Mount Zion Nashville Pastor Joseph Walker III Is Now Being Hit with Tax Questions

hcsp.jpgThe Wednesday noon Bible study at Mt. Zion Baptist Church drew 400 worshippers this week, most of them women, almost all with a Bible in one hand and an offering envelope in the other.

They’re drawn by their beloved pastor, Bishop Joseph Walker III, whose prosperity gospel message combines Bible verses and motivational slogans.
In a few weeks, Walker will celebrate 20 years as pastor of Mt. Zion. When he arrived as a 24-year-old Vanderbilt University Divinity School graduate, the church had 175 members. Today, it claims 25,000 members and holds eight services a week in three locations.
He and his wife of two years, Dr. Stephaine Walker, a Vanderbilt neonatologist, have a new book out called Becoming a Couple of Destiny. He also doles out advice as the “Relationship Doctor” on the syndicated Rickey Smiley Morning Show, broadcast on 21 radio stations across the country.
But after two decades of unmitigated success, Walker is facing controversy on two fronts.
Four former parishioners have filed suit, claiming Walker and other church leaders sexually abused them.
Walker’s nonprofit organization, J W. Walker Ministries Inc., lost its federal tax exemption last month for failing to file tax returns for three years.
The charity’s records also show Walker donating funds from the sale of tapes of his sermons to the charity, which then paid a private production company he owns without disclosing his involvement.
The church denies any wrongdoing on Walker’s part. Church spokesman John Van Mol said that not filing tax returns was a mistake the charity is trying to rectify, and he issued a statement saying the sexual exploitation lawsuit is an attempt to make money.
“It is truly sad that a church and its leaders can be attacked with such shocking and ugly charges when the apparent motive is to extract huge sums of money from the congregation and its leaders,” the statement read.
Valencia Batson, the lead plaintiff in the suit against Walker and the church, said she wishes she’d never stepped foot in Mt. Zion. “I lost 10 years of my life there,” Batson said.
She joined the church in 1998. At the time, she was newly divorced, had custody of her three children and was looking to rebuild her life.
Batson, who owns a real estate company, was a lifelong churchgoer who wasn’t content to sit in a pew. She wanted to take an active role in ministry. After meeting with Bishop Walker, she said she began to lead the church’s financial empowerment ministry, which taught parishioners financial and business skills.
That led to more meetings with Walker, where she said she told him of her struggles as a single mom.
Source: The Tennessean | Bob Smietana