Pastor of Orlando-area Megachurch dies


Pastor Zachery Tims, center, celebrates the grand opening of the New Destiny Christian Center Community Youth Recreation Facility in 2005. Tims was found dead in a New York City hotel on Sunday, Aug. 14. (Julie Fletcher/Orlando Sentinel file / August 14, 2011)

Zachery Tims, who as senior pastor built New Destiny Christian Center into one of the largest congregations in Central Florida, was found dead in a New York City hotel room on Friday, according to several news sources.

“He was a great man,” said Shirley Jackson, as she drove into the Apopka church property Sunday where dozens of people had gathered in the parking lot, many with tears in their eyes.

New Destiny had a growing membership of more than 7,500 worshipers. And the congregation was very active in the community, longtime Apopka Mayor John Land said.

“He’s going to be missed,” Land said about Tims. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

It was not clear why Tims was in New York City. But WESH-TV reported that New York City Police confirmed that the 42-year-old pastor had died after being found unresponsive at about 6 p.m. in a room at the W Hotel on Broadway Avenue. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office had not yet determined a cause of death.

Tims and his wife, Riva, started the church in 1996 in an Orlando hotel room, and the congregation quickly began to grow.

In 2001, the church purchased 21 acres off East McCormick Road in Apopka after outgrowing a church on Powers Drive in Orlando.

Just four years later, New Destiny built a $3.4 million, 34,000-square-foot center as a safe place where area youths could hang out after school. By the age of 19, Tims had been in and out of jail and he said he hoped that the outreach center would help keep young kids away from crime and drugs.

According to the Web site Black Christian News, Tims and his wife, Riva, ended their 15-year-marriage in 2009 after Zachery Tims admitted to a yearlong extramarital affair.

The site said Zachery Tims admitted to “an indiscretion” in 2007, stepped down from his post at New Destiny and sought counseling from a group of ministers. Tims later returned to the pulpit, the site said.


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Posted by on Aug 15 2011. Filed under FEATURE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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