Former megachurch pastor Earl Paulk died in an Atlanta hospital near midnight Saturday, CNN reported. He was 81.
Officials with the Atlanta Medical Center did not release a cause of death on Sunday, but the founding pastor of what is now known as the Cathedral at Chapel Hill had battled cancer for several years.
Once known for its racial diversity, creative arts programs and massive, neo-Gothic sanctuary, the church drew more than 10,000 members at its height during the 1990s. But Paulk had been hounded by allegations of sexual misconduct since he was accused of committing adultery in 1960.
In 1992 a church member went public with claims that she was pressured into having a sexual relationship with Paulk's brother, Don Paulk, who served as senior pastor. He admitted to an affair and resigned but was reinstated three weeks later.
The same year several women alleged that a church staff member sexually harassed them during counseling sessions. Another female staff member claimed in 1993 that she had a sexual relationship with Earl Paulk Jr.
In 2001, a female church member filed a lawsuit claiming the bishop sexually molested her when she was a child and later when she was a teenager. That suit was settled out of court in 2003.
Last year, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Mona Brewer and her husband, Bobby, alleging that Paulk coerced Mona Brewer into a 14-year affair. The couple and their attorney were ordered to pay more than $1 million in legal fees. But in February, a Georgia appeals court struck down that order and called for new hearings to be held regarding the fees, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The Brewers' case sparked a chain of events that led to Paulk's pleading guilty to lying under oath about having affairs with other women. A paternity test also revealed that Paulk was the father of his nephew, D.E. Paulk, who now leads the 1,000-member congregation.
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