gall and gumption

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Low Tastes

Been on a run of various low topics here lately -- crime, boob jobs, bumping, grinding, naughty postcards -- why stop now?

I sometimes fear that the pleasure I take in stories like this is excessive and therefore probably in some way improper.

The hairdresser scrapes together $600 of her own money each month to keep up the program because the Prayer Palace – one of Canada's largest evangelical churches – stopped running it five years ago. Other charitable works, like a promised orphanage in Brazil, either dried up or never materialized.

Meanwhile, the three white pastors – Paul Melnichuk and his 40-year-old twin sons, Tim and Tom – lead lavish lives in contrast to the mainly working-class black families that make up the bulk of the church.

Between them, the pastors have amassed a real estate fortune worth about $12 million. Each owns a multi-million-dollar country estate north of Toronto (Tim's is worth as much as $5.5 million), they share a Florida vacation villa, and the pastors and their wives drive luxurious cars – among them a Porsche Cayenne SUV, a Lexus RX 330 SUV and a Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 convertible.

Congregants are largely unaware of the pastors' extravagant lifestyles.

"Wow," says Leslie Stewart, 63, who works in a paint factory six days a week and gives 10 per cent of his income to the church. "I never heard of anything like that. But if I release my tithe and they misuse it, they have to face God."

The Prayer Palace has a devoted congregation. Most worshippers believe in tithing, the practice of donating 10 per cent of one's income to the church, and each year they give a reported $3 million. "The people love (the Melnichuks)," Houghron says. "Pastor Paul ... loves the Lord. He does God's work."

In addition to personally funding the homeless program, Houghron – a staunch supporter of Pastor Paul – tithes and also gives him $100 to $200 cash for his birthday. "He's never given me gifts like that but he's given me spiritual gifts," says Houghron. "He encourages the work I do for the homeless."

Parts II, III, IV if you want more.

Since the publication of the articles the church board has begun an audit and hired a public relations firm, God help us. I get some satisfaction out of the exposure of such people as this preacher and his awful family.

But there's more. This congregation is largely West Indian, which, of course, caught my interest. Because I don't know, they always seem to add a little something extra in the way of drama and fun to this sort of affair.

Since the article's March 4 publication, reporters involved in the story have been inundated with phone calls from angry Prayer Palace members.

"You have touched God's anointed! Be careful! Be careful that you don't drop dead one of these days," shouted one caller who identified himself as Roger.

Other callers said that to ignore their warnings would be to invite tragedy into reporters' lives, including leprosy and possible physical harm.

One caller issued a death threat; another called a reporter a "Mormon ... a racist."

I was talking with my friend S. who lives in Barbados. She is from the Eastern Caribbean, but from a different island which I shall not name. And we both agreed that the belief in supernatural forces like obeah is much stronger and more widespread in our part of the world than people like to acknowledge. Because it is kind of a secret. Obeah doesn't really have rituals and gatherings; that's more the Shango religions. Obeah is an activity. It is an activity of using the supernatural to get your will over circumstances or over another person. You go to the obeah man to win your boyfriend back, to get him to marry you, to find out who stole your goat, to poison your husband, to destroy an enemy. In people's minds at least obeah was almost indistinguishable from actual poisoning, and among rural people especially there is a certain amount of watchfulness over who is handling your food. For instance, in some of the old Trinidadian calypsos the man suspects his girlfriend of poisoning him with green callalloo, and he describes how sick it makes him. And some country people in Jamaica told my brother years ago about a practice called "steaming your crotches," where a woman who wants to get rid of her husband squats over an open pot of rice as it's cooking (these are people who would cook on an open fire outside -- many still do that there). This is supposed to make the husband waste away and die. Or you have an enemy in the town where you live and you come home and find white powder scattered around your front door. This is a pre-scientific culture, really, even though they might all be watching the Discovery Channel on cable TV of an evening.

