Stovall Weems Positions for ‘Comeback,’ Launching New Church Despite Alleged Fraud

By Sarah Einselen
stovall weems comeback
Stovall Weems, founding pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, has announced his intent to start a new church. (Video screengrab)

Stovall Weems and his wife Kerri are positioning themselves for a “comeback” despite allegations they defrauded and spiritually abused their former church.

The Weemses were ousted earlier this year from Celebration Church, the Florida megachurch they founded. Now they are launching a new church, Awakening Ecclesia, and are planning to lead a tour of Israel next February, according to their new ministry website.

“We’re calling for 300 people, 300 people to join up as soon as possible and be part of this foundational launch team of Awakening Ecclesia,” Stovall Weems said in a sermon video posted Sunday titled “Are you ready for a comeback?”

He said in the same video that he’ll be hosting weekly Bible studies and other events live on social media.

A July 13 email indicates the Weemses went ahead with their new ministries based on counsel from a spiritual oversight team. Only one member of the spiritual oversight team is named—Raleigh Washington of The Road to Jerusalem, a reconciliation ministry focusing on unity between Christians and Messianic Jews.

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Washington is quoted as affirming the Weemses “are ready to move forward.”

The Weemses are involved in three ongoing lawsuits linked to their work with Celebration Church. The first is a suit they filed against the church. In the second lawsuit, a bank claims the couple defaulted on more than $700,000 in debt owed by church-related businesses they ran. In the third suit, the church is seeking to evict the Weemses from the church parsonage.

The website for Stovall Weems Ministries claims the couple’s legal dispute with Celebration Church “is playing itself out publicly . . . because we were defamed publicly on Celebration Church’s website, after we had already parted ways with the church we founded over two decades ago.”

The Weemses’ lawsuit “explains in detail how and why a so-called ‘investigative report’ posted on Celebration Church’s website is false and defamatory,” according to their website.

The Weemses first sued Celebration Church months before the release of the report they allege defamed them. They amended their suit in May, after the report’s release, to include the defamation claim.

TRR reached out to Stovall Weems Ministries ask for comment about the apparent discrepancy in their statement. Lisa Gunter, the ministry’s director of operations, responded with a link to an hour-and-a-half podcast episode she said contained the answers to TRR’s questions.

The Weemses say on their website that their reason for pursuing public legal action “is simple: our adversaries attacked us publicly . . . and should therefore have to answer publicly for the consequences of their actions.

“This is not a simple dispute between believers that ordinarily would be resolved as envisioned in 1 Corinthians 6,” they state on the website.

Celebration Church argues the court should dismiss the Weemses’ lawsuit in part because secular courts don’t have jurisdiction over church governance. The Weemses make the same argument—that the court can’t interfere in church matters—in asking the court to dismiss the church’s eviction suit against them.

The couple was suspended early this year from Celebration Church, a member of the Association of Related Churches (ARC) network. ARC is one of North America’s biggest church planting organizations, and is linked to other scandals involving money or sex. The Weemses used to be ARC Lead Team members.

The Weemses sued the church in February after they were suspended, The Roys Report reported previously. They alleged in the suit that they were whistleblowers facing retaliation from the church. The church responded in court filings alleging the couple was spiritually and financially abusive.

In April, Celebration Church released the findings of an independent investigation it had commissioned. The investigation found that Stovall Weems defrauded the church and “unjustly” enriched himself, TRR previously reported.

The Weemses formally resigned from Celebration Church in April shortly before the investigation’s findings were released.

Celebration Church gave the Weemses until May 30 to leave the church’s parsonage, TRR previously reported. Court filings show the Weemses haven’t left the parsonage and have refused to sit for depositions or produce evidence for their claims to the residence.

That parsonage’s purchase is itself one basis for Celebration Church’s claims that Weems enriched himself at the church’s expense, TRR previously reported.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.



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18 thoughts on “Stovall Weems Positions for ‘Comeback,’ Launching New Church Despite Alleged Fraud”

  1. “their reason for pursuing public legal action is simple: our adversaries attacked us publicly…”

    Jesus was attacked and defamed publicly, and he did not sue anyone. This whole thing is completely ridiculous. How are their actions Christlike? It’s another mega church personality with a god complex who wants fame and fortune in this life.

