Bynum, Weeks moved to forgive?
By D. AILEEN DODD
They have laid hands on the sanctified, the sinful, the sick —- and, allegedly, flailed them at each other, too.
The stormy love affair of national evangelist Juanita Bynum and Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, the power couple of Pentecostal prophesying, could be nearing an end soon.
Or will it?
Speculation that the couple —- scheduled to meet Monday to hammer out a divorce —- will reconcile is spreading from the pews of metro Atlanta churches to gossip sites in cyberspace. Prayer warriors with Global Destiny Ministries in Duluth, the church empire Weeks runs, have been hoping for a miracle to bring him and Bynum back together aga
“Our theme at Global Destiny for this year is that all things are possible,” Weeks, 40, said. “My love for Juanita has not ceased. I want the best for her,” he said. “There are people that are praying for this to be resolved in a Christian manner. It is my hope that maybe it will take place.”
Bynum, 49, whose fiery and frank sermons about women’s empowerment have won her a national following, has accused her estranged husband of beating her in August. Weeks —- charged with a felony for the alleged abuse —- has accused Bynum of beating him during their tumultuous five-year relationship.
Rumors of a reconciliation have been denied by Bynum’s spokeswoman. A restraining order prohibits the couple from communicating or even standing in close contact.
Yet in recent weeks, Bynum has gotten closer to Weeks and his extended family of pastors than she has been in months, according to Bynum’s spokeswoman, Weeks and his church members.
Bynum has dropped by Weeks’ Global Destiny Ministries to use the prayer room and has accepted invitations from Weeks’ grandfather, aunt, and uncle to speak at church conferences in Boston and Barbados.
Bynum has accused her husband of beating, choking and stomping her to the ground in the parking lot at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta on Aug. 21, 2007.
The couple, by then separated, had lost their $2 million estate and was close to losing Global Destiny Ministries, too. The church was behind on its lease payments and was facing eviction.
Weeks was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and simple battery in connection with the incident. But even though a restraining order separated the couple, Weeks says his wife has still been reaching out to him.
Weeks said he received a prayer shawl from his wife and has shared text messages allegedly from Bynum with the AJC.
Weeks says his latest encounter with Bynum occurred last month when the two crossed paths at their old haunt —- the restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead.
He was eating clam chowder with a visiting bishop when Bynum spotted him. “Juanita came up to my table and wanted to talk to me,” Weeks said. “She happened to be staying at the hotel that night. I could not talk to her because of the legal order.”
Bynum left momentarily and came back with a slip of paper, Weeks said.
“She gave her personal cell number to the pastor that was at my table and asked the pastor to give it to me,” Weeks said. “I was unable to call her.”
Bynum’s publicist Amy Malone denies the account. “She was not trying to communicate with Bishop Weeks at the hotel,” Malone said.
An employee at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead would not confirm the hotel encounter, saying that hotel guests have a right to privacy.
But Malone did not deny what Weeks claims happened a day after the Ritz encounter. Weeks said Bynum showed up unannounced at Global Destiny after Wednesday night Bible study asking to use the prayer center.
“She asked me not to call the police, not to call the newspapers and not to take any photos of her,” Weeks said. “She stayed at the prayer center from 10 p.m. until about 3 a.m. then left. I never saw her.”
Malone said Bynum was facing a personal crisis at the time. Her father was gravely ill and she wanted to pray for him.
“The closest threshing floor in which she actually goes before Christ and prays is at the Duluth facility,” Malone said. “That is the only one that has [a replica of] the Ark of the Covenant.”
Bynum’s Waycross prayer room has the same feature, but she was far from home that night, Malone said. “She made sure that she did not have any contact whatsoever with Weeks.”
Bynum has, however, been communicating with her husband’s relatives. Juanita Bynum Ministries accepted an invitation from Weeks’ uncle Bishop Leo Smith to speak at his conference in Barbados this June.
She also accepted an invitation from Weeks’ grandfather Bishop Thomas J. Weeks and aunt the Rev. Gwendolyn Weeks to speak at an upcoming two-day prayer revival in Boston.
“Dr. Bynum has always honored her ministry and has great love and respect for the Weeks family, and after much prayer she accepted both invitations,” Malone said.
Weeks said he figured in light of the actions of his wife that the two could work out their differences.
A meeting between them, their lawyers and a Fulton County Superior Court judge was arranged last month, but after several hours of talking, nothing was resolved.
Weeks’ divorce attorney, Randy Kessler, plans to take a deposition from Bynum on Monday at his Atlanta law office. Following that, a mediation will begin and could lead to a final dissolution.
“Our goal would be for everyone to leave that day with a full settlement,” Kessler said.
The couple’s Christian colleagues, however, are praying the couple will kiss and make up before the case ever reaches the courtroom.
“My wife canceled the divorce on the day we were scheduled to go to mediation,” said minister Gregory Brooks of Divine Faith Ministries International in Duluth, a neighbor of Global Destiny.
Brooks, who lives in Jonesboro, said he and his wife of 23 years, Annette Brooks, also a minister at Divine Faith, got counseling and stayed married. Brooks says he is praying that Weeks and Bynum will have the same happy ending.
“I am constantly praying that their marriage will be restored,” he said. “It is possible if they really want it. You can’t worry about what other people think.
“People are going to say what they are going to say.”
Weeks is scheduled to enter a final plea in the domestic violence case on Feb. 25, the same day that his church is co-sponsoring a domestic violence prevention workshop in Atlanta. Trial is set for March 11.
The domestic violence case has increased the profiles of Bynum and Weeks. Weeks, an accomplished author, is writing a book about domestic violence prevention. He has returned to his estate home in Duluth.
Weeks says his church membership is on the rebound —- 100 members have returned and 60 more are joining for the first time. (Global Destiny Church lost 1,600 of its 3,400 members since the August incident.)
Bynum, an evangelist, recording artist and actress, has been in the national media, on local radio and has recently signed a deal in Cleveland, Ohio, to do a radio show called “Church in the Air.”
Weeks says their success has been bittersweet because their marriage is at stake.
“Never in a million years would I want anyone to go through what I have been through and call it publicity,” Weeks said.
“It is called hell.”