Weeks, Thomas III
Thomas Weeks III
Followers of preacher Thomas Weeks III, affectionately known among congregants as "Bishop Weeks," believed their leader had a marriage made in heaven. He and his wife, the nationally known televangelist and "prophetess" Juanita Bynum, never seemed to be far from one another's side. Following their much-publicized wedding in 2003 (which had been preceded by a private civil ceremony in 2002), they preached about the sanctity of marriage and offered counsel on relationships in a popular series of books and workshops called Teach Me How to Love You.
Congregants were shocked, to say the least, when in August of 2007 the preacher was accused of domestic violence following an altercation between Weeks and Bynum in an Atlanta, Georgia, hotel parking lot. Weeks, charged with assault, maintained his innocence, while Bynum began speaking publicly about their rocky relationship, calling herself the "new face of domestic violence." The bizarre battle that played out between Weeks and Bynum, both in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion, seemed as if it were straight out of a soap opera. In the aftermath of the couple's divorce, Weeks has tried to rebuild his reputation in the church by telling his side of the story.
Thomas Wesley Weeks III was born in 1967 in Boston, Massachusetts, the eldest son of Thomas W. Weeks and Leona Brown Weeks. After living in New York and Indiana, his family settled in Wilmington, Delaware, where his father was pastor and then bishop of the Greater Bethel Apostolic Temple. Thomas Weeks III attended the University of Delaware, majoring in mass communications. Then, heeding the call of the church, as his father and grandfather had done before him, Weeks went on to study theology and Christian counseling at the Christian International College of Theology. He was ordained as an elder in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and served under his father's pastorate, though both men would leave the denomination in 2001.
Established Church in Washington, DC
Thomas Weeks III established the Global Destiny Church, an evangelical church in Washington, DC, in 1997. The enterprise expanded in 2003 to encompass a global outreach ministry for the Internet community, MyGlobalDestiny.com. A second church in Duluth, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, opened in 2006, and a third location in California was planned. As part of his ministry, Weeks lectured widely at churches across the country and wrote several books outlining the relationship between faith and prosperity.
Weeks and Bynum, both of whom had been married previously, wed in a private ceremony in Las Vegas on July 22, 2002, but did not announce their union until October of that year. In the spring of 2003, the couple threw a lavish million-dollar wedding at the Regent Wall Street Hotel in New York City that was attended by nearly one thousand guests and televised on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. At the ceremony Weeks presented Bynum, flanked by a wedding party of eighty people, with a 7.76-carat diamond ring. "This was my once-in-a-lifetime wedding," Bynum famously told Ebony magazine in February 2004. "I did it this way because I plan to stay married."
Following their marriage,Weeks and Bynum developed a series of workshops and books called Teach Me How to Love You, in which they counseled Christian congregants on how to build a healthy relationship. In 2006 they moved from Washington, DC, to a new $2.5 million home in Duluth, where they were setting up a second ministry. The couple suffered serious financial problems—Weeks reportedly had left a number of creditors unpaid upon departing Washington—and church members began to suspect that all was not well. According to a report in Essence magazine, Weeks removed photographs of his wife at the church and minimized her presence there. The couple separated in June of 2007.
On the night of August 21, 2007, Weeks and Bynum met at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta to discuss their marital problems. They began arguing in the hotel parking lot around 4:00 a.m. According to police reports, Weeks choked Bynum, pushed her to the ground, and then began kicking her, leaving her with bruises on the neck and upper torso. The altercation ended when a bellman pulled Weeks off his wife. Bynum refused offers of police and ambulance assistance, though she later visited a hospital, and photographs of her bruises soon appeared on the Internet. Weeks fled the scene but, two days later, turned himself in to police at the Fulton County Jail. He was released on a $40,000 bond and ordered to have no contact with Bynum. In court Weeks pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and simple battery.
In the aftermath of the attack, Weeks blamed the devil for the alleged assault, and held to his statement that he had done nothing more than "push" his wife. Later he claimed that, in fact, he was the one who had been abused in the relationship. "I never hit or did anything to physically harm her," Weeks said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 19, 2007. "I have been the one that has been physically abused. I kept it quiet for over 90 days. I have been struck on the face and in the head…. I have been choked."
Bynum filed for divorce in September, and soon began speaking publicly about their relationship, which, she said, had been troubled since at least 2005. She appeared on the Tom Joyner radio program and on Fox television's Divorce Court, counseling a couple that was considering divorce. In December of 2007 she granted a lengthy interview with Essence magazine, in which she aired the couple's dirty laundry. Weeks countered by publishing a tell-all book, What Love Taught Me, containing chapters with such provocative titles as "I'd Rather Push You Now Than Punch You Later."
At a Glance …
Born Thomas Wesley Weeks III in 1967 in Boston, MA; son of Thomas Wesley Weeks and Leona Brown Weeks; married second wife, Juanita Bynum, July 22, 2002 (divorced 2008); children: Sydnie. Education: Studied mass communications at University of Delaware; studied theology and Christian counseling at Christian International College of Theology.
Career: New Destiny Fellowship (formerly Greater Bethel Apostolic Temple), church administrator, assistant pastor, bishop; Global Destiny Church, pastor and bishop, 1997—.
Addresses: Agent—Double XXposure Media Relations, 1 W. 34th St., Ste. 201, New York, NY 10001-3011. Web—http://www.bishopweeks.com.
Pleaded Guilty in March of 2008
Though he had steadfastly maintained his innocence for more than six months, even reaffirming his not-guilty plea in February of 2008, Weeks surprised the court in March, when he pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault, then turned to Bynum and said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 12, 2008, "I want to apologize to my wife for all actions you had to go through. I know it has been difficult. I appreciate you and I thank you." Surprisingly, Bynum asked the court not to send her husband to jail, at the request of Weeks's grandfather. Sentenced as a first offender to three years' probation, Weeks was required to undergo violence and anger counseling and complete two hundred hours of community service outside the church. In statements outside the courtroom, Weeks told reporters that he had changed his plea to spare his wife further embarrassment.
Weeks returned to the pulpit at Global Destiny Church in April, though the congregation, divided in their loyalties to Weeks and Bynum, was much diminished. Although rumors of a possible reconciliation swirled—fueled by images of the couple embracing during depositions—Weeks and Bynum finalized their divorce on June 20, 2008. Weeks retained ownership of Global Destiny Church and his international ministry. He rereleased What Love Taught Me, developing the book into a webinar (Web-based seminar) and lecture series, and planned to publish a new book, with the title Finding Yourself While in Transition: For Singles and Divorcees, in 2009.
(With Juanita Bynum) Teach Me How to Love You, Legacy Publishing, 2003.
Even as Your Soul Prospers: Realize Your Purpose, Release Your Blessings, Harrison House, 2004.
40 Days to a Prosperous Soul Devotional: When You Know Your Purpose, It's Time to Unlock Your Abundance, Harrison House, 2005.
What's on Your Mind? Your Success Begins with Your Thinking, Harrison House, 2006.
Next Level Living: Mastering the Good Life God Has Given You, Harrison House, 2007.
What Love Taught Me, Global Destiny Publishing, 2008.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 19, 2007; February 26, 2008; March 10, 2008, p. B5; March 12, 2008, p. B1.
Ebony, February 2004.
Essence, November 2007, p. 162.
Jet, September 10, 2007.
New York Times, September 20, 2007.
"About Thomas Weeks III," Harrison House, http://www.harrisonhouse.com/eaysp/index.php?body=about_author (accessed July 31, 2008).
Bishop Weeks Official Web Site, http://www.bishopweeks.com (accessed July 31, 2008).
—Deborah A. Ring
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