JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Celebration Church has filed an eviction lawsuit against its founding pastors, Stovall and Kerri Weems, in an attempt to get the couple out of a home the church owns on the Nassau River.
The house is on Shellcracker Road in the Black Hammock Island area of Duval County.
The church said the Weems no longer had any authority to live on the Shellcracker Road property because Stovall Weems resigned from his church duties on April 15 amid a legal battle that includes allegations of financial misconduct, spiritual abuse and defamation.
Celebration Church said it issued eviction notices to the Weems on three separate occasions to vacate the property by May 31, 2022. The church said the Weems ‘refused to vacate’ the property and refused to pay a rent.
In an eviction notice dated April 26, a Celebration Church attorney also said the Weems had stored taxidermy and other personal items at the church’s regency location and that those items were to be removed. removed by the end of May.
A Celebration Church lawyer said the Weems’ lawyer sent him a letter on May 13 stating that the Weems were allowed to live in the Shellcracker house until they died. The church’s attorney said that was incorrect and that the Weems “have no right, title or interest in Shellcracker’s property.”
Celebration Church is seeking damages of up to $30,000. He said he was eligible to rent for the period from April 15, when Weems resigned from the church, until the day the Shellcracker property is vacated.
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The purchase of the Shellcracker property is part of the ongoing legal battle.
The church hired a lawyer to conduct an internal investigation and the findings were released in April 2022. She said Weems Group, LLC, of which Stovall Weems is the sole member and director, purchased the home in February 2021 for $855. $000.
I-TEAM: Celebration Church releases findings of explosive investigation into founding pastor
The investigation revealed that Weems sold it four months later to Celebration for more than $1.2 million, an increase of $431,000. The church said Stovall Weems signed the closing documents as seller (Weems Group, LLC) and buyer (Celebration Church). The investigation revealed that the purchase had not been disclosed or approved by the board of directors.
Weems filed a libel suit against Celebration Church in late May. The Shellcracker property was addressed in the lawsuit. He said the property was a retirement home for Weems and was never intended to be a rectory. Weems said he spent more than $458,000 on repairs and upgrades.
AFTER: Founding pastor sues for defamation over Celebration Church investigation
The libel lawsuit said that Weems, the church trustees and the church attorney had started preparing a retirement package for him and as part of that, the property was going to be given to Celebration Global, the missionary non-profit organization from Weems, as a gift.
“It was very clear, in writing, and was agreed to by all parties,” Weems’ libel lawsuit said. The lawsuit said the church’s internal investigation report omitted many of these details.
The church’s internal investigation revealed that Weems had made several questionable financial transactions without the knowledge of the board. He also accused him of misusing funds from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which Weems has repeatedly denied.
The internal investigation also described what it calls the spiritual and emotional abuse of staff. He said many witnesses described “intense personal anguish and pain caused by working for the Weems”. The investigation revealed that they treated their caregivers as inferior and created a culture where “you don’t say no to the pastor”.
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The church’s internal investigation concluded with this statement: “Weems violated the law by breaching his fiduciary duties to Celebration, by committing fraud, by enriching himself unjustly at the expense of the church, and by disrespecting not meet the fiduciary duties and standards of care required by his office. The inquest also revealed that Weems had “brought Celebration to the brink of insolvency”.
In the Weems’ libel suit against the church, they said they have worked tirelessly over the past two years to bring stability, structure and consistency to the church’s staff, congregation and organization and have worked to improve the financial situation of the church. The Weems said they did this “unaware of the conspiracy brewing against them”.
The Weems face a separate lawsuit from First Citizens Bank. The court filing says the couple owe more than $716,000 and have “failed, neglected and refused to pay”.
The Weems have until June 12 to provide a written response to the court.
The News4JAX I-TEAM contacted a spokesperson for the Weems on Monday regarding the expulsion case. She said the couple had no comment.
Celebration Church has been under new leadership since 2021. Pastor Tim Timberlake was installed to succeed Weems so that Weems can focus on missions and other initiatives, prior to Weems’ suspension and eventual resignation. The church released a statement to News4JAX I-TEAM in late May that said it was excited about the future and would continue to move forward.
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