Former follower plans to sue minister - WSMV Channel 4

Former follower plans to sue minister

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A former member of a now bankrupt church plans to sue her former minister and accused him of not telling the congregation of his financial woes while soliciting donations.

It's the latest development in an ongoing Channel 4 I-Team investigation into the sudden closure of the Abundant Life Christian Church in Antioch.

Former members of the Antioch church were asked to continue giving to try and get their church out of debt without ever being told the building had been in bankruptcy for a year, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.

On July 15, the congregation of Abundant Life Christian Church in Antioch got an unwelcome surprise.

The doors were locked.

A sign on the door read the church was temporarily closed due to unpreventable measures and the members were invited to another location.

But a Channel 4 I-Team investigation revealed the church isn't temporarily closed. The bank has seized the building.

One former member, who asked Channel 4 to conceal her identity and call her "Susan", said she plans to take the pastor of the church, Mike Whitsey, to court.

"If I had known that the church was going to be closing, I wouldn't have given a $1,000 seed. Who does that? Why wasn't I, as a church member, informed?" the former member said.

"Susan" is the latest former member of the church who agreed to speak with the Channel 4 I-Team but only if she hid her identity.

"Susan" said she's worried about Whitsey's criminal history of serving prison time for drug possession and theft.

"You just never know what's in the back of a person's mind. I have to watch out for myself," she said.

Whitsey publicly shares his prison history online and in church pamphlets.

New bankruptcy filings obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show the bank intends to sell everything in the church, from crosses to televisions.

The bank's attorney wrote the church's estate was grossly mismanaged.

"Susan" said the church was more than a building.

"That's how I felt about the church. That's a home. A second home," Susan said.

Whitsey, who broadcast himself for television ministries, refused to do an on-camera interview to answer our questions and said the board of the church told him not to talk.

"Susan" said Whitsey has a lot of questions to answer.

"To stand in front of a congregation, and just ask, point blank, for a $1,000 seed to be sown, knowing that the ministry and going to be shut down at any moment?" Susan said.

Whitsey did say in a brief telephone interview that the donations were used to pay the church's bills.

Whitsey did not show up for a bankruptcy hearing Tuesday, and said his attorney advised him he didn't have to attend.

Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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