One Church Sues Another For “Stealing” Members
Who is responsible when a church sues a Christian? The pastor of the church? The elders (if there are any)? Or does responsibility for such a thing fall on the entire congregation, meaning everyone who supports the church in any way?
It’s a question to consider in view of the fact that Without Walls International Church, of Tampa, Florida, has recently filed suit against Randy L. Coggins, pastor of Bridge of Hope church in nearby Lakeland, Florida. The lawsuit alleges that Pastor Coggins made “derogatory statements and allegations” while he was an executive pastor of Without Walls International Church (WWIC), and accused him of stealing church members from WWIC for his own church.
Paula White is the multi-millionaire senior pastor of the mega-church, WWIC. She divorced the church’s co-founder, Randy White in 2007, and in 2010 she was photographed walking hand-in-hand with famed faith healer Benny Hinn while the two of them were in Rome, where they allegedly spent several nights at a hotel together under assumed names. Hinn was later divorced by his wife, and sued by his publisher for violation of a morality clause in their contract because of his alleged affair with White.
Paula White is also a well known preacher of the prosperity gospel. WWIC’s website includes a “Tithes and Offering” page, where those who wish to do so may donate via credit card. Donations categories listed below the credit card section include “Tithe. Offering. Atonement Offering.” The WWIC website also offers this description of the senior pastor:
“Paula White is a Pastor, Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Author, Philanthropist, TV Personality, Mother, Preacher and Teacher. Behind her unassuming beauty and gentle, girlish charm is a story of tragedy and triumph, poverty and prosperity. She has overcome tumultuous early years to dedicate her life to helping others transform their circumstances, and discover God’s unique plan of destiny for their lives.”
According to The Christian Post article at the link above, Pastor Coggins offered the following response to questions about the lawsuit: “I just pray this will be able to be resolved in a godly and Christian manner. These are churches we’re talking about, and churches are not supposed to engage in this arena.”
We believe Pastor Coggins comments are probably based on the warnings in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, which includes the following:
“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (1 Corinthains 6:7-8 NIV)
It seems clear “Pastor” White has no intention of obeying this part of her Bible. It also seems clear she has chosen to ignore Christ’s teachings about marriage and money. But what about her many followers? What responsibility does a Christian have who fails to exercise discernment when their pastor behaves this way? Are members of a congregation accountable for their pastor’s misbehavior when they know about it, but continue to support them anyway? Is a modern congregation called to obey Jesus’ command to his own followers:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)
We believe this is no mere suggestion. It is a command from God Almighty, and Christians have an obligation to obey it to the best of their ability.