Atlanta megachurch, TV pastor arrested
by Kate Brumback
A prominent megachurch pastor and televangelist — who has drawn scrutiny for his flashy lifestyle and preaching that prosperity is good — was arrested after authorities said he slightly hurt his 15-year-old daughter in a fight at his metro Atlanta home.
Fayette County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of domestic violence at the home of the pastor, Creflo Dollar, in unincorporated Fayette County around 1 a.m. Friday, said investigator Brent Rowan. The pastor and his daughter were arguing over whether she could go to a party when Dollar “got physical” with her, leaving her with “superficial injuries,” Rowan said.
The 15-year-old was the one who called authorities, and her 19-year-old sister corroborated the story, Rowan said.
Dollar faces misdemeanor charges of simple battery and cruelty to children. He bonded out of Fayette County jail Friday morning.
“As a father I love my children and I always have their best interest at heart at all times, and I would never use my hand to ever cause bodily harm to my children,” Dollar said in a statement released by his lawyer Nikki Bonner. “The facts in this case will be handled privately to further protect my children. My family thanks you for your prayers and continued support.”
Dollar will make no further comments since he’s involved in the ongoing criminal matter, but he is expected to preach Sunday, Bonner said.
The 50-year-old leads the Creflo Dollar Ministries and is the pastor for World Changers Church International in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, which serves nearly 30,000 members, according to the church’s website. World Changers Church-New York hosts over 6,000 worshippers each week, the website says. Four satellite churches are located in Georgia along with others in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Washington, Cleveland, Dallas and Houston.
He and his wife Taffi, a co-pastor at the church, have five children, according to the website.
Dollar is a native of College Park and says he received a vision for World Changers Ministries Christian Center in 1986. He held the first service, in front of only eight people, in the cafeteria of Kathleen Mitchell Elementary School in College Park, the website says.
His ministry grew quickly, moved into a modest-sized chapel and was renamed World Changers Church International. The church moved into its present location, an 8,500-seat sanctuary called the World Dome, on Dec. 24, 1995.
Dollar said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press that he renounced his salary from the church, and his income only comes from personal investments, including a real estate residential property business and horse breeding company called Dollar Ranch. He’s published more than 30 books, focusing mostly on family and life issues, including debt management.
“I stopped taking a salary,” he said. “But no one ask the question, ‘Where are you getting your money from?’ Well, I have boxes of invitations to speak. At first, I was glad to preach for anyone. What I didn’t know was I received a love offering for preaching. Back then, it was for $25 bucks. But over the years, people began to appreciate what I was bringing to them.”
He said in the interview that he sometimes got up to $100,000 for a single appearance on his packed schedule of speaking engagements.
“That tells you where my money comes from,” he said.
Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.
“When most people hear prosperity, they hear money,” he said in the 2007 interview. “They’re are not incorrect but are incomplete. When I define prosperity, I define it from a biblical point. If you go into the Hebrew version of the Bible, prosperity is defined as peace, wholeness and continuing well being.”
While Dollar may seem like a contrived name for a man who preaches the prosperity gospel, Dollar is named after his father, Creflo Dollar Sr.
“If I was on the other side and heard some preacher with the name Rev. Dollar, I would probably have some issues as well. It becomes a responsibility,” he said in the 2007 interview. “God must’ve had a sense of humor giving it to me.”
Dollar, who’s known for his pinstriped suits and charismatic sermons, has written several books offering followers his advice on how to get out of debt and take lessons from the Bible in building wealth so they can better live as Christians.
Long and Dollar were among six televangelists investigated by Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley from 2007 to 2010, following questions about personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by megachurch pastors and their families. The report did not find any definitive wrongdoing, but it expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight at such large ministries.
That wasn’t Dollar’s only brush with controversy.
When former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield filed for divorce in 1999, Dollar refused to give a court-ordered statement in the case about how much money Holyfield had given to the church. Janice Holyfield’s lawyer said he had determined that Holyfield gave $403,000 to the church in 1998, and donated $3.9 million in the 60 days before the ex-champ filed for divorce in March 1999.
Dollar’s lawyer said he should not be required to testify because of the separation of church and state, pastor-parishioner privilege and several state and biblical laws. Dollar vowed in sermons at the time not to release the information because he didn’t want to facilitate a divorce.
Dollar was found in contempt of court, but he was not punished because the Holyfields ended up reaching a settlement, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
In December 1999, 100 Fulton County police officers were scolded by the county’s ethics board for accepting $ 1,000 apiece from Dollar, who said he wanted to recognize their service, the newspaper reported at the time. But the gesture came a month after two traffic tickets Dollar had received were downgraded to warnings.