Page 4 of 5   <       >

In Va., a Powerful and Polarizing Pastor

Former members and church leaders say power essentially rests with Scott.

"If there was anyone in a pastoral position who didn't agree with Star, he was eliminated and often disparaged from the pulpit," Ernst said. Scott "would say, 'God is leading us in this direction, and you are holding us back.' "

Financial Concerns

When Bobby and Katie Timms were in elementary school at Calvary, they said, they were told not to come to class because their parents had fallen behind on tithing -- a mandatory 10 percent of a family's income. Their father had lost his job, but the church would accept that as an excuse only if the family were willing to turn over all its financial information.

All of the former members interviewed told of fundraising campaigns in which they were required to tithe 15 or 20 percent of their earnings for special projects, including one five years ago to expand and remodel the sanctuary. But many of the projects never materialized, they said.

"At the time, I didn't connect the dots. All I knew was, he has all these cars and where is the building?" said Bobby Timms, 19, who attends Northern Virginia Community College. He blames Calvary for his parents' breakup, saying church leaders urged his father to divorce his mother after she left the church.

L. Steve Gardner, associate pastor at Calvary, said the sanctuary project hasn't begun because more funding is needed. "Is money being spent on things other than the building? No," he said. "They are misrepresenting because they are bitter."

Scott's decision to leave the Assemblies of God removed a level of financial oversight, and he eliminated boards and public votes, former members said. Calvary's constitution calls for finances to be administered "by the presiding elder and/or recognized Apostle." Scott holds both positions, according to court documents. The constitution also says that if the church closes, all property will be controlled by the apostle.

The church owns $8.5 million in property, according to land records, including the church site, worth about $5.7 million, and six houses in Loudoun where church employees live, including Scott's 3,400-square-foot home with a pool, worth about $550,000.

Calvary pastors owned at least two of the homes and sold them to the church at a loss, according to land records. Former assistant pastor Richard Miller sold his home to the church in 2000 for $32,000, less than he and his wife had paid for it 11 years earlier.

Miller, who still is a member of the church and lives in the home, did not return calls requesting comment. Scott said the pastors willingly turned over their property to the church in an attempt to "take a poverty vow."

'Automotive Outreach'

With the free hand given to him by congregants, Scott launched a ministry in the early 1990s that dovetailed with a favorite hobby: expensive cars.

He bought Corvettes, Ferraris, dragsters, souped-up motorcycles and trucks, many of which are on view on the ministry Web site. The site describes the racing ministry, named Finish the Race, as "an automotive outreach."


<             4        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company