(Photo: Paula White Ministries)
Accusations have been swirling since last week that Paula White, pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., was not simply assisting Zachery Tims' megachurch in its search for a new senior pastor, but might actually be positioning herself to take charge at New Destiny Christian Center as its leader.
When The Christian Post spoke with New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) earlier this month about who would be installed as the new senior pastor in place of Tims, a top church official revealed that the announcement would be made on New Year's Eve.
Minister Samuel Anderson, executive administrator at NDCC, said during a Dec. 5 discussion with The Christian Post that the new pastor – whoever he or she is – would begin his or her leadership duties at the Apopka, Fla., megachurch beginning Jan. 1.
Anderson said then that the board of bishops was still in the process of choosing Tims' successor.
Tims was found dead Aug. 12 in a New York City hotel room. The cause of his death has not been made public, as the late pastor's mother, Madeline Tims, has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep the City of New York from divulging that information.
When Anderson was asked on Friday, Dec. 16, if church administrators had reached a decision regarding Tims' successor, CP was told that the board of bishops overseeing the selection was "still in the process" of making a final choice.
CP was recently informed by a concerned party claiming to have "friends at New Destiny Christian Center" that White was allegedly "strong arming her way as the new installed pastor there."
CP was also directed to a Twitter comment from Kevin Bond, an award-winning gospel music producer, who tweeted Thursday, Dec. 15: "Congratulations to Pastor Paula White, New Destiny's New Senior Pastor." Bond added the hashtag "#RipDrZach."
Those who noticed Bond's congratulatory tweet to the Without Walls International Church leader expressed confusion, surprise and dismay with NDCC's alleged pick as its new senior pastor.
When CP reached out to NDCC on Friday, Dec. 16 for a comment on Bond's surprising claim, Anderson said, after some hesitation, "I cannot comment on that."
It was revealed months ago, when NDCC began forming its selection committee and stipulations for potential candidates for a senior pastor, that White was providing church officials with advice and spiritual guidance.
In addition to Bond's tweet, another observer took to Twitter, claiming to have first-hand knowledge of White's installation at New Destiny. Carolyn Brissett, whose connection to NDCC is unknown, tweeted Dec. 17: "For those of u who believe that it is a rumor that Paula White is the 'New Pastor' of New Destiny, this is actually TRUE!"
Brissett claimed in another tweet that her heart was "full" and that she had been "[holding] this thing in since Wednesday." She added, "I love Dr. Zach, [and] to see her do this to his flock."
Even more startling, are comments from Bishop Ira V. Hilliard, a well-known and influential Texas minister who leads New Light Christian Center Church in Houston, who has also resigned from the board of bishops charged with aiding NDCC in its transitional process.
Hilliard released a video of a sermon he preached at NDCC during a Dec. 4 visit to Tims' church. In his introduction to the video, which appears to have been made available on New Light's website on Thursday, Dec. 15, Bishop Hilliard states:
"Recently, I had an opportunity to minister at the New Destiny Christian Center where the late Zachery Tims gave oversight. As many of you know, the church has been in search for a new pastor to shepherd this congregation. I was asked to be a part of a bishop's council that would give wisdom and guidance and counsel to the board during their selection process. ... Now after being involved for some time in the process, I have decided to resign my position on this bishop's council. My commitment to integrity will not allow me to support something that I believe is deception and that compromises previously agreed upon procedures and protocol."
Hilliard, whose Dec. 4 sermon at NDCC focused on how the Bible addresses issues of succession, further stated in the video introduction that "kingdom vision must be followed with integrity for the blessing of God to rest upon it." He added, "Leadership succession in the Scriptures were God-ordained, God-appointed and not the product of manipulation."
In his sermon, the New Light bishop said what New Destiny needed now more than ever were partners, contrasting such people with those whom he categorized as "parasites, players, predators, and participators."
"We know how sensitive this time is. We know how the weak [can] become prey to the predators, we know how this season can be. But you've done well," Hilliard told the New Destiny congregation.
Hilliard further commented Monday morning, saying to his Twitter followers: "Who stands by and watches a theft take place and does not sound the alarm? Only the irresponsible and the uncaring....NDCC members we care."
In addition to Hilliard, other leaders associated with New Destiny have been speaking out, claiming uniformly that White has been lying to the NDCC congregation.
