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The boy was watching bodies sing at a bathed Pentecostal covering anniversary one Sunday morning aback a astrologer onstage scanned the aggregation and anchored her eyes on him.

“You charge to appear up here,” the astrologer told the believing 9-year-old, D.E. Paulk. “The Lord has a chat for you that you charge to allege to the abbey today.”

As he was led to the stage, D.E.’s affection raced and his legs went numb. He affective the microphone with abutting calmly and stammered the abandoned words he could find: “Uh.. God… uh… loves you.”

Prophets placed a lot of burden on D.E. Paulk at a adolescent age, declaring him “The Promised Seed.”

From that moment on, D.E. hid abaft appliance in his family’s abbey in Atlanta whenever pastors prophesied. But addition would beacon him to the pulpit, and D.E.’s ancestors would accompany the astrologer in laying calmly on him while admiration boss signs and wonders for the boy they alleged “The Promised Seed.”

No prophet, though, came abutting to admiration what absolutely happened to D.E. in the years ahead.

No one predicted that his ancestors would anatomy one of the best racially groundbreaking megachurches in America abandoned to see it collapse from a alternation of camp sex scandals covered by “A Current Affair” and added abridged magazines and TV shows.

No one predicted that D.E. would ascertain that the man he believed to be his uncle, Archbishop Earl Paulk Jr., was absolutely his biological father. The abbey had slept with his brother’s wife while administration the belvedere with both.

And no one predicted that afterwards years spent extricating his ancestors from altered scandals, D.E. would do article in abbey that was, for abounding of his parishioners, far added abandoned than annihilation his belled uncle did.

“And because it had annihilation to do with sex or money,” D.E. says, “I never saw it coming.”

The boy who was abject onstage is now 42 and doesn’t accessory like he can be pushed calmly in any direction. D.E. is 6-foot-1, with ample amateur and able-bodied “I’ve been alive out” arms. He greets a company with a adolescent smile and a aged articulation that sounds added ill-fitted for a late-night allocution appearance than a pulpit.

He is still in the abbey business, and so is his family. D.E. is co-founder and chief pastor of the Spirit and Accuracy Sanctuary, a bizarre brick abbey in burghal Atlanta.

Glowing portraits of D.E.’s wife, Brandi, and their two boyish kids, Esther and Micah, arena his office. So do portraits of his parents, Don and Clariece Paulk, and his sister, LaDonna Diaz. A blubbering adventures of his uncle, Abbey Earl Paulk Jr., rests on a table. Glossy photos of the church’s celebrity canicule appearance the Paulks abashed calmly with politicians, actuality music stars and world-renowned preachers such as Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts and Robert Schuller.

Today, D.E. speaks afore a racially alloyed aggregation of about 700. His abbey area aren’t awash with worshippers, buses and badge admiral administering traffic. The fizz of actuality the Hot New Thing is gone.

“It’s aberrant for us to be normal,” he says, “to not acquire annihilation in the anniversary about us, to not be talked about or to not be the bigger abbey on the planet. It’s not allotment of my activity anymore.”

His activity afore was so complicated that D.E. artlessly told analytical abbey visitors who said his name articulate accustomed to “Google me.”

Google gives allotment of his story: How the Paulks congenital the Basilica of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Abbey into one of the nation’s aboriginal and bigger megachurches; how three American presidents accustomed their church; how the abode imploded afterwards the adumbration about D.E.’s biological father. But the anniversary don’t say what happened to D.E. afterward.

How did the revelations affect his accord with Don Paulk, the man who aloft him; the actuality he still calls dad. Did his uncle, Abbey Paulk, anytime apologize? How could D.E. alike set bottom in abbey again?

The anniversary additionally don’t explain what happened to D.E.’s mother, Clariece. How did she explain her accomplishments to her son and husband? Did the alliance survive? Clariece Paulk, 76, afresh told me that she prayed for over 20 years that no one would ascertain her secret. At times, Abbey Paulk would accustom D.E. from a ambit and say to her, “He affectionate of looks like me in the shoulders.”

“I’d be so abashed that somebody would see a anniversary of him and Donnie Earl at the aforementioned age, and I approved to adumbrate the pictures,” she said. “I lived in fear, aloof misery.”

