A bitter financial dispute at a Florida megachurch has gone public, prompting the current pastor to assure congregants they’ll “weather the storm” together. During worship services yesterday, Tim Timberlake, who has been senior pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville since last September, told members, “Your church is okay,” adding that bylaws and trustees are in place to protect the body.
Celebration Church, founded in 1998 by Stovall and Kerri Weems, was previously one of America’s fastest-growing churches. Last month, the couple sued the church for injunctive relief, alleging that a trustee billed the church improperly and, in the process, orchestrated the ouster of Stovall Weems.
The church, in response, has filed a motion to dismiss the injunction, alleging various financial improprieties and “abuse of power” by the couple. On May 20, a civil court hearing is scheduled in the case. No criminal charges have been filed.
Stovall and Kerri Weems: ‘We Have Nothing to Hide’
According to the injunction, in 2018 church member Kevin Cormier told Stovall Weems he was donating $1 million of “in kind” maintenance and construction services to Honey Lake Farms, a non-profit mission of Celebration Church. Eventually, Cormier became a church trustee, a CFO switched roles, and Tim Timberlake took over the responsibilities of the senior pastor.
Then Cormier’s companies began billing Celebration—to the tune of about $700,000. Cormier, the injunction alleges, reneged on his pledge without informing Weems, and in the process told lies and “was setting the scene to oust Pastor Stovall from the very church [he] built.”
In January, immediately after Weems removed some trustees, the church notified him that he was suspended due to “possible improper financial practices and/or failure to fulfill duties and responsibilities.” Now Weems and his wife are seeking back pay, as well as restoration of their base salary and benefits. Stovall Weems also wants to be reinstated as the church’s CEO.
In a statement last week, Stovall and Kerri Weems write, “We could never have imagined that the church we started and nurtured for nearly 25 years would be seized by individuals whom we believe are prioritizing their individual interests in power and money ahead of their duties to Celebration Church and its mission.”
They add, “We have nothing to hide. We are being retaliated against and have been denied a proper investigation according to long-held church by-laws.” The couple, who says they’ve been threatened with arrest if they enter church property, adamantly denies “the utterly baseless and false allegations made against us.”