Former Atlanta megachurch pastor Earl Paulk Jr., who helped popularize "kingdom now" theology but was plagued for decades by sexual scandal, died early Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 81.
The founding pastor of what is now known as the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, Paulk was a national leader among independent charismatic churches in the 1980s and 1990s, when his church drew more than 10,000 members and became known worldwide for its racial diversity, creative arts programs and massive, neo-Gothic sanctuary.
Through his books and television ministry, Paulk helped popularize "kingdom now" theology, which teaches that the church, as a manifestation of God's kingdom, should take dominion over every sector of society. But through the years numerous women alleged that Paulk coerced them to have sex with him, saying he told them certain "kingdom relationships" weren't limited to traditional moral boundaries.
In 1992 a church member went public with claims that she was pressured into having a sexual relationship with Paulk's brother, Don Paulk, who at the time served as senior pastor. He admitted to an affair and resigned, but was reinstated three weeks later. The same year several women alleged that a church staff member sexually harassed them during counseling sessions. Another female staff member claimed in 1993 that she had a sexual relationship with Earl Paulk Jr.
In 2001, a female church member filed a lawsuit claiming the bishop sexually molested her when she was a child and later when she was a teenager. That suit was settled out of court in 2003. Last year, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Mona Brewer and her husband, Bobby, alleging that Paulk coerced Mona Brewer into a 14-year affair. The couple and their attorney were ordered to pay more than $1 million in legal fees. But in February, a Georgia appeals court struck down that order and called for new hearings to be held regarding the fees, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The Brewers' case sparked a chain of events that led to Paulk's pleading guilty to lying under oath about having affairs with other women. A paternity test also revealed that Paulk was the father of his nephew, D.E. Paulk, who now leads the 1,000-member congregation."For whatever good he may have done, my uncle had a serious problem with sexual addiction, and never owned it, and never really took any responsibility for it," Paulk's nephew, Bishop Jim Swilley, pastor of Church in the Now in Conyers, Ga., said in a blog posting Sunday. "He died in disgrace, and, unfortunately, will for the most part only be remembered for the scandals." [charismamag.com, 3/30/09] read more