Preying on the Congregation

Pastor Stedroy Williams' house of worship has become a house divided as some members insist he sexually harassed women

In a taped statement, Williams gave police a different version of events. He denied making advances. He did pull into a parking lot, he said, but that was because the girl said she needed to talk to him. She cried as she told him her cousin had touched her inappropriately and that another man had exposed himself to her, Williams said. Offering comfort, he hugged her for two minutes.

Child-molestation cases are particularly challenging because, short of providing physical evidence, an attorney has only the complainant's testimony on which to rely. Ricky says he believes his daughter, despite Williams' denials. "Why would my daughter lie?" he asks. His daughter is fine, he adds, but he worries that she may have lasting emotional scars. "I didn't get any satisfaction from the police."

Williams may be suffering, however. Attendance at his church has been steadily shrinking since the December fallout, according to parishioners. And the pastor has temporarily stepped down from the pulpit, allowing Beerom to fill in. He's still running the ministry, however, and he attends every service and never made good on his promise to get treatment, parishioners say. "He said it was too expensive," says one former member of the church who recently left after attending for seven years.

A month after gracing the cover of The Gospel Truth newspaper, Williams nearly lost his church
A month after gracing the cover of The Gospel Truth newspaper, Williams nearly lost his church

Williams also continues to deliver fiery sermons Monday through Friday during a ten-minute radio show for which he buys time on WEXY-AM (1520), an all-religious station. The show serves a vital purpose, says a former church singer, in luring new parishioners into the fold. During a recent broadcast, Williams sounded like he was gearing up for a battle worthy of King David to save his church.

"God has given us the spirit of vengeance," he boomed in early February. "Before we can fight a war, we must understand what we are fighting…. There are a lot of people who are out there to destroy. But you and I have been given the power of God to fight against the kingdom of darkness."

Ricky doesn't go to Grace Christian World Church anymore. He now attends a larger Pentecostal church in the area, the Plantation Worship Center, where he feels his family is safe. He says he's almost sorry McPherson stopped him from killing Williams that Sunday night in December. He won't say how he would have done the job, only that he did not bring a gun with him.

"I'm from Jamaica," he says, "and when something like this happens there, we take care of it ourselves."

Contact Julie Kay at her e-mail address:

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