Nearly two months after filing a lawsuit over who controls the 12,000-member Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, founding pastor Stovall Weems announced Monday that he has resigned from all roles he held. within the church, but that he would continue to pursue legal action against the church board. trustees and managers.
In a letter shared on Instagram with his nearly 14,000 followers, Weems, who founded the church in 1998, said he was stepping down as senior pastor, president and CEO, president and board member. of directors, as well as an officer of Celebration Church Jacksonville.
“I spent a lot of time in prayer and received guidance from other pastors here in the city, region and around the world,” Weems wrote. “The actions of the trustees leave me and my family no choice but to legally separate from the CCJ and pursue our ministry elsewhere, placing ourselves under the proper responsibility and oversight of a board of pastors. apostolics and elders in our city, our nation, and the world who understand and model biblical governance.
In the February 23 lawsuit filed by Stovall and Kerri Weems, the former pastor claims he was illegally ousted from his role as senior pastor by the church’s board of trustees earlier this year when he attempted to remedy financial abuse involving one of the directors.
The church, in turn, filed a motion to dismiss Weems’ lawsuit on March 10. The church says the lawsuit is “the latest chapter in a campaign of deception, manipulation, distraction and abuse of power by Stovall and Kerri Weems against Celebration.”
“After founding Celebration, the Weems ended up acting as if they owned the church and could do with it as they pleased without the management and oversight required by Florida law and the church’s governing documents” , says the church record. “When the current board discovered that the Weems had engaged in a series of questionable financial dealings without the knowledge of the board or without authorization, they called for an investigation.”
The church filing alleges that trustees analyzed the church’s financial situation in December 2021 and found that the Weems had made “several large financial transactions earlier in 2021 without notice or authorization from the board.”
These transactions included “multiple material transfers to new, for-profit entities that the Weems intended to manage in the future.” The petition claims the church purchased a parsonage for $1.2 million that a company owned by Stovall Weems had purchased four months earlier for $855,000.
Additionally, the board challenged “the advancement of nine months’ salary to Kerri Weems and seven months’ salary to Stovall Weems” in violation of Florida statute and church policies” although neither Stovall nor Kerri Weems did not perform the office functions that allegedly warranted those salaries.
The couple were also accused of improperly using $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program loan funds to purchase a speculative digital currency known as TurnCoin.
In a statement to News4JAX, Sara Brady, spokeswoman for the Weems, denied any wrongdoing.
“No PPP funds were used in the turn[C]co-investment. The Church’s audited financial statements for 2020 certify that the Church has used PPP funds in accordance with their legally authorized purposes. The administration of the Church’s PPP funds was controlled by the Church’s Chief Financial Officers. The 2021 PPP funds have been fully utilized by Church payroll,” Brady said.
“Neither PPP funds nor the Turn[C]oin investment also had something to do with Pastor Stovall’s salary advance. Pastor Stovall invested around $100,000 in Turn[C]oin, an investment approved by the SEC, with the aim of creating a retirement fund for longtime employees of Celebration Church,” she added.
“Currently, this investment is worth more than $1.5 million. Pastors Stovall and Kerri never intended to receive any money from this investment. Restricted use of these funds is documented with the Church’s Human Resources Department.
In their farewell message to the church now led by Pastor Tim Timberlake, the Weems expressed their love for the members of the church they founded and said they plan to continue working in Jacksonville.
“We look forward to seeing many of you as we will be staying in Jacksonville where we will continue to preach, preach and minister the Word of God. We are excited for all that is to come for THE CHURCH (Big C) in our city, our region and around the world! they said. “Keep watching this space as in the coming days we will begin announcing details of what ‘new’ looks like to us. We look forward to seeing you and looking forward to continuing the work of the Kingdom by your side. !