By Victor Ochieng
The pastor of Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has come under fierce criticism following the publication of a photo of his $230,000 Bentley Bentayga. Many people are slamming him because the car costs almost twice the amount a median house costs in the church’s Larimer neighborhood.
Pastor William H. Curtis isn’t the one who shared the picture though. It was posted on Facebook on Monday by Jarrell Taylor, purposefully to rebuke the pastor for his show of opulence.
“If ya pastor driving a Bentley truck … he’s sucking your community dry with hope and tithes,” Taylor wrote.
The Christian Post tried to secure a comment from the pastor about the 187mph SUV. However, it’s his assistant who responded saying she didn’t think Curtis would answer questions relating to his car, but she, at least, promised to relay the message. She also acknowledged to the Christian Post that some reactions about the pastor’s car have been trickling in, although she stopped short of giving specifics.
The pastor’s bio on the 10,000-member megachurch’s website says he started his ministry at the age of 17 and held the position of senior pastor of Mount Ararat Baptist Church from 1997. Further details reveal that Curtis also serves as an instructor at the United Theological Seminary in Ohio and is a co-owner of The Church Online, a technology-oriented full-service providing firm.
Under Curtis’ stewardship, Mount Ararat Baptist Church has implemented several powerful programs, including a Community Tithe Program, which invests more than 10% of the megachurch’s weekly offerings to small congregations, para-church ministries, and select nonprofits.
Curtis’ choice of the ride, famed among hip-hop artists, hasn’t gone down well with many observers such as Pope Francis who believes religious leaders should live a humble lifestyle.
Commenting on the issue, Samuel Cruz, associate professor of Religion & Society at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, said Friday that “the Gospel was good news to the poor and I don’t know how owning a Bentley that’s worth $230,000 contributes in any way to the furtherance of the Kingdom and also how that could be justified.”
He added, “To own a car that expensive you have to be among the top 10 percent of income earners or even higher of these United States of America, and I can’t consider how preaching could lead someone to so much wealth.”
When further details came that Curtis also earns substantial income from his marketing firm, Cruz responded saying that “at a minimum, I think that for a pastor to go to his church in a car that is worth twice the median of what homes are worth in his neighborhood, it shows me that this person has no common sense,” also asserting that for him he thinks “it’s really immoral to be able to make so much money out of ministry, or any organization that is ministry-like and that to some extent is being supported by a church. I think it’s outrageous. … I just feel you can’t justify it, in my opinion.”
Damon Young, an estranged member of Curtis’ church, editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothas and a columnist for GQ.com, said Wednesday that seeing a car that expensive in a church where “the majority of his congregation is living check to check” made him uncomfortable.