More than one-and-a-half years after her former husband was found dead inside a New York City hotel room, Riva Tims tells a lifestyle magazine that she believes the late Florida megachurch pastor, Zachery Tims, did not have a struggle with substance abuse, but it was his "lifestyle."
"I thought that was stuff in the past. I didn't realize it was still current. I found out for sure about the affairs and substance abuse at the same time. When he started telling me stuff, I began to dig and other things came out," Ebony quotes Riva Tims as saying in its latest issue.
"I had no idea it was so much. I'll put it this way: It's one thing to have a struggle; it's another thing to have a lifestyle," adds Riva Tims, who along with Zachery Tims founded New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) in Apopka, Fla., in 1996. "When it's a struggle, there's grace. But when it's a lifestyle, there's no grace."
She also says she was perhaps an enabler while married to the NDCC senior pastor. "Looking back, he probably felt like he could just do anything. I was an enabler in a sense."
Titled, "What Really Happened to Pastor Zachery Tims," the story in Ebony also carries quotes from friends on what could have led to his death on Aug. 12, 2011.
Police at the time said Zachery Tims was discovered on the floor of a room in the W Hotel in Times Square. An autopsy conducted on his body was inconclusive, but reports surfaced that a small glassine envelope holding white powder was found on the pastor.
Ebony remarks that with the late pastor's mother demanding that the medical examiner not release the autopsy report, the mystery may never be solved.
According to his biography on NDCC's website, Zachery Tims had a troubled youth before he was "miraculously saved, instantly delivered from drug addiction, and called into ministry."
Pastor Tims was very open about his struggle with substance abuse and his violent youth. In his book, It's Never Too Late, he thanks Jesus Christ for saving him and for using his life as a testimony to let others know that "God is in the recycling business and can change a messed-up life and make it beautiful."
When the pair divorced in 2009, Riva Tims left NDCC to found her own ministry, Majestic Life Ministries. But following her former husband's death, she filed a lawsuit against NDCC, claiming it was her "heritage and legacy," after Paula White was appointed as the new senior pastor last January.
In a public statement, NDCC said it wishes the best for Riva Tims and her ministry, but that she has no legal grounds to make claim over the church. "Obviously, we are saddened by the course of action Pastor Riva Tims as chosen to pursue. Her lawsuit is completely without merit and we are extremely confident in our legal standing."
Riva Tims has said, "My concern, as the mother of the children of the late Dr. Zachery Tims Jr., Zoelle, Zachery III, Zahria and Zion Tims is that they will never have an opportunity to receive the inheritance their father left for them. As the co-pastor to many that were birthed into the Kingdom of God at NDCC my concern is that the legacy and vision of NDCC will be abandoned."