On Easter Sunday, the holiest day of the year in Christianity, a pastor who has sinned will stand before his flock.
Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, the leader of Global Destiny Ministries, will be back at his pulpit in Duluth to remind his Pentecostal congregation that man is not perfect.
Nearly two weeks ago, Weeks, 40, was sentenced to three years probation, 200 hours of community service and anger management classes for the Aug. 21 aggravated assault on his estranged wife, national evangelist Juanita Bynum, 49.
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Weeks makes no excuses for his behavior in the parking lot of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta. He has apologized to Bynum for “losing control” and has apologized to his congregation.
But forgiving Weeks and Bynum for the fall-out surrounding their public split won’t be so easy for some, even on Resurrection Sunday.
Both Weeks and Bynum, headed for divorce, have accused each other of abuse and revealed secrets about their stormy relationship to the national media. Their public battle fractured Global Destiny. It also has spread doubt among some who question whether they could ever be credible leaders of Christian family ministries again.
“When something like this happens, it kind of makes you want to say what’s the point, if they didn’t make it, then all the stuff they were preaching about us learning how to love each other was in vain,” said Robert Graves, a former member of Global Destiny who was the church’s organist. “I have learned not to get caught up into personalities.”
Pentecostal leaders say only time and a deepening of faith can heal the wounds suffered by the church during the Weeks-Bynum abuse case.
“Both of them have been great leaders in ministry,” said Weeks’ mentor Bishop Andrew C. Turner II, leader of Covenant Worship Center of California. Because people tend to “idolize” leaders, says Turner, some Christians have become disillusioned and “turned a cold shoulder to God and to the ministry.”
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, assistant presiding bishop of Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, believes that Weeks and Bynum can sustain their credibility if they humbly seek God in prayer and learn from their mistakes.
“I believe that it all begins with true self-examination, true repentance and seeking God’s face,” said Ellis, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, a 6,500 member church in Detroit.
Weeks said the experience of facing felony charges and the anger management training he will receive will equip him to be a better teacher to couples facing relationship troubles. “What I have walked through has given me a Phd,” he said.
Weeks has shared some of those lessons in the book “What Love Taught Me,” a memoir about his marriage.
Members of Global Destiny who have remained faithful to the church continue to support Weeks and his endeavors. “The way I look at it, we are all human and you are supposed to build one anotherup and not tear one another down,” Margaret Wright, a church member said. “You have to walk in love and go after God for yourself.”
Bynum’s ministry continues to grow despite critics who post messages on Web logs doubting her skill as a “prophetess” because they say she didn’t forsee the trouble she would have married to Weeks. She still packs Pentecostals into pews for prayer services.
In the past month, Bynum has appeared at two prayer workshops in Boston; she spoke at a women’s spirituality and empowerment conference in Texas and has given weekly sermons on her radio show, “Church in the Air,” which is broadcast on Radio 1000, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The show has led to other monthly appearances for Bynum in the city.
Soon, Bynum will be returning to Detroit to resume her weekly 5 a.m. prayer services at Ellis’ $36 million church campus, Greater Grace Temple. Before taking a break, she attracted as many as 2,500 people on Wednesdays in the snow and rain for 14 weeks, said Ellis. “I think that she has a great anointing on her life. We have had 200 to 300 people sleeping overnight in the church beginning in anticipation for the 5 a.m. prayer service.”
Turner, Weeks’ mentor, said he is sure Weeks and Bynum will rebuild their reputations and continue to grow their flocks even if their lives move in different directions.
“Life brings a lot of pressure,” Turner said. “Some of us are not skilled enough to handle it … but Christ loves us when we are good and when we are bad.”