One day I was listening to Motty Perkins's show and this woman who stands in for him occasionally was on. And she said something that so riled up this one woman caller that the caller put an obeah curse on her, over the telephone, on the radio. Throughout the rest of the day other callers assured the guest host that they had the situation taken care of, she was not to worry or be afraid. One Rasta guy was already burning fire to clear away the evil, and another woman said that she was using the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to drive off the obeah curse, and no obeah curse could withstand the blood of the Lamb etc. etc. And I was listening to this live over the Internet while sitting at my desk editing research papers at this Very Big Scientific Institution in Washington D.C. The small pleasures of my life...

And so one of the attractions of being a Christian to people like this is that it offers better protection against the malice of your enemies, and against the powers of obeah. But for some people that sense of the world goes right into the church with them. It's not so much a thought pattern as a sense of the world in which malice and envy are on the prowl, looking for an opening, a vulnerability, and will strike ruthlessly and deviously. Like in that Bob Marley song,

Some will eat and drink with you
Then behind them soo-soo pon you...

"Soo-soo" is whispering.

Power, money, the ability to remove yourself from the yard where your neighbors are watching you, this is huge. And here comes this preacher, and he gives them so little for what he takes from them, and they are so touchingly generous. What sadly misplaced faith.


At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a moral disgrace.
The church is a big plantation. It has always reminded me of the Jim Jones Cult. The church members are brainwashed. No one can have a mind of their own or think for themselves. If you say anything, or ask are threatened with hellfire or told not to touch 'The Lords' anointed!'
I spent many years there. Eventually I got to see a fraction of what these people are like behind closed doors and it is sickening. They march around that church like celebrities and the pastors' wife is considered 'The First Lady.' They never befriended me, but when I left I was publicly interrogated and humiliated in front of other church members and not even my family would protect or defend me. They treat their congregation like slaves. A white family on the stage and a congregation of working poor blacks and South Asians. Many of them are widows and single mothers. The IRS and Revenue Cda should audit/investigate their underhanded dealings. This clandestine acitvity should be illegal. The priviledged tax-exempt status of this 'so-called' non-profit organization should be removed.
They are fake and worse, snobs. They are so cocky about it too. Tom should have laid the church budget out or at least addressed the article, instead he turned the service into a prosperity seminar and bragged about being called Donald Trump. Paul has only cracked jokes about his tan saying he wants to look like his congregation and now his white teeth will show better and made underhanded comments to the media. Deflecting blame to turn the congregation on the media is cowardly. He now brags the offerings are up 10%. The people are throwing money at his feet and a women actually slapped a $50 bill on his forefead because he said his face should be on the bill. To have the nerve to say he hopes the Toronto Star takes a picture of him with it on his forehead is wrong. It is abhorrent that they are now plastering him with prove what point? During this holy season if only Christ could go in and whip the "money changers" like he did in his day. 'They devour widows houses and for a pretence make long prayer. How can they escape the damnation of hell?' There are two ATM machines in that church and I heard they actually wanted four....WHY???
It's only a wonder what they will do to that lady in the article. I am really afraid for her. The Melnichuk family knows they will get away with it so they feel no form of accountability to their congregation. What is worse, their poor parishoners feel they deserve the wealth and defend them. People have been picketing outside the church but the parishoners are deaf, dumb and blind to the truth, I wish their eyes would open. There needs to be an investigation into the financial status of a church administration that bears similarities to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The latest word is there are allegations of sexual impropriety with all three pastors Paul, Tim and Tom Melnichuk. Maybe now the people will wake up.
‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’
-Rev Martin Luther King Jr

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Kia said...

I think it must be very hard for these people in the church to see that their trust and generosity are being abused. That's hard to believe sometimes, and painful to learn. But it tells you, doesn't it, how important it is to have institutions that we can trust to fulfill their promises -- or at least to try in good faith.

It's shocking that they publicly tried to humiliate you in that way. That is no way to treat people. You are well rid of them, and I hope you family has come round too.

Thanks for your post, and thanks for the quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. He forgot more about leadership, truth, and trust in his short life than this whole family of goons will ever know.

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to Pastor Tim Melnichuk. We do not see him anymore in the church since June2007. It seems that the father banish him away (rumors)When I asked they do not answer except to say he is away sick.