  2. So many Christians have no idea what their pastors background is. They test a ministry based on first impressions and exciting programs and services. As such a man like this could build another mega church and many would be none the wiser.

    It seems to me the body of Christ needs awareness of how to investigate thier own leaders by simply googling thier name and seeing if they have a checkered past.

    Julie Roys needs to launch a media campaign where she and other qualified reps hit radio stations and news programs and raise awareness about the epidemic of wolf leaders in the church while pointing out the good examples of healthy leaders and systems.

    Check your pastors past.

  3. If the Weemses attract adherents and donors to their venture, it will show that they correctly read the market.

    1. Cynthia, fair enough – good capitalists – no different than the former president and his enablers – though know their is a thriving religious fascist movement who are suckers for their anti-Christ rhetoric.

      1. The way I see it, Greg Logan, the Weemses have a business selling themselves as performers. If people buy it, people buy it, just like any other performer.

  4. So the old Goggle say’s this, a grifter is a con artist: someone who swindles people out of money through fraud.

    I don’t think we need to dive to deep theological here folks, The Weemses= Grifter’s. Or better yet, heretics, liars, thieves, the kind of folks who obviously don’t belong in the Church well enough the corporate boardroom. Folks like this belong in Federal prison.

  5. It’s getting to the point where I scroll thru every article to find a reference to the “asssociation of Related Churches (ARC)”
    More often than not, there’s a connection.
    So I need to know if there’s a list somewhere of these churches? I would like to avoid them at all cost.

  6. Funny but sad. Has anyone gone to the ARC site and see how they walk you thru planting a church? Only 50k and we’re on our way. These people who must and only can continue as a pastor is amazing. Do any of them think (hey maybe I should get a new trade). I’m convinced, it’s all the attention they get being the big guy at the church. Malignant narcissistic behavior is what I call it. When I was younger being a priest or minister was a true calling. Living a humble life and living in a humble parsonage provided by the church. Very sad and thanks to social media, the young can ask questions that in my youth I wouldn’t have even thought to ask. Why? Because social media reveals all the hypocrisy and frauds. Gotta be the cool kid and prom queen to show the world god loves you best. Yuck.

  7. One thing I am confident of and that is men like this would never accept a position in a church where they did not have control over the finances.

  8. Its just my opinion, but it feels like there is a lot of rush to judgment in this case.

    There isn’t physical evidence enough for me to form any type of opinion on where fault might light; and it might be shared. ARC has a lot of skeletons, but it doesn’t mean every pastor involved is a bad person. And, there are plenty of examples of church boards that are full mean spirited and self-righteous or self-serving people. John Piper’s old church, or the current SBC scandal come to mind.

    I think we should exercise the integrity of Christ and not assume the worst of people, nor launch un-credible accusations without the necessary burden of proof. As near as I can tell, both of those things are sins.

    1. Lighten up Francis. Those poor excuses for Christians are showing all the proof needed. Quit making excuses for the evil in Christianity that needs to be exercised from the flock.

    2. It’s not just the board that is speaking out against the Weems. Read the following story summarizing the law firm’s report on him. It’s bizarre.

      A couple excerpts:

      ‘Another recounted that an employee was instructed to purchase a car for Weems and deliver it to his home. “After the employee delivered the car as demanded, Weems told him to find his own ride home,” the report reads.’

      ‘The investigation determined that as the church became more successful, the “lavishness of the Weemses’ lifestyle also increased.” It said there were private charter flights to exotic locations, a full “house staff” to assist in maintaining their mansions, and personal assistants required to attend to the Weemses’ every demand.’

      1. Mark,

        Thanks for the link. I’ve stayed “up” on this story, but had not seen this report. I’ll have a look.

  9. 2 Corinthians 2:
    17 For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God.–NET

    Even as the inspired apostle Paul pointed out at the very beginning of the church sheep are going to be continually shorned. :-/

  10. Nothing to see here. Yet another squeaky-clean megachurch idol, as equally blameless as Hybels, Warren, Driscoll, Wood, Osteen, White, Dollar, Bakker, MacDonald…

    It’s so divisive and sinful to point out the obvious depravity of the conduct of the above. I better repent!

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