Bishop Joseph Walker Could Face More Accusers in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Nashville Pastor's Ministry Also Accused of Fraud, Failing to File Tax Returns
More women could come forward amid allegations that Joseph Walker III, head pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and five other church members subjected women to sexual exploitation for at least a decade, the attorney representing a woman who has sued Walker told The Christian Post.
Mount Zion Baptist Church made headlines last week when a sexual exploitation lawsuit filed against Bishop Walker and five current and former members was made public. The lawsuit, brought by accuser Valencia Batson, also features supporting testimonies from three unidentified female former church members; all four women allege they were sexually exploited and abused during counseling sessions sponsored by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and that church leaders regularly recruited women for exploitation and sex for nearly 10 years.
Connie Allison, Batson's attorney, suggested Monday to The Christian Post that "more and more [women] are emerging" with similar accusations.
While refusing to reveal any information about the identities of the women listed as "Jane Does," Allison emphasized that the women are scared of possible retaliation should their identities become known. Allison referred to Batson as "the bravest human I've ever met." Allison, who is herself Catholic, said her client has unbelievable "spiritual inner strength" that is "breathtaking."
One of the women is a single mother in her 30s, a court employee in Davidson County told CP last week. Another one is a married woman, also in her 30s.
The lawsuit mentions Walker as the defendant, as well as his entire church as an institution and Jerry Luren White, Michael E. Williams, Kerry Edwin Bryant, Darrell Owens, and Kimberly Barton Rankins, all of whom are related to the church. White, for example, is currently the General Overseer of Fiscal Management, according to the church's website.
Adding to the sexual allegations, Bishop Walker's nonprofit organization, J. W. Walker Ministries Inc., reportedly lost its federal tax exemption last month for failing to file tax returns for three years. Church spokesman John Van Mol reportedly denied wrongdoing and said that not filing tax returns was a mistake the charity is trying to rectify.
Walker's nonprofit is also reportedly being investigated for possible fraud. It stands accused of donating funds from the sale of tapes recorded during Walker's sermons to the charity, which then would pay a private production company the minister owns without disclosing his involvement, reported The Tennessean.
CP's messages left with Mount Zion church officials have remained unreturned.
Church officials responded to the sexual exploitation allegations last week by suggesting that the women were only out for money. "It is truly sad that a church and its leaders can be attacked with such shocking and ugly charges when the apparent motive is to extract huge sums of money from the congregation and its leaders," the statement released by church officials last week read.