For the past several weeks, our church and our pastors, Rev. Paula White and Bishop Randy White, have been the focus of several stories in The Tampa Tribune that have sought to question the ministries of the church and the integrity of our leaders.
Advice from our attorneys and our many Christian friends has been not to speak out, but due to the fact that this ongoing campaign by the Tribune has now led to a rumor and smear campaign on the TBO.com Web site, we feel we cannot remain silent any longer.
The Tribune has raised questions about Pastors White and their handling of personal affairs for Mother Ruth McGinnis, a close friend and valued member of our congregation for many years. After Ruth entered into an agreement to live with the Whites in the mid-1990s, she was increasingly unable to travel with them as their ministries required the Whites to be on the road.
Mother Ruth is an elderly person. In addition to being unable to travel constantly with the Whites, she also expressed sadness at not being closer to her friends and her family doctor in her old neighborhood in south Tampa. So in 1999, Ruth chose to move back to her own home, which she had owned for many years.
When Mother Ruth and the Whites terminated the Lifetime Support arrangement, a mutual agreement was reached on the amount still owed to Mother Ruth and was entitled to receive as a result of her loan. That amount is not "gone" - as the Tribune editorial claims. Because it appears that Mother Ruth has lost the documents and perhaps has forgotten the financial arrangements that were put in place, Bishop Randy has arranged and paid for Mother Ruth to have her own attorneys review the arrangements with her and ensure that she will continue to have the peace of mind over her finances that was thought to exist at the time the Lifetime Support arrangement was terminated and other arrangements were put into place for her benefit. Mother Ruth has said she does not want her financial affairs published in the media. Would you?
The Tribune has also questioned church activities as they relate to LaShonda Dupree, who would have won a down payment on a new home if she had been approved for a home mortgage by one of three regional banks and mortgage companies which co-sponsored a contest with our church.
LaShonda Dupree signed a release on Sept. 20, 2002, which clearly stated she understood that "….Without Walls International Church does not accept responsibility for any decisions made concerning individual mortgages."
However, because this entire incident ended badly, embarrassing both LaShonda and the church, the Revs. White along with the board of directors of Without Walls International Church have now authorized the purchase of a home for LaShonda and her children, and we will begin the process of working with her to find a suitable residence. It should also be noted that the church already made LaShonda the gift of new furniture several years ago.
Finally, because a recent editorial in the Tribune also questioned church finances, we would like to remind the community that our finances have been independently audited for many years, our auditors have continually provided us with a letter which clearly states our finances are in order, and we have posted the full and complete audit along with our auditors' letter for everyone to review on our Web sites.
The latest audit report for 2005-2006 was posted in late April. We don't know of any other church or for that matter many private businesses that post their annual audit on a public Web site.
According to our audited financial reports for the past six years, based on the church's gross revenues of $112 million from 2000 through March 31, 2007, Without Walls International Church has given out approximately $98 million in aggregate support for missions, outreach ministries and evangelism. Approximately $5.2 million of that was given in the first quarter of 2007. Without Walls has given to scores of needy and honorable individuals and programs, including programs locally and globally - from the Mayor's Riverwalk project to a Katrina Relief Fund to childrens' programs in developing countries.
However, the leadership of Without Walls church is very worried that the Tribune campaign against us will set off a barrage of financial requests from people who will circulate rumors and tips simply to get us to pay them to stop circulating embarrassing gossip. In fact, this has already started, and we have now been forced to hire two outside law firms to deal with a mounting campaign of extortion set off by The Tampa Tribune's stories and editorial innuendos.
From now on, Without Walls and Pastors White will have nothing more to say about these matters.