Cape Town – A local church led by an American pastor is embroiled in controversy and claims are made that money is being spent to maintain its lavish lifestyle.
Joseph Stanford, referred to as the “Apostle,” has pastor the Ambassadors for Christ World Mission in Elsies River for 20 years.
Now disgruntled ward members have raised concerns about how the church treasury money was being spent, including how the pastor could afford a luxurious 10-bedroom home with seven bathrooms, a hot tub, and a swimming pool in Bellville.
The group said they tried to call a special meeting to register a vote of no confidence in church leaders, but they were closed. You have now asked the South African Commission on Human Rights for help.
The spokesman for the aggrieved group, George Joseph, said the church had been shaken by challenges for some time and attempts to solve the problems had fallen on deaf ears.
“We decided to turn to mediators so that everyone could sit around the table and solve the problems that are harming the Church. However, the other group, still loyal to the leadership, refused to do so and denied other church members access to the church building, ”he said.
Joseph alleged that Stanford bought assets like a luxury home, 28 acre farm in Atlantis, and also started other businesses including a Wi-Fi installation service.
The South African Commission on Human Rights (SAHRC) confirmed that it was called in to mediate.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said the situation in the church was “volatile” and that one group was “aggressive”.
“When we got there, the police were patrolling the premises. After listening to the groups, we have now referred some of the allegations to the Commission on Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights for investigation, as it is their responsibility.
“We also advised them to refer economic issues to the relevant authorities such as the Serious White-Collar Crime Department.
“The stories were heartbreaking. They built the church but have now been locked out. But we still believe that the matter needs mediation and are ready to do our part, ”said Nissen.
Joseph said the church is not affiliated with any structure or religious body in South Africa.
The church had contact with the authorities a few years ago when children who were supposed to be in school were selling biscuits to raise funds for the church.
“The biscuit business is a huge money making business for the Church. We sell them across the country as far as Nelspruit and Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth. Lots of people have made sacrifices for the business, ”said Joseph.
He added that others, including his wife, made “love sacrifices” and donated huge amounts to the Church.
“When my wife left her job, she donated part of the pension payment, about R100,000, to the church. Others donated around R45,000, took out loans, or sold their property to contribute to the Church. The Church flourished while ordinary members did not, ”said Joseph.
Joseph said he was a victim because he had raised concerns and was about to vacate a church property on which he has lived for many years.
A house of ambassadors for Christ that some church members said they wasted their sweat on making it bigger. The chief baker of the church’s money-making biscuit business reportedly received money to buy a cabin after he was pressured to leave the church property in Elsie’s River. Cabin on the grounds of a house in Bishop Lavis. TRACEY ADAMS African News Agency (ANA)
He said the church had also made counter charges against him, accusing him of stealing money.
Joseph said the water and electricity supplies to his home were cut after the church failed to pay the bills from February last year.
“Church finances are administered from Church headquarters in Chicago. Nobody is allowed to make a decision here. The Führer conducts it in an autocratic manner. And these are the issues we wanted to address, but they didn’t let us, ”claimed Joseph.
He also claimed that parishioners, including himself, were working on the renovation of Stanford’s house but received no compensation.
However, Stanford has dismissed the allegations against him and the church as “lies”. He accused Joseph of giving up his Church responsibilities about six months ago and was no longer considered a member as a result.
“I bought the house 19 years ago. The church didn’t pay a penny. A Church couple paid R300,000 down payment to purchase the farm, ”Stanford said.
He added that the meeting Joseph called was “illegal” because he was not authorized to do so.
Stanford said, “George (Joseph) stole from us, gave up his responsibilities and tried to extort money from us. It is bitter now. “
However, no criminal case had been opened against Joseph, although Stanford said he was now seeking legal advice to “prevent him from telling lies.”
He said the church’s electricity and water bills remained unpaid as Covid-19 impacted finances.
Soon after the church was founded about 20 years ago, it also moved to existing offices.
Green Pastures Restoration Ministry director Andrew May and his ward entered Stanford’s ministry around 2008 after a challenge in his own ministry.
“We were looking for spiritual guidance and I was introduced to Stanford. We were a living church at the time, and my wife ran an education center. But as soon as we entered church, we were instructed to shut everything down. We have lost the power to make decisions, ”May said.
He said at the time that he had at least 250 parishioners, but when he tried to leave Stanford’s leadership in 2012, only 26 parishioners followed.
“We came back to a building that was broken with piles of bills. But we’re slowly rebuilding the ministry and it’s going well, “May said.
Stanford disagreed, saying, “I have seen more hell from preachers than from sinners in the streets. I am here because God sent me. “
He added that it would take more than a “small group of people” to evict him from South Africa.
A member of the Church, Samantha May, supported Stanford and accused the “injured group” of not being able to take “the word and advice” of a man of God.
Stanford said he was unwilling to participate in a mediation process called by Joseph.
“How can we sit down with the group other than in court?” He asked.