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Leaders of Glad Tidings Tabernacle confess judgment before NY Attorney General

Former Senior Pastor Carl Keyes agrees to pay back $1.2 million taken as loans from donations to 9/11 & Hurricane relief.

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Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

 

The attorney general of New York State says that Pastor Carl Keyes took loans illegally given by the church Board of Trustees, bought  an 18th-century farmhouse in rural New Jersey, and used a charity's money to pay for trips for his family and a BMW for himself. A series of Associated Press reports in 2011 and 2012 triggered an investigation by the New York state attorney general. A judgment signed by the pastor and his church leadership requires the pastor to pay about 1.2 million dollars and the executive director about a half million dollars to the Attorney General. The pastor and his wife and co-pastor Donna Keyes and the church leadership agreed to give up any financial responsibility and board governance of the church.  The Assemblies of God denomination to which the church belongs will govern the church and make progress reports to the state until March 2016 or after. Rev. Donna Keyes can remain as senior pastor.

The church is one of the most historic churches in the Pentecostal movement, perhaps the first such church in New York City. After a young woman Marie Burgess experienced a healing of a deadly sickness, she recounted that she had received a infusion of the Holy Spirit. She felt called to started Glad Tidings mission in 1907, which shortly became a full-fledged church. After marrying Robert Brown, a Methodist-lay minister, they co-pastored the church for several decades. Such Pentecostal notables like Aimee Semple McPherson attended the church. The church reached out to all kinds of people as long as they were white.

Because of its rejection of African Americans, a Bible teacher left the church and founded a new fellowship in Harlem that became Bethel Gospel Tabernacle. One of the tragedies of the recent economic mismanagement of Glad Tidings is that in 2002 its then pastor Keyes lead a repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation service between the two churches. And then he moved the church to the middle of Harlem, closing a circle on a long history of racial division. However, that move also meant that a lot of money from the November 2007 sale of Glad Tidings' building on 33rd Street near the main city post office was sloshing around waiting to be spent. The pastor claims that he is not very good with money and lost track of where it was going and how it was handled. The attorney general painted a less innocent picture.

"Carl and Donna Keyes and Mark Costantin abused the trust of their congregants and used Glad Tidings Tabernacle as their personal bank," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In the judgment he wrote that the law forbids not-for-profits from making loans to its officers and directors, including to ministers — "much less loans to finance personal expenses and lifestyle choices." Three former members of the Glad Tidings' board agreed to pay $50,000 in penalties for violating the trust placed in them to prudently manage the monies of the church. The attorney general pointed out that church leaders seemed to be letting Keyes delay repaying the church loan indefinitely.

The Associated Press reported in 2011 and 2012 "that Keyes had diverted some of that money into his cash-starved church, then used funds from the church and the nonprofit groups to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal credit card bills and other debts. Keyes used one big donation, meant for his disaster-relief charity, Urban Life Ministries, to clear a mortgage on another New Jersey home... Keyes also had embellished stories about relief work he performed in New York in the months after the 9/11 attacks. In some cases, he took credit for things that other people had done."

Leaning against a table, the pastor confronts the values of  his church: the priority of taking the most humble role of the servant who washes other people's feet. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

Leaning against a table, the pastor confronts the values of his church: the priority of taking the most humble role of the servant who washes other people's feet. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

On April 6th the church, with 78 members voting, agreed to handover temporary supervision to the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. Under New York state law, the Keyes and former Executive Director Mark Constantin also had to swear that they "hereby confess judgment" in agreeing to the settlement. They signed their confessions on May 13th. The Keyes are permanently barred from holding any trustee or director position in any New York non-profit or religious corporation. However, the Keyes' lawyer noted that the state did not require the couple or the church leaders to admit guilt.

For more on this story from the Associated Press.

For more on this story from Christianity Today.

Former pastor stands outside the church Glad Tidings Tabernacle on 2207 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

Former pastor stands outside the church Glad Tidings Tabernacle on 2207 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

 

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