Quantcast

Bully at the Pulpit

While Greater Salem Church went $5 million in the hole and the building itself began to crumble, its pastor, Anthony L. Jinwright, and his wife, Harriet, were accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and bonuses per year and insisting everything was fine. The congregation believed their leaders, and they are still suffering for their faith



Chris Edwards

(page 1 of 5)

Bishop Anthony Jinwright is barely five feet tall, but that diminished neither the power nor the length of his sermons. Sometimes he dressed in casual clothes with a gold chain and hand-size bejeweled cross hanging down to his navel, sometimes in a tailored suit, sometimes in a minister’s robe. It didn’t matter; his audiences hung on his every singsong word. He’d dance or stomp behind his clear glass pulpit at Greater Salem Church, raising his hands to the beat of his message and increasing his volume to fire up the congregation. They’d mimic his gestures, and sometimes dress in matching T-shirts purchased to support one of the church’s many ministries. Often, his wife, Harriet, would take a turn at the pulpit, practically screaming her interpretation of the day’s theme.

Musicians added dramatic undertones to their words and backed the choir’s hymns, many of which were written in-house to mirror the sermon. When things really got going, the sanctuary floor would shake. Occasionally someone would “catch the spirit” and flail around or speak in tongues. Toward the end of his reign, the bishop’s sermons ran as long as it took for a predetermined dollar figure to be raised. At times, he would instruct people to line up according to the amount of money they were giving.

The pressure to tithe was so great that it wasn’t unusual for the church’s staff to discover empty envelopes or bad checks in the day’s donations, and sometimes people stopped payment on good checks. That infuriated Anthony, who complained to the church’s board, “When someone in the church is not tithing, the whole house is cursed.” As for the cash, that often went home uncounted with him and Harriet.

Meanwhile, the church, located on Charlotte’s west side across Brookshire Boulevard from a water-treatment plant, was bouncing its own checks. Anthony later testified in federal court that, during that time, the congregation wasn’t tithing faithfully enough and the church’s financial staff was clueless. The church’s bind, he believed, had nothing to do with the Jinwrights’ insistence that they each be paid six-figure salaries in addition to other monthly payments, including a five-figure housing allowance and lease payments for luxury cars, which were paid on top of a monthly auto allowance.

The Jinwrights also received monetary “gifts” from all of the church’s accounts for both of their birthdays, for their wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, his pastoral anniversary, his retirement (which he was supposed to invest but rarely did), his daughter’s college tuition, for vacations, Louis Vuitton luggage, jewelry … and the list goes on.

While congregants voted on the church’s budget, most were unaware of exactly how much money the Jinwrights received because the line item for church salaries included the entire staffs’ and the gifts weren’t included. And, because he owned two funeral homes, was hawking a self-published book, and had established a for-profit ministry, there seemed to be no reason why he shouldn’t appear successful, especially since his sermons were in such demand that he had to travel around the country and to South Africa, the Bahamas, and Jamaica to preach at other churches.

Congregants were also unaware that the church often picked up the tab for those trips or that it paid the funeral homes’ cellphone bill. Nor did they realize that the church’s staff often performed work for Anthony’s other companies on the church’s time and using its supplies. Meanwhile, his businesses’ tax returns made it seem as though they were barely scraping by, despite the fact that, through the years, the bereaved could ride to their loved ones’ grave sites in one of the funeral homes’ Rolls-Royces, Cadillac limousines, or, for a time, a Maybach—a nearly half-million-dollar car so exclusive only sixty-three were sold last year.

Even as the church’s building began falling apart and its balance sheet sunk into the red, most in the congregation continued to have faith in their charismatic leader and his wife, whom he named copastor. Not even the couple’s indictments on federal tax evasion charges—which later earned them convictions and multiyear prison sentences—shook the most faithful “saints.”

