Pastor Stovall Weems has resigned from the Jacksonville megachurch he founded nearly 25 years ago, leaving his position of Senior Pastor, CEO, and chair and member of the board of trustees, the result of an ongoing lawsuit with the 12,000-member multisite Celebration church that he’s been embroiled in and publicly feuding with. The seeker-sensitive church has over 300 employees, locations in multiple states, and is known by discernment ministries on account of Weems being a terrible bible exegete, as documented by Fighting For The Faith.
Earlier in the year, the church suspended Weems over what they viewed as financial irregularities, claiming he’s been misusing over a million dollars in turn, Weems sued the church for being wrongfully suspended, asking the courts to give him an injunction so he could remain the senior pastor and be restored to his former role, receive back pay, and roll back changes made to the church bylaws that made it easier to dispatch him.
Seeing no path forward, he wrote on Instagram:
“I have spent much time in prayer and received counsel from other pastors here in the city, the region, and around the world. The Trustees’ actions leave me and my family with no choice but to legally separate from CCJ and continue our ministry elsewhere, placing ourselves under the proper accountability and oversight of a council of apostolic pastors and elders in our city, nation, and world that understand and model biblical governance.”
“I shall not and cannot be legally connected to any church in which the leadership abandons the clear biblical principles and scriptural qualifications for spiritual covering, spiritual authority, and ecclesiastical governance and oversight.
At the heart of this action is money and the love of it. Stacey Readout of News4Jax offers a great summary of the issues of contention:
“Celebration Church responded to the injunction, saying this is the “latest chapter in a campaign of deception, manipulation, distraction, and abuse of power by Stovall and Kerri Weems against Celebration.” Celebration’s motion also alleges the couple improperly used over $1,000,000 in PPP loan proceeds to fund an entity they managed and to purchase TurnCoin, a digital security.
The church’s motion said the Weemses over time came to act like “they owned the church and could do with it what they wanted without the management and oversight required by Florida law and the church’s governing documents.”
Celebration Church said the Weemses have “sought desperately” to avoid accountability and transparency.
The trustees analyzed the church’s “weakening financial position” in December 2021 and discovered the Weemses made several large financial transactions earlier in 2021 without notice to or authorization from the board, according to the church’s motion. These included:
-Multiple large transfers to new for-profit entities that the Weemses intended to manage going forward
-Church’s purchase of a parsonage (in which Stovall and Kerri Weems were to live rent-free) for $1,286,863.30 that a company solely owned by Stovall Weems had bought four months earlier for $855,000. (Editor’s Note. Accordingg to FCN, the median sales price for a Jacksonville-area single-family home is to $330,000.)
-Advancement of nine months’ salary to Kerri Weems and seven months’ salary to Stovall Weems in violation of Florida statute and the church’s own internal policies, despite neither Stovall nor Kerri Weems performing the duties of the offices that purportedly justified those salaries
-Improper use of over $1,000,000 in PPP loan proceeds to fund the Weems-managed entity Honey Lake Farms, LLC and to purchase TurnCoin, an illiquid, speculative digital currency
Celebration Church said none of those financial transactions were disclosed to or authorized by the board, as required by church bylaws.”
Weems for his part denies any wrongdoing, and although he is no longer part of Celebration, is still continuing with legal action against the church. He says he’s intending to stay in the area and all indication is that he will start a new church.