A largely popular Christian denomination is the latest organization to fight back against scams targeting the faith community.
The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), whose world headquarters is in Indianapolis, has taken action against a new wave of scams that have impacted some of its pastors and lay ministers.
Most of the scams involve thieves impersonating PAW pastors and convincing people to send them money, either over the phone or online.
Apparently, the incidents have happened often enough for PAW leaders to post scam warnings on the organization’s internet pages and to make announcements during church gatherings.
In a statement, Bishop Charles Ellis III, the PAW’s presiding bishop, warned there are “reports of scams designed to exploit a fabricated situation.”
Ellis went on, “This serves as a reminder that we’re in a battle with a real enemy; so let us be sober and vigilant.”
Ellis was referring to a series of online scams involving individuals claiming to be engaged in causes on behalf of the PAW, who then asked people for money to support those fake causes. After numerous reports of the scams, Ellis assures steps have been taken to keep the PAW’s new website secure.
“We will continue to do those things to keep everyone safe online while you’re discovering all of what’s happening within the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World Inc.,” Ellis said.
In addition to the online challenges, the PAW has also overcome scams involving phone calls.
An alert has been issued about those scams from various PAW officials, including Bishop Charles Sims, diocesan (leader) of the Apostolic Bible Students Associations (ABSA), which is the fourth Episcopal District of the PAW and includes congregations in central Indiana.
Sims recounted how an ABSA pastor was contacted on the phone by a group of con artists, who said they were on their way to his city and stranded on the side of the highway with a disabled vehicle. They asked the pastor for a large sum of money.
To gain the pastor’s trust, one of the scammers even disguised his voice as Bishop Richard Young, a popular leader within the PAW and the organization’s first assistant presiding bishop.
“Needless to say, when the individual didn’t show up after he received the money, our ABSA pastor put a call in to Bishop Young and found out that someone had disguised his voice as the bishop,” Sims said.
With an estimated 2 million members around the world, the PAW is a Pentecostal Oneness organization that traces its origins to the legendary 1906 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. Among the PAW’s early leaders were Bishop Garfield T. Haywood, an Indiana native who founded the historic Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Indianapolis in 1909 and served as the PAW’s presiding bishop in the 1920s.
No one is sure exactly why the PAW is a frequent target of scammers. Sims noted that the scams are nothing new, and he is among pastors who believe the scams are spiritual attacks against a denomination dedicated to teaching authentic Christian principles.
“This kind of thing has been happening throughout the PAW for several years,” Sims said. “Let us be watchful, for the days are evil.”
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SOURCE: Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper
Brandon A. Perry