Bob Coy Sex Scandal: Florida's Worst Religious Leaders
The recent news that Bob Coy, charismatic founder of Fort Lauderdale's Calvary Chapel, abruptly resigned over what the church is calling a "moral failing," has rocked believers and parishioners everywhere.
Under Coy's leadership, Calvary Chapel became the second-largest megachurch in Florida and the 14th-largest megachurch in America.
But Florida is no stranger to pastors and evangelists not exactly living up to their biblical-calling standards.
The two biggest culprits in their collective downfalls appear to be the demons of greed and lust. Turns out, the Sunshine State is home to a plethora of dudes who were totally BFFs with Jesus until they wanted to bang a lady who wasn't their wife or to take other people's money.
Here now are Florida's ten worst pastors:
10. Gaston Smith The well-dressed pastor, who served at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City in Miami, was convicted in 2009 of ganking $10,000 in county funds that were supposed to go to the city's poor. Smith faced up to five years in prison but received five years' probation and monitoring instead. He was also ordered to repay the money.
9. Sam Hinn Orlando-based the Gathering Place pastor Sam Hinn was forced to step down after admitting to adultery in 2013.
Hinn, brother of famed televangelist Benny, said he had allowed himself "to be drawn into a relationship that has caused much hurt and pain to my wife and family. I have repented and asked for and received their forgiveness. Scripture states that I must bring forth the fruit of repentance if I expect to be restored." Eight months after the scandal, Hinn was restored as a pastor at the Church on the Living Edge in Longwood, Florida.
8. David Loveless Loveless was pastor at the Orlando-based megachurch Discovery Church, and was called "one of the top 20 Christian leaders in the U.S. to watch" before he was forced to step down for adultery in 2013.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the immediate resignation of our lead pastor, David Loveless, following his acknowledgment of his participation in a wrongful relationship over multiple years with a woman not his wife," Discovery's elders wrote in a statement at the time.
7. Mark Gardner The pastor for the Northside Church of God in Miami was kicked out of the congregation after it was learned he took out four loans against the church totaling $520,246.73 between 2009 and 2011, which he, of course, never repaid. The interest on the loans eventually accumulated to $78,699.01. The church was eventually forced to change its locks to keep Gardner out.
6. Francisco Rios Rios, a pastor at a Bradenton church, was arrested for sexually molesting three women. The victims, ages 12, 17, and 43, each discovered that the were assaulted by the same man -- Rios -- while speaking with each other about their ordeals. The 17-year-old victim says she was molested by Rios on 15 occasions. One blog asked the church's leaders to pray for Rios' demon of lust to leave his body.
5. Michael Ward This Florida pastor was busted after being embroiled in a prostitution ring in 2014. According to authorities, Ward contacted an undercover cop and arranged to meet with her for paid sex. After Ward told the fake hooker what he wanted and how he would pay for it, he was arrested and charged with procuring for prostitution, a second-degree misdemeanor.
4. Steve Flockhart A pastor at First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Flockhart was forced to resign in 2006 after it was learned he lied on his résumé to become pastor. The resignation came just one month after he was hired. The fibs came in the form of Flockhart claiming that he had bachelor's and master's degrees from two institutions and that he was working on another master's and doctorate at another institution.
Neither of those things ended up being true. What was true, however, was that Flockhart had been caught lying before this scandal. A Georgia-based church he worked for previously had filed a lawsuit accusing Flockhart of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from them.
3. Isaac Hunter A senior pastor at Summit Church in Orlando and son of presidential spiritual adviser Joel Hunter, Isaac, was forced to resign after admitting to carrying on an affair with a staff member in 2012.
At the time, the church wrote to parishioners that the popular Hunter's "moral failing" had "made it impossible for him to continue in ministry."
One week after he admitted to the affair, his wife filed a restraining order against Hunter, accusing him of physical abuse and of threatening her with a gun while intoxicated.
A year after his resignation, Hunter took his own life.
2. Robert Tilton The Fort Lauderdale-based Tilton is infamous for being the snake-oil salesman most people see church leaders to be. He's been accused of swindling people of millions and claimed he spoke in tongues in order to get a $1,000 vow from followers in exchange for "prosperity." It apparently worked. Tilton spent his followers' money extravagantly and once claimed that "if Jesus Christ were alive today and walking around, he wouldn't want his people driving Volkswagens and living in apartments."
Tilton hosted the television show Success-N-Life where all he did was ask followers for money. Eventually, when people learned that their checks weren't giving anyone but Tilton blessings, the lawsuits came.
1. Bob Coy Coy, charismatic founder of Calvary Chapel, which was planted in Fort Lauderdale in 1985 and has since blown up into one of the biggest and richest churches in the U.S., abruptly resigned over the weekend over what the church is calling a "moral failing."
As it turns out, the "moral failing" reportedly came down to Coy's penchant for porn and adultery. According to another faith blog, Phoenix Preacher, Coy "admitted to at least two affairs in the past year alone and has had a longstanding "problem with pornography."
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.
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