Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, has released a 22-page report with the findings of the investigation into its former leaders, Stovall and Kerri Weems. The report finds Stovall Weems guilty of fraud, narcissism and “rampant spiritual and emotional abuse.”
“The single word used most frequently to describe Stovall Weems was: narcissist,” says Nelson Mullins, a U.S. law firm and lobby group that conducted the investigation. “When asked to describe Weems, nearly every witness we interviewed used that specific word. Many witnesses detailed, often through tears, instances when Weems personally belittled and humiliated them for minor mistakes or misunderstanding Weems’ inconsistent and confusing directives.” The authors continue,
Worse, Weems created and fostered an environment in which he was not subject to accountability. Many witnesses explained that the first rule to survive at the Church was “We don’t say no to Pastor.” In this way, he was able to impose his will on others to force their compliance with his demands. Neither Stovall nor Kerri Weems served anyone at the Church. Instead, they demanded others to serve them – the antithesis of Christ-like personal sacrifice and service to others.
Stovall Weems Guilty of Fraud, Abuse, Says Report
In January 2022 Celebration Church suspended Stovall and Kerri Weems, who helped found the church in 1998, and commissioned an investigation into their leadership. On Feb. 23, the couple filed a lawsuit for injunctive relief against Celebration, making requests that include the restoration of their base salary, benefits and back pay and the restoration of the status quo to what it was when the church suspended Weems.
Celebration Church responded with a motion to dismiss the injunction, alleging that it “presents the latest chapter in a campaign of deception, manipulation, distraction, and abuse of power by Stovall and Kerri Weems against Celebration.”
On April 15, Stovall Weems resigned from his roles at the church and published a statement in which he said that Celebration Church’s leadership has abandoned “the clear biblical principles and scriptural qualifications for spiritual covering, spiritual authority, and ecclesiastical governance and oversight.”
On Sunday, April 24, Celebration Church released the Nelson Mullins report. It says:
Our investigation included an extensive analysis of thousands of pages of documents and more than 20 interviews with current and former senior leadership team members, staff members, former Trustees, and other advisors and consultants. Each interview was conducted with witnesses who had direct, first-hand knowledge of the events discussed. These interviews were, and remain, confidential and privileged under the attorney-client communication privilege and the work product doctrine… All testimony referenced in this report was corroborated by multiple witnesses or by documentation.
Stovall and Kerri Weems refused to be interviewed for the investigation as well as to recognize the its legitimacy, say the authors. “At every stage in the process, the Weemses have actively opposed and attempted to undermine the investigation process and prevent its completion.”
The report begins by outlining the governance of Celebration Church and the duties of its senior pastor, explaining that an earlier report conducted by Network King in November 2020 found a number of problems with the Weemses’ leadership, including a lack of accountability, general disorganization, and poor strategization and expectation management. These issues are only magnified in the findings from Nelson Mullins.