Bishop Walker talks sex abuse claims, new global appointment
Bishop Joseph Walker III
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
A well-known Nashville pastor is speaking out for the first time about the sex abuse claims that rocked his church more than a year ago.
It comes as Bishop Joseph Walker III is set to oversee 2,000 churches under the Full Gospel Fellowship.
Walker is making news around the world as he has been tapped to lead this group that includes 2 million members and churches in Africa, the Bahamas and his own churches in Nashville.
As he explained to Channel 4 News, the appointment didn't come without serious vetting and clearing up the controversy.
In Nashville, Walker leads some 25,000 members at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and now he is taking on what he calls a mammoth challenge.
"The weight of the assignment is incredible. It's an amazing opportunity. But I'm going to surround myself with a great team of people around the world," Walker said.
The 45-year-old was voted presiding bishop of the Full Gospel Fellowship, which is made up of mostly African-American Baptists and protestants around the world.
The Full Gospel headquarters will now move to Nashville in 2015, creating dozens of new jobs.
Walker said his first order of business will be redefining church in a world where a growing number feel it's irrelevant.
"I believe what God has given me is the ability to reach that generation of people: young adults and young people who really have been turned off by organized religion. So, we're going to create a big tent and let people know the church is more than just the four walls," he said.
But the bishop's rise hasn't come without controversy. Early last year, he and the church were slammed with two lawsuits from former members who claimed Walker spiritually and sexually manipulated women in the church.
Ten months later, a judge later dismissed the lawsuits.
Walker says he's not perfect, but he denies the allegations.
"The accusations made against me were so dated. That was 10 or 12 years ago. There were changes put in. We've been operating 10 or 12 years. I don't travel alone. I don't meet by myself. We have security cameras. We cover. We do things in integrity," he said.
Walker chose not to publicly address the allegations until now.
"You cannot fan flies and drive a car. You will wreck. And for me, I had to continue to focus, pray for people, love people and be who I am," Walker said. "My strength came from real-deal people who said to me, 'You know what, Bishop? How you are dealing with this?' It's helping me get through my situation, so we continue to pray. We pray for our accusers."
Walker said he wants to reiterate there was no settlement in the case.
And he made it clear, while he will be traveling with his new role, his heart is here in Nashville. In fact, his most immediate goal is creating the "Dream Center" - a new recreational complex on Jefferson Street aimed at reducing crime and improving the area overall.
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