On Monday, Joy105.com published statements written by pastors Rico Sharp and Douglas Chukwuemeka. Pastor Sharp has spoken at NDCC since Tims death. Dr. Chukwuemeka claims to have led Tims to the Lord in 1991, after befriending the Florida pastor one year prior.
Pastor Sharp, who leads Spirit of Truth Worship Ministries in Lake Mary, Fla., published his lenghty letter on Facebook Saturday, writing:
"It is true and of no doubt that Paula White is the new pastor of New Destiny Christian Center. This is not speculation but true. I know!!!!! Pastor Dana and I will be praying for and standing with all of you as things develop. Dr Zach would have never put Paula in this place, neither did they have any relationship for the past four years. I know this because Dr Zach told me that she cut him off when he fell, so therefore he moved on from that connection. There is a malicious story of deception, manipulation, and greed developing and surfacing about Paula White that will totally dishonor The Holy Spirit, Dr Zachary Tims, and the innocence of the NDCC family."
Sharp added: "There is a lot of corruption that has been going on behind closed doors and it hides behind the disguise of prayer, fasting and the voice of God. I personally know that NDCC you have been lied to, misinformed, and not taken to heart during this whole process."
Dr. Chukwuemeka, pastor of New Destiny Christian Church in Laveen, Ariz., revealed in his statement that he has penned an open letter to White as well as the church board and congregation. Chukwuemeka accuses the Without Walls minister of deceiving NDCC when she claimed on Aug. 21, the day after Tims' burial, to have known the charismatic preacher at least 20 years.
Also, Dr. Michael A. Phillips, who has previously been a guest speaker at Tims' church, announced last week that "after prayer and consideration, I have chosen to cancel my time of ministry at New Destiny Christian Center this Thursday evening, December 22, 2011." Phillips, senior leader at Kingdom Life International Center in Orlando, also requested that supporters "join us in keeping New Destiny & its people covered in prayer during their season of transition."
The Christian Post left messages with the ministries of Hilliard and Phillips, as well as with Bond; as of press time, CP's calls had not been returned.
White's role at the Florida megachurch in the wake of Tims' death cannot be underestimated.
It was White who revealed to the NDCC congregation during the first Sunday service after Tims' burial that the preacher, whom she referred to as her "spiritual son," had left instructions that the congregation was to grieve for no more than 30 days for the late pastor, and be ready by the 31st day to continue its work.
There have also been previous reports that the Without Walls International Church leader was serving as interim pastor during NDCC's uncertain transition. NDCC, however, denied those claims.
NDCC also promoted in October an "important service" involving White, in which it was said the service would address the church's "prominent future." White was also present during Hilliard's Dec. 4 appearance at NDCC, and addressed the congregation after the bishop spoke, lauding his sermon.
Some observers struck curious by the claim that White, who has twice divorced, would be leading New Destiny, recalled that NDCC had revealed that a stipulation required the new senior pastor to be married.
When pressed on the issue of the marriage criteria for pastoral candidates, Minister Anderson affirmed that it was indeed one of the stipulations, but added, perhaps philosophically, that "everything is subject to change."
When asked if White was assisting the board of bishops in its selection process, Anderson stated that the Without Walls pastor is still involved in the search for NDCC's new senior pastor, and that potential candidates were still being interviewed.
The Christian Post was unable to speak with White on Dec. 16 and was instructed to call back on Monday, which CP did but was still unable to speak with a representative.
In addition to the apparent controversy surrounding NDCC's selection of a new pastor, there has been speculation that the board of bishops had chosen Shane Perry, Sr. as the church's new leader. Perry, an evangelist of 16 years who lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and three children, has spoken at NDCC on more than one occasion, with his most recent engagement being on Nov. 27.
A message left with Shane Perry Ministries was not returned.
When asked on Dec. 16 to address claims that Perry was the board of bishop's final selection as the church's pastor, NDCC's Minister Anderson declined to say if that was indeed the case.
Prompted further to share if Perry was even on the board's shortlist of candidates, Anderson replied: "I would rather not at this time." Anderson also noted that the board was "still in the process" of making its selection.
The executive administrator was firm that NDCC would not be revealing Tims' successor until Dec. 31.