photo by psalm 11, courtesy of flickr
Hat Tip: D. Aileen Dodd, Mike Morris, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Thomas Weeks, the 54-year-old bishop who shares an international ministry with estranged wife Juanita Bynum, was released on bond Friday after surrendering on charges that he assaulted his wife.
Weeks spent about six hours inside the Fulton County Jail before emerging at 1:40 p.m., holding a finger to his lips to signal that he had no comment. He climbed into the passenger seat of a silver, four-door Jaguar and rode away.
In a brief hearing at the jail, bond was set at $30,000 on a charge of aggravated assault and $10,000 on a charge of terroristic threats, and a magistrate ordered Weeks to have no contact with Bynum or her sister, Tina Culpepper. Weeks, dressed in a gray suit and bow tie, sat silently in the small jail courtroom, his cuffed hands in his lap.
His next hearing will be Sept. 7 in Fulton County Superior Court.
Bynum, a fiery national evangelist whose sermons empower women to walk away from dead-end relationships, was allegedly struck by her husband Tuesday in a hotel parking lot after the pair had dinner together to discuss a reconciliation.
Police said Bynum, 48, has been whisked away by family as they decide what to do next.
A lawyer for Weeks said he will continue his ministry and try to reconcile with his wife after the allegations are dealt with.
“He is extremely sad over the events that have taken place,” said Edward Garland, one of the two attorneys representing Weeks. “I think there is hope on his part that the relationship can get past these difficult moments.
“He has never had any accusation of any sort like this from her or anyone esle,” said Garland. “There are a lot of circumstances surrounding these events that will be explained at a later time. He is turning it over to the court system at this point.”
Weeks, Garland said, will meet with “a variety of pastors over which he presides, and with his father, who is a minister, and he’s going to make a prayerful decision as to how he proceeds. He’s dedicated his whole life to the ministry, and we’re very hopeful that he will be able to continue to lead the ministry.”
Bynum and Weeks are co-founders of Global Destiny Church in Duluth. They were married in 2002 in a lavish televised wedding that featured a 7.76-carat diamond ring. They separated three months ago, said Bynum’s sister, Tina Culpepper.
According to an Atlanta police incident report, Bynum said her husband “choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her.”
She told police Weeks “continued stomping” her into the ground until a hotel bell man pulled him away. Police also said Weeks threatened Bynum’s life.
Culpepper said the couple was meeting for dinner at Concorde Grill in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Tuesday night.
Police said the couple had met to work out their differences. Things soured, and Weeks walked out to the parking lot about 10:30 p.m., police said. He then turned back around and attacked her, said Officer Ron Campbell.
Weeks also threatened Bynum’s life during the attack, police said. “Anytime you tell a person, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ that moves it up to a felony,” Campbell said.
The bruises found on Bynum also were serious enough to bring felony aggravated assault charges against Weeks.
In a comment posted on her MySpace page, the Pentecostal evangelist said, “I am currently recovering from all of my injuries and resting well … this too shall pass.”
Her publicist, Amy Malone, said Bynum wants to keep the matter private.
“People are interpreting it to mean the two of them were fighting,” Malone said. “They were not fighting. She was assaulted.”
Clergy across metro Atlanta said they were saddened by the news of the public beating of Bynum, a respected “prophetess” whose star rose under the leadership of Bishop T.D. Jakes. Bynum is one of the leading speakers at Megafast, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to metro Atlanta in recent years.
Mixing love and ministerial work can take its toll on relationship for pastors with successful followings, clergy say.
“It is tremendously hard to balance a relationship,” said the Rev. Cynthia L. Hale, pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church. “If you happen to be more successful than your spouse or make more money or have greater prestige that is where the challenge comes in. There are many men who are secure in life, but there are also men who are insecure and they have struggled with having their wives [or girlfriends] excel in ways they don’t.”
Weeks has retained two lawyers: the well-known Garland, who in the past has represented NFL star Ray Lewis in his murder trial and millionaire James Sullivan, who ordered the murder of his socialite wife; and Louis Tesser.
The couple had a home in Duluth, Culpepper said. Upon their separation, Bynum moved to Waycross, where her administrative offices are located.
Members of a Georgia non-profit group, Love for All People, were working late Thursday to hire two bodyguards to protect Bynum. Culpepper said Bynum was appreciative but that it would not be necessary.
Word of the public fight spread to clergy across metro Atlanta who have either met the couple or know of them.
Once a homemaker, a hairdresser and a flight attendant, Bynum’s big break came when televangelist Bishop T.D. Jakes invited her to speak at one of his conferences several years ago.
Jakes, who has worked closely with Bynum, had no comment, his spokeswoman said.
Operators at Bynum’s ministry in Waycross, Juanita Bynum Ministries, asked the public “to be in prayer for her.”