But when the sheriff came looking for the church’s used vans, a few members of its board of directors decided they had to try to make things right. Their objections weren’t well received, says Larry Gandy, a former member of the board of directors and the budget committee. Faced with dissension, he testified during the trial that Anthony asked the board, “Why do you want to take food out of my mouth?”

We invite your responses and discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, profanity, commercial promotion, or non sequiturs.

Reader Comments:
Apr 25, 2011 04:47 pm
 Posted by  reppinChrist

I believe its sad 2 c the out come of another leader falling however, I don't believe its time 4 us 2 judge, point fingers and gloat in the misery of others! We must be like Christ and have a compassionate heart and pray 4 the church family and the Jinwright family that God would restore and make right all the wrongs!

Add your comment:

Blogs »


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

'Moral Movies' Series Launches in Charlotte, Other N.C. Cities

A Wilmington nonprofit launches a statewide film series to highlight education and economic issues. Tonight: 'American Teacher.'

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

Jarvis Holliday Chronicles Charlotte's Nightlife and Social Scene, Straight No Chaser

Bachelorette Auction, Drex and Maney’s Party with Aloe Blacc, PlayDate Charlotte, Passport For Fashion, and More April 24-27

Charlotte’s social scene is jam packed with events over the next few days.

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

This Weekend in Charlotte (4/23/14): Gillian Welch, PostSecret, Othello, & Lady Antebellum

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

5 Great DIY Projects

Home renovations, gardening tips, and a backyard bash to inspire your creative side

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Food (Truck) Fights

New rules could hurt the industry

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

Charlotte Magazine Cover Shoot Featured in Matrimony Video

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Apply for a Grant from Keep Charlotte Beautiful

The committee will award $5,000 for projects that make lasting impacts

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

The Agenda 21 Derangement

How a wild conspiracy theory lassoes mainstream Republicans, Pat McCrory included.

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

New Favorite Spring Side

Highlighting spring vegetables should be the highlight of your day, especially when its this

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

A busy week in Charlotte craft beer with events by VBGB, JJ's Red Hots/Triple C, Custom Home Pubs/Unknown, Olde Mecklenburg and Birdsong

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

McCrory's Coal Ash Proposal: All Sizes Fit One

Gov. McCrory's proposed coal ash legislation sounds like a strong step toward forcing Duke Energy to clean the stuff up. It's not. Here's why.

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Spring Feasts

Ham, matzah, lamb, potatoes, and eggs, oh my. Passover kicked off Monday and Easter is coming up, so I've got a meal plan ready for you if you've put it off till now.

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Coming This Fall: RockSalt

Owner Travis Croxton on his new space at Park Road Shopping Center, his family's oyster farm, and his love of Price's Chicken Coop

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Matthews Market Opens for Spring this Saturday

After a snowy winter and early spring cold snap, farmers and customers are eager to return

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

Jarvis Holliday Chronicles Charlotte's Nightlife and Social Scene, Straight No Chaser

Nightlife News: Sydney’s Martini and Wine Bar Opens, Rebranding Leads to 3 Trade, and Dharma Lounge Prepares to Close

Keep up with the changing landscape in Charlotte’s nightlife scene.

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

Charlotte’s first growler fill store to open this summer

Located in SouthEnd, The Beer Growler will have 45 taps

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

Jarvis Holliday Chronicles Charlotte's Nightlife and Social Scene, Straight No Chaser

Springtime Events, ‘Illmatic’ Tribute Party, Cigars and Stilettos, Oak Room’s First Anniversary, and More April 17-20

The days leading up to Easter are quite eventful in Charlotte. Your social itinerary awaits.

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Carowinds in Bloom

The springtime festival continues through the weekend with flowers, cooking demos, and craft beer

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Sow Much Good

Providing fresh produce and farm goods to those in urban deserts, Sow Much Good has reopened

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

This Weekend in Charlotte (4/16/14): Blue Man Group, Springsteen, & Local Natives

Comments