November 20, 2007 in Nation/World

Family sex scandal rocks megachurch in Georgia

Dorie Turner Associated Press
 
Associated Press photos photo

The names Earl and D.E. Paulk, bishop and senior pastor, respectively, are displayed at the entrance to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church in Decatur, Ga. Associated Press photos
(Full-size photo)

DECATUR, Ga. – The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch is at the center of a sex scandal of biblical dimensions: He slept with his brother’s wife and fathered a child by her.

Members of Archbishop Earl Paulk’s family stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church a few Sundays ago and revealed the secret exposed by a recent court-ordered paternity test.

In truth, this is not the first – or even the second – sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. But this time, he could be in trouble with the law for lying under oath about the affair.

The living proof of that lie is 34-year-old D.E. Paulk, who for years was known publicly as Earl Paulk’s nephew.

“I am so very sorry for the collateral damage it’s caused our family and the families hurt by the removing of the veil that hid our humanity and our sinfulness,” said D.E. Paulk, who received the mantle of head pastor a year and a half ago.

D.E. Paulk said he did not learn the secret of his parentage until the paternity test. “I was disappointed, and I was surprised,” he said.

Earl Paulk, his brother, Don, and his sister-in-law, Clariece, did not return calls for comment.

A judge ordered the test at the request of the Cobb County district attorney’s office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which are investigating Earl Paulk for possible perjury and false-swearing charges stemming from a lawsuit.

The archbishop, his brother and the church are being sued by former church employee Mona Brewer, who says Earl Paulk manipulated her into an affair from 1989 to 2003 by telling her it was her only path to salvation. Earl Paulk admitted to the affair in front of the church last January.

In a 2006 deposition stemming from the lawsuit, the archbishop said under oath that the only woman he had ever had sex with outside of his marriage was Brewer. The paternity test said otherwise.

So far no charges have been filed against Earl Paulk. District Attorney Pat Head and GBI spokesman John Bankhead would not comment.

The results of the paternity test are speeding up a transformation already under way in the church after more than a decade of sex scandals and lawsuits involving the Paulks, D.E. Paulk said.

“It was a necessary evil to bring us back to a God-consciousness,” said the younger Paulk, explaining that the church had become prone to pastor worship.

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