March 12, 2007
Pastor Paul’s pleasure palace
Thousands of members of the embattled Prayer Palace congregation cheered on their pastor yesterday as he bragged about his suntan, the support of worshippers and the openness of his administration while one congregant warned, “The devil decided to mess with the wrong church.”
Outside, private security guards, church volunteers and a couple of police cruisers kept a close eye on a small group of demonstrators protesting the lavish lifestyle of senior pastor Paul Melnichuk, his twin sons, who are the church’s junior pastors, and the Prayer Palace’s dwindling contributions to charity.
The Prayer Palace and the Melnichuks were the subject of a recent Sunday Star investigation that found the church’s three pastors living in multi-million-dollar mansions and enjoying a lavish Florida hideaway while encouraging the largely poor congregation to tithe a percentage of their income.
At the same time, the Star investigation found, the church reportedly took in some $3 million from its members in 2005, while doling out a minuscule $9,443 to “benevolent and charity” activities.
But if Melnichuk was aware of the protestors outside, he gave nary a sign to the worshippers who greeted him with enthusiastic cheers and hallelujahs as he made his way to the pulpit during a service at the massive church, which dominates the Highway 400 and Finch Ave. intersection.
“I’ve brought a little bit of Florida with me in my suntan,” Melnichuk told his congregants, most of whom are black.
“You can see my white teeth better. ... I want to look so much like my congregation,” the 72-year-old evangelical preacher said.
Can you feel the Christian love? No racism there.
[A]s members inside raised their hands and swayed to cries of “Hallelujah!” and “Amen!” the security guards and church volunteers – distinct in their mustard yellow jackets – kept constant watch on the boisterous protest outside the church’s main gates, where a group of about 25 condemned the Melnichuks’ opulent lifestyle, and urged congregants to demand more accountability for their tithed offerings.
“We want to bring awareness to the fact that people are giving from the community...while the ministers from the church are living extravagant and luxurious lifestyles,” said Robbie Robinson, a protest organizer.
“We’re saying that if $3 million is being taken out of the community, some of that money should be given back to the community.”
Many of the protestors, all of whom were black, said they were incensed that the Melnichuks were urging their largely poor congregation to tithe generously while living in gated mansions costing millions and driving luxury cars.
… Brushing off the media attention, Melnichuk told his cheering worshippers that tithes in the wake of the Star’s investigative report have actually increased by 10 per cent.
… Within moments, a woman in a burnished gold dress and head-dress ran to the stage and slapped a $50 bill onto Melnichuk’s forehead.
The move was met with cheers and, following a request by a church volunteer, congregation members started throwing money at Melnichuk’s feet.
“First the funds go the church,” said the beaming pastor.
Yeah, all 0.3% of them…
“After that, if the folks want to bless me...”
… “I hope the media got a picture of me with a $50 bill stuck to my forehead,” Melnichuk laughed.
The church […] has always reminded me of the Jim Jones Cult. The Melnichuk family controls the church and keeps its double life very secret until now. I personally witnessed them humiliating their church members (behind closed doors) and treating them in a disrespectful manner (myself included). They do not love the people, they are using them. Do you think they will invite faithful women like the lady in the story who feeds the poor to their multi-million dollar mansions? My family has given thousands to that church, and we were treated woefully. I knew the day would come when they would have to answer. They always move near public housing. Jamestown, Jane and Finch, now the 400 and soon a new location. A rich white family living off the backs of poor blacks and South Asians. They are self-righteous, racist in the purist form and elitist to say the least. They believe they are entitled to live off people who are gullible enough to let them abuse them. Many of their parishioners are widows and single mothers. The IRS and Revenue Cda should audit/investigate. This should be illegal. Where is the accountability? They are clothed in secrecy and will continue to live this way until someone steps in to throw open the books. They are fake and worse, snobs. There is a place in hell for people that lie, cheat, steal and belittle the poor in the name of Christ.
Note, by the way, that after the Star’s first story was published, the reporters involved received anonymous threats, presumably from Melnichuk’s hired heavies. Lovely.
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