Creflo Dollar: Megachurch pastor denies choking daughter (+video)
Creflo Dollar, the World Changers Church International megachurch pastor, was arrested Friday for allegedly attacking his 15-year-old daughter. He sermonized Sunday calling the incident an exaggeration of an "emotional" family conversation and he denied choking her.
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"I will never put any fault on my children, as Jesus would never put any fault on me," he said.Skip to next paragraph
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Dollar's wife, Taffi, is a co-pastor at the church. She addressed the congregation before her husband but did not touch on the allegations.
Dollar's congregation appeared supportive Sunday, giving him sustained applause as he took the stage. As he spoke, people in the sanctuary yelled encouragement: "We love you!" and "We've got your back!" As he talked about the difficulty dealing with teenage children in a "culture of disrespect," many in the crowd nodded in agreement.
Members of the church seemed to close ranks around Dollar even before he addressed them from the pulpit Sunday. Dozens of people approached by The Associated Press as they arrived for the service declined to comment, and the few who did expressed support. After the service, many were still reluctant to comment, but those who did said they were satisfied with their pastor's comments.
"When I first heard what he was accused of, I didn't believe it. I knew there had to be more to the story," said Phyllissa Wolley, 23, a daycare worker who has attended the church for about five years. "I felt like he addressed the accusations today, and I believe what he said. To hear from him personally, I really appreciated that. I was glad to hear his side of the story."
Others said the media blew the accusations out of proportion without having all the facts and they felt vindicated after hearing Dollar speak.
"I think you're looking at a bunch of sensationalism," said George Blake of Ellenwood, adding that he thought the media rushed to tell the story without knowing the full story. The 49-year-old said he never questioned his pastor of eight years.
"It's not up to me to me to be satisfied with what he had to say," Blake said. "This is a man of God spreading the word of God."
Dollar, who has five children, is a native of College Park and says he received a vision for the church in 1986. He held the first service in front of eight people in an elementary school cafeteria. His ministry grew quickly and the church moved into its present location, an 8,500-seat sanctuary, on Dec. 24, 1995.
Dollar said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press that he renounced his church salary, and his income only comes from personal investments, including a real estate residential property business and horse breeding company called Dollar Ranch. He's also published more than 30 books, focusing mostly on family and life issues, including debt management.
He said he also sometimes got up to $100,000 for a single appearance on his packed schedule of speaking engagements.
Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.