Friday, March 1, 2013

Streitferdt - Kings Chapel Assembly - PAW history, the saddest part

At Accused Pastor's Church, Schism

Published: May 23, 1988

More than 250 worshipers came to the nearly windowless auditorium of the True Church of God in East Harlem yesterday, as they have every Sunday, to seek the light from their minister. But this Sunday was different, because the minister, the Rev. Thomas Streitferdt, is charged with raping two teen-age members of his church.
In his Pentacostal church, a modern building at 127th Street and Third Avenue with polished blond wood pews on a gently sloping floor, Mr. Streitferdt is revered by many. But some former congregants and relatives of members say they fear the man with the hawkish eyebrows and hypnotic persona.
Some said they were suspicious of a minister who lives in a $1.4 million estate on Long Island and drives a Mercedes-Benz to a church wedged into a neighborhood engulfed by poverty.
Then last week Mr. Streitferdt, 59 years old, was arrested on charges that he raped and sodomized two girls in his congregation, sisters, age 14 and 16. The Manhattan District Attorney's office also disclosed that it has been looking into charges that he illegally coerced donations from congregants. Free on $25,000 Bail
Mr. Streitferdt is free on $25,000 bail, and through his attorney, Marvin Jay Berkeley, and church officials, has said he is not guilty.
Last week Mr. Streitferdt invited reporters to his church, but barred the use of all cameras and recording devices inside. There was a carnival atmosphere outside yesterday as television crews and reporters tried to interview church members. Some agreed to speak. Others ducked behind their Bibles and rushed through the double-glass doors, above which billowed a sign: ''We Love/Support Our Pastor.''
Inside, seated in the plush red chair from which he customarily preaches, Mr. Streitferdt was a portait of calm. His congregation was attentive as he assailed the machinations of evil and spoke of God, family and love. ''I'm pleased to be in the midst of God's family,'' he said, opening his morning sermon to cheers and applause. ''I appreciate the encouragement and solace and love and affection you have showered upon me. God bless you.'' Two-Hour Sermon
He spoke in a rich, soothing voice for almost two hours, punctuating ironies with a raised eyebrow or a coughed laugh, never referring to the rape charges he faces, and only obliquely, with a joke about being surprised at how much one owns, to the financial investigation. A microphone on his necktie carried his voice outside.
After his arrest last Sunday, some parishioners turned against him quickly. A former member, Merna Vaz, said the arrest prompted her to remove her 12-year-old son from the church school.
But yesterday Joan Crenshaw, grasping a threadbare Bible, defended her church and her minister. After sitting through a service of almost three hours of singing, shouting, prayer and the words of Mr. Streitferdt, Mrs. Crenshaw, 34, said she was a better person because of his ministry.
''I'm an intelligent woman,'' she said, flanked by her husband, Tracy, and daughter, Charyse. ''I can read and reason. He is speaking the word of God.'' 'Liars Into Lake of Fire'
Ava Springs, 27, the mother of 3-year-old twins, said the charges were ''Lies, lies.''
''All liars shall have their place in the lake of fire,'' she warned.
But the father of her children, Michael Kirksey, 28, was removed from the church yesterday when he screamed a profanity at Mr. Streitferdt. Mr. Kirksey said the minister has told Miss Springs not to permit him to see his children, a charge she denies.
Early during the service, the police said, two men got into a fight in front of the church. One, James Lomax of Queens, was being interviewed by a television crew when David Thomas of 108 West 125th Street, objected to something he said and punched him in the face, the police said. Mr. Thomas, 29, was charged with assault. Protest Over Burial
After the service, Calvin P. Pressley stood across the street, handing out a leaflet charging Mr. Streitferdt with ''verifiable, intolerable, unjustified acts'' against his family.
Mr. Pressley, 56, said the minister last year had blocked the burial of his father, the Rev. Lovett W. Pressley, in a plot controlled by the church in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, N.J.
The elder Pressley had been an assistant pastor at the True Church of God, but was refused burial Jan. 12, 1987 because family and friends, many of whom were not church members, had held a funeral service in Queens.
''He didn't like that,'' said Mr. Pressley, ''so he said the church wouldn't have anything to do with my father's funeral.''
Eventually, he said, his father was exhumed and interred in the church plot, which he had paid for.
Mr. Pressley, whose mother and wife still belong to the church, is demanding a public apology.
Mr. Streitferdt's son-in-law, Issac Tapper, an associate pastor of the church, dismissed Mr. Pressley's accusation without directly answering it.
''If such bad things were done to this man,'' he said, ''why is his wife still attending here?''

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