ORLANDO — A struggle for control of New Destiny Christian Church erupted Thursday with the appointment of Tampa minister Paula White to succeed the deceased Zachery Tims as its new pastor, and a lawsuit filed by his former wife challenging the church leaders' authority to do so.
In a press conference about her suit, Riva Tims compared the conflict over spiritual ownership of the 8,000-member church in Apopka to the biblical story of the baby claimed by two mothers.
"I am here today to declare that as founder of New Destiny Christian Center that I am the real mother," said Tims, who co-founded the church in 1996 with Zachery, who she later divorced.
Tims claims that, according to church bylaws, she is the rightful heir to the church following Zachery Tims' death in August.
The suit was filed shortly before the church announced White was taking over as senior pastor.
White, who is senior pastor of Without Walls International in Tampa, identifies herself as Zachery Tims' "spiritual mother." She preached the first sermon in the church after his death, again at his funeral, and advised during the search for his successor.
The lawsuit asserts White is unfit and incompetent to run New Destiny, which has more than $4 million in assets. The church says the lawsuit is without merit.