ATLANTA – The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch turned himself over to authorities Tuesday night to face a charge that he lied under oath.
A warrant for the arrest of Archbishop Earl Paulk was issued Monday after a months-long probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The longtime pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church made a deal with the Cobb County Sheriff's office to surrender within 48 hours, said Nancy Bodiford, executive assistant to Sheriff Neil Warren.
Paulk's defense attorney, Joel Pugh, said the warrant took the family by surprise.
"We weren't expecting the warrant to be issued this quickly," Pugh said.
The felony perjury charge against Paulk stem from a civil lawsuit against him, his brother Don and the church by former church employee, Mona Brewer. The lawsuit alleges that Earl Paulk manipulated Brewer into an affair from 1989 to 2003 by telling her it was her only path to salvation.
In a 2006 deposition for the lawsuit, the archbishop said under oath that the only woman he had ever had sex with outside of his marriage was Brewer.
But the results of a court-ordered paternity test revealed in October that Paulk is the biological father of his brother's son, D.E. Paulk, who is now head pastor at the church. As part of Brewer's lawsuit, eight women have given sworn depositions that they were coerced into sexual relationships with Earl Paulk.
A judge ordered the paternity test at the request of the Cobb County district attorney's office and the GBI.
Paulk and his brother, Don, have been hit with multiple lawsuits from former members alleging they were coerced into sexual affairs, but this is the first time criminal charges have been filed against the archbishop.
Paulk has been in bad health for the last couple of years after a battle with cancer, limiting his activity with the independent charismatic church he and his brother founded in 1960.
At its peak in the early 1990s, the Cathedral at Chapel Hill claimed about 10,000 members and 24 pastors and was a media powerhouse. The church was able to build a Bible college, two schools, a worldwide TV ministry and a $12 million sanctuary the size of a fortress in Decatur outside Atlanta.
Today membership is down to about 1,500, the church has 18 pastors, most of them volunteers, and the Bible college and TV ministry have shuttered — a downturn blamed largely on complaints about the sexual scandals.