divorce court revelations about his finances, which include using charitable donations to pay alimony to his first wife and to purchase properties in his and his relatives’ names.

De Jesus’ tax attorney testified that, based on his interactions with an Internal Revenue Service investigator, he believes a fraud investigation is under way. A spokeswoman for the IRS said she could not confirm or deny the existence of an inquiry.

The interactions outside the courtroom also have grown increasingly nasty over the course of the divorce case. The Growing in Grace press team recently sent e-mails to reporters with links to video interviews with a woman who claims she was Torres’ lesbian lover when Torres met de Jesus. The Colombian woman, Maria Teresa Charry, said Torres set out to entrap de Jesus and take his money, a sentiment echoed among his followers.

Segall said he hasn’t seen the video but said it is another attempt by the church to discredit Torres.

”They’re trying to pin the alleged fact that the church is not doing as well on her, when everyone knows that isn’t true,” he said.

– Source: Fiery preacher a divorce court no-show, Casey Woods, Miami Herald, Aug. 23, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Theologically, Creciendo en Gracia (Growing in Grace) is a cult of Christianity. This term is used of a group or organization whose central teachings and/or practices are claimed to be biblical, but which are in fact unbiblical.

See Also:
‘Jesus Christ Man’ faces flock — and divorce (Photo gallery at the Miami Herald)