At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've shared many confusing feelings about a subject that not all the facts are known on the topic of Prayer Palace leadership, etc. However, at this point I believe that God will have the final say on who needs judgement, correction, discipline, etc. As a Christian we risk all including possible deception from our leaders. I'm personally not convinced that the Prayer Palace leadership is corrupt but it is obvious they are in need of some of God's measure of healing, realignment with the Word of God and original vision they must have had in the early days of the ministry. How success or failure changes us all in ways we never dreamed we would behave, including these people... remember, they are just people trying to do God's work even in weakness.
I worked with this church and contributed along the way but I have to say that me and my family will never come back to the Prayer Palace until the leadership sells off the million dollar estates, gives all the money back to the needy and start over. After all, God can do more in a minute than we could ever imagine in a life time... then perhaps the vision of the PP can get onto better days.
A Old Friend of the PP

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Shulamite said...

This is what happens when people lose sight of what God called them to do and fall in love with material things!
After all,the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil!
I spent many years there as well and I was very involved in the church.
They wanted to force me to do something I knew the Lord wasn't calling me to (to participate in a 24 hour intercession with different teams).
I sought the Lord about it and He spoke to me.That's when I left!
I prayed and fasted for them and yet I have never fasted for my own family!
It reminds me of the Song of Solomon:"They made me the keeper of the vineyards but my own vineyard have I not kept!
I decided to spend time alone with the Lord and His Word and little by little the Lord revealed to me things I needed to know!
Seek the Lord and ask Him where He wants You!
God bless You!

P.S:Pastor Tim has a church on Sundays in a high school (Eglinton/Martin Grove).I forgot what time but I think it's between 3 and 5.
They have a website and I think it's called "Prayer for Change".

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With any and all ministries, social groups or gatherings there is a certain amount of contempt when familiarity is introduced. NO person agrees all the time with everything that occurs at a "work place", "home", "marriage", "institution of education", "government" much less a "church". there will always be those that are disgruntled, discontent or disruptive about "something" or "someone". The critic will always critisize! It is obviously very true that you can not please all the people all the time. The true test is "TIME"....I've read allegation after allegation, speculation after speculation..... I have been to the ppc and I have seen many people assisted and helped over the last year. Pastor Tom is WOW, he is so relevant and truley speaks to your need and heart with that spiritual authority. you see I NEEDED MASS HELP....IM AN RN WHO WAS ON THE BRINK OF SUICIDE.....IM GRATEFULL THAT THERE IS A CHURCH, CALLED PRAYER PALACE!

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church is at Kipling Collegiate, 315 The Westway (Martingrove & The Westway) adjacent to Tim Horton's at 11am each Sunday morning.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Tim is at Toronto Liberty Tabernacle. Service starts 11 O'clock. Website

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Tim Melnichuk, along with his wife Margarida and two daughters Raquel and Annalisa are back at the Prayer Palace. Rejoined with the rest of the Melnichuk team and happier then ever. God has answered prayer and brought him back. Pastor Tim's previous ministry Toronto Liberty Tabernacle has merged with the Prayer Palace is it continuing to grow faster than ever and a heavy anointing rests upon this house. "A house divided will not stand." This house is no longer divided thanks be to God.

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Prayer Palace would forgive his debt or he would receive back pay and bonuses to pay his debt.
Tim often said that his brother would pay back his own personal loan because his brother was too honest and too stupid but Tim said he (Tim) would get away with it.
Tim often said that Prayer Palace needs him more than he needs Prayer Palace.
Tim discussed with us that the other reason he is going back to the Prayer Palace is so that he being the eldest son will get the “family inheritance” from his parents.
Tim and Marg’s intentions are pure wickedness. Their motivation is based on greed, power, and status. Every word that they say equals DIVERSION. They will do, say and act in any way possible to take over. These are the FACTS and now it’s your decision, as for us, we are glad that we are no longer a part of his life, his “so called” ministry and his puppeting. Now it is you who will be the puppets and Tim and Marg will probably look at this letter and say “It’s a lie”. Tim and Marg cannot disprove these FACTS and MANY MORE. They made fools of all of us at toronto liberty tabernacle and now its time for them to make fools of you, AGAIN!

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At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is badmen pastor Paul milichuk is the satan

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At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add to this sexual abuse by 'Boys will be boys" and you have painted a complete picture.

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