Bishop dogged by abuse allegations dies
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Bishop Earl Paulk, a charismatic preacher brought down by a series of sex scandals, has died. He was 81.
Bishop Earl Paulk died this weekend at 81.
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Paulk died near midnight Saturday at the Atlanta Medical Center, a nursing supervisor confirmed to CNN. The bishop had been at the hospital for several days, she said.
Paulk’s death came after an “extended and horrible battle with cancer,” Paulk’s nephew, Bishop Jim Swilley, wrote in a blog post.
Paulk founded the Chapel Hill Harvester Church in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta. It quickly grew to become one of the first megachurches in the country.
Ex-megachurch head Paulk dies in Atlanta hospital
Bishop Earl Paulk gained the attention of presidents and preached to hundreds of thousands of people, but he may be remembered for the sex scandals that rocked the Atlanta-area megachurch he started.
Paulk, the 81-year-old founder of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill in South DeKalb County, died Sunday at Atlanta Medical Center after battling cancer for years.
His brother, Don Paulk, said Earl Paulk was taken to the hospital Jan. 1 with a blockage of his intestines and never left.
Don Paulk, a retired minister at the Cathedral, said he hoped people would remember his brother for his good works and forgive the scandals. “Preachers are just like anyone else — they’re a man,” he said.
Numerous women have said they slept with Earl Paulk. It was disclosed in 2007 that DNA testing had proved he was the biological father of Don Paulk’s son, the Rev. D.E. Paulk, now leader of the church.
Earl Paulk’s low point may have come in January 2008, when the bishop pleaded guilty to lying under oath by denying affairs with other women. A judge fined Paulk $1,000 and put him on probation for 10 years.
A lawsuit by a former female church employee had sparked the chain of events leading to the guilty plea. Mona Brewer alleged that Paulk coerced her into a 14-year affair.
She said in a telephone interview Sunday that her suit against the church will “absolutely” continue.
Paulk’s influence peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, when he was a national leader among independent charismatic churches. He built a huge, racially integrated congregation at the Cathedral at Chapel Hill. Membership was about 10,000 in the early 1990s.
Paulk enlarged his influence with his books and televised church services. President Ronald Reagan invited Paulk to a White House prayer breakfast, and President George H.W. Bush named Paulk’s public housing ministry one of his thousand points of light.
But the congregation shrank as Paulk’s sexual indiscretions came to light. Officials last year announced that the church campus is on the market for $24.5 million. Its membership had dwindled to about 1,000.