Skip to comments.Kestler speaks out - Calvary Chapel pastor responds to news story
Posted on 03/05/2007 6:04:07 AM PST by siunevada
TWIN FALLS - It's been a rough week, Calvary Chapel Pastor Mike Kestler told his congregation Sunday morning. He wasn't kidding.
It was the first time the religious leader addressed his flock since a Los Angeles Times story - published Thursday in the Times-News - chronicled Kestler's power struggle with church leader Chuck Smith over a religious media empire estimated to be worth about $250 million.
The story also included numerous allegations of sexual misconduct on behalf of Kestler made by former congregants and employees of the Kestler-controlled Calvary Satellite Network.
"I had a rough week this week," he said after taking the pulpit. "My dad died, as many of you know, and I almost came out here this morning with a target painted on my chest."
Kestler's father died last week, but the target he spoke of clearly implied the Times story. Kestler, wearing a sweater and khaki slacks, told congregants to contact the church with any questions then dove into his nearly hour-long sermon that was broadcast on television and over the radio.
According to the Times report, Kestler helped found in the 1980s the Calvary Satellite Network that beams the church's teachings to 22.5 million potential listeners.
Kestler is in the midst of a web of lawsuits filed by Smith, and his son Jeff, who helped Kestler start Calvary's media network.
Chuck Smith alleges, among other things, that Kestler misappropriated millions of dollars in listener contributions and engaged in sexual misconduct with numerous women. Kestler has filed suits of his own that contend that Jeff Smith took donations intended for Calvary Satellite Network.
The Times report also detailed allegations from two other women - one from California, the other from Idaho - of sexual misconduct on the part of Kestler.
Chuck Smith, who founded the Calvary Chapel in 1965, presided at Kestler's wedding and allowed his protege to open a Calvary chapel in Twin Falls, now says Kestler is unfit for the ministry.
Many of Kestler's congregants, however, see otherwise.
After Sunday's service in Twin Falls, Kestler shook hands with and hugged parishioners, many of whom said they loved him. Several congregants reaffirmed their support of their pastor in interviews in the parking lot, but all refused to be named for this story.
Back in the church, Kestler agreed to speak for a few moments about the Times article:
"I've already been tried in the state of Idaho and found innocent," he said. "The woman who brought these (sexual misconduct) charges was in a full-blown affair for over six months beforehand. All this stuff began when I asked to see the books, so what does that tell you?"
Anxious to be rid of the controversial pastor, Chuck Smith said he is willing to surrender the media empire to Kestler. He told the Times he is close to a settlement with Kestler that would forfeit his share of the network.
Chuck Smith has also offered to stop funding a lawsuit on behalf of Lori Pollitt, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who said she was fired from the Calvary Satellite Network after refusing Kestler's sexual advances.
Kestler said his congregation will weather the storm, and he will continue to lead by example.
Ping to read later