Church Members Throw Out Their Preacher

Church members throw out a preacher for debauchery and financial malfeasance.

The locksmith worked nervously on the backdoor lock of a small white church in El Mirage.

Behind him, anxiously waiting in the blistering heat, were a dozen church members and volunteers who'd been forced out of its congregation by former Pastor Guadalupe "Lupe" Davila.

They say they all were victims of the preacher, mostly because they demanded an accounting of church finances.

The pastor's mugshot.
The pastor's mugshot.
A DVD discovered in Lupe Davila's office.
A DVD discovered in Lupe Davila's office.

Details

On this day, the estranged group was intent on evicting the pastor, cleaning up the church's finances, and taking it back for the community. Davila had no knowledge of the plan.

Since his appointment as pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Camino al Cielo in 2009, Davila had taken in an unknown amount of money from volunteers and members who'd opened their hearts and their wallets to support the congregation and improve the church's building and youth center. The group believes he helped himself to a portion of the money.

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash, building materials, and new appliances for the church's kitchen were donated. Even though he was asked repeatedly, Davila refused to provide records about how the money was spent, the group says.

On this hot July 6 morning, the pastor — who had changed the locks since booting out members and volunteers — never showed up at the church.

When the locksmith finally opened the doors, the group swiftly made its way through the building. Several members went straight to Davila's office and cleared out his desk and bookshelves of personal belongings, including dozens of Bibles.

As they put everything in plastic bins, a DVD showing a topless woman pressing her forearm and hand against her breasts fell out of a tome interpreting the Bible's book of Revelations.

"Filthy Porn Stars," read church member Donna Hennig, quoting the DVD's title. "Eight hours [long]! Oh, my . . . Can you believe this? Well, we shouldn't be surprised."

The discovery was one in a series of revelations about the man they once revered as "Pastor Lupe," and it moved the church members to reorganize the church by filing necessary paperwork with the state and county.

In so doing, they formed a nonprofit organization and changed the name of the church from Camino al Cielo (Highway to Heaven) to Luz del Cielo (Light of Heaven).

As New Times reported in "False Profit" (June 27), church members and volunteers learned that Davila emptied nearly $3,000 in donations from a bank account established to improve the learning center for neighborhood children. They also learned that he used an invalid tax-exempt identification number to collect free food and other donations from local retailers, including Costco.

They discovered that Davila, a former Goodyear police officer, spent about five months in a federal prison for stealing about $6,000 from an undercover operation targeting drug dealers and gang members.

And they found out that Davila had carried on sexual relationships with at least two church members. One of the young women was his secret lover for about two years, but she ended the relationship after realizing he had other mistresses at the same time.

When she broke things off and stopped attending church, Davila barraged her with calls, text messages, and e-mails.

Even after she obtained an order of protection against him, he sent her more than a hundred erratic texts — one minute telling her he missed her and that God loves her and the next calling her a "fucking bitch" and a "fucking liar." In some, he wrote that he was "unsettled with remorse" and that he'd pray for her.

El Mirage police issued him warnings to stop, but he continued and was arrested March 22 for aggravated harassment and violating a court order. He spent several days in a Maricopa County lockup. In May, he pleaded guilty and was ordered to attend domestic-violence-intervention counseling and pay $650 in fines.

Davila, who'd been ordained at Skyway Church in Goodyear, was stripped of his ministerial license when these facts became known.

After Davila's arrest, members and volunteers compared notes. They were devastated to learn that he'd also bilked several of them, personally, out of thousands of dollars.

But as they worked to establish a board of directors (with a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) and a set of bylaws calling for financial accountability, Davila labored to take sole ownership of the church's building.

On June 10, he filed a "special warranty deed" intended to convey the building from the congregation to himself. County officials deemed the deed invalid because Jessica Matthews, a church member who signed paperwork giving the structure to Davila, doesn't have the authority to give it away.

Even after Davila was stripped of his ordination, he refused to step down. He continued to preach Sunday sermons and baptize new members.

When longtime church members learned that he had tried to obtain sole ownership of their building, they weren't surprised. Several said they'd suspected him of misdeeds for a long time.

The building is worth at least $86,000, according to the Maricopa County Assessor's Office, and might be worth much more because volunteers pitched in to give it a major facelift, inside and out.

County officials note that another flaw in Davila's plan to own the building was that a nonprofit cannot enrich an individual with its property. Rather, such a building can only go from one nonprofit to another.

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9 comments
GratefulGrower
GratefulGrower

Of course he's gonna have porn. A lot of religous people use porn. Porn is a major problem in christian homes. They are married to these uptight spouses that wont even meet them half way in bed. You wanna keep your man from watching porn? Do something sexy with him.

But all in all. If your preacher is watching porn, he's not in tune with the spirit. But still, watching porn is better than most of these corrupt preachers who molest kids. 

jester.jackson
jester.jackson

I feel sort of sorry for the dumb lady Davila got to sign over to him a building that didn't belong to her. I wonder what else 'the pastor' got her to do in the 'name of god'.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

gee.. check 99% of all preachers stuff and you will find porn, more porn and even more porn...

Evangelists are the biggest hypocrites in the Universe

MandyMountain
MandyMountain

Recall the words of Burroughs: "When you're doing business with a religious son of a bitch, GET IT IN WRITING. His word isn't worth shit. Not when he has the good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal."

DPSnAZ
DPSnAZ

Another "Man of God", end of story!

 
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