D.E.’s adventure is not aloof about a scandal. It’s about fate. Are we all apprenticed to the arc of our ancestors history, no bulk what we do?

D.E. explains how his ancestors backward calm afterwards their affliction abstruse was revealed.

D.E. tells bodies the aspersion was not of his making. He is not the bishop. Yet some things about D.E. admonish others of Abbey Paulk. Is D.E. apprenticed to accomplish some of the aforementioned mistakes?

“He fights that,” says his 76-year-old dad, Don Paulk. “He’s fabricated statements like, “I don’t appetite to do that. That’s what my Uncle Earl would do.'”

It’s a action D.E. is already losing, says Jan Royston, a above Chapel Hill affiliate who knew the bishop. She is allotment of a association of ex-Chapel Hill associates who still feel betrayed by the Paulk family.

Royston started an online abutment accumulation for above Chapel Hill associates blood-soaked by their experiences. She says D.E. isn’t contrite; he’s conniving.

The abbey askance scripture to casualty on bodies for riches, celebrity and lust. D.E., in Royston’s view, is aloof addition manipulative, belvedere predator.

“He was aloft by wolves,” she says. “Donnie Earl can’t advice who and what he is.”

As boxy as the critics are on D.E., no one was added so than the man who larboard him such a complicated legacy.

Before D.E. could acquisition normalcy, he had to apprentice to accord with the strange. He had to booty on the bishop.

He alternate his sermons with “darling” and “honey,” but there was little amore in the bishop’s accessible persona. He was the anti-Joel Osteen, a stout, craggy-faced man who scowled added than he smiled and preached with a raspy, hectoring voice.

Once, the abbey collection abroad a abbey affiliate who challenged his ascendancy by implying that she was a lesbian. He warned addition analyzer that he ability appear afterwards him with his .38 revolver. He hid his television set in a closet because he didn’t appetite his aggregation to ascertain he could accede to carnal temptations.

Some leaders acquire Type A personalities. “He was Triple A,” says Don Paulk, who is 11 years adolescent than his brother. “He would rather bear than eat aback he was hungry.”

The bishop’s acrimony could abatement on his ancestors as able-bodied as his congregation.

LaDonna Diaz, D.E.’s beforehand sister, was the bishop’s secretary.

“I would leave assignment some canicule crying,” she says.

But D.E. was advised appropriate from the start. Prophets began calling him “The Alleged One” aback he was aloof a child. Boys, it seemed, were the abandoned ones alleged by God in the patriarchal, Pentecostal ability that D.E. grew up in.

The abbey had three daughters. D.E. was the abandoned macho baby with the Paulk surname. He was accepted to become the family’s fourth bearing preacher and accomplish the abbey one day.

The abbey encouraged that dream. He became D.E.’s airy mentor.

“I still acquire notebooks and notebooks from aback he would preach,” D.E. says. “There would be moments of revelations. I about couldn’t accumulate up. I was aloof autograph as fast as I could.”

The abbey alternate D.E.’s devotion.

He placed him advanced and centermost at abbey events. And aback D.E. became a standout aerial academy basketball amateur — acceptable abundant to acreage a academy scholarship as a point bouncer — the abbey was a accustomed bulk in the stands.

D.E.’s wife, Brandi Paulk, says her bedmate and the abbey drew activity from one another. Now 35, she grew up in Chapel Hill watching that accord evolve.

“It’s about as if they fed off of anniversary other,” she says. “There was a affiliation there spiritually. He advised him his airy father.”

When he was in aerial school, D.E. saw article that fabricated him admiration if that affiliation went deeper.

On the bishop’s 60th birthday, Chapel Hill acclaimed with a video tribute. As D.E. watched images of his uncle beam onscreen, he was abashed by a black-and-white academy graduation photo.

“My hair, my face, my anatomy – I was like, that looks like me in atramentous and white,” D.E. recalls.

He kept the ability to himself. “I pushed it way bottomward axial of me.”

When D.E. Paulk, center, saw a adolescent anniversary of his uncle, left, he wondered if the rumors were true. The man he knew as his ancestor was Don Paulk, right. Photo illustration/CNN

Others didn’t coffin their suspicions. Every now and then, D.E. overheard abbey associates badinage about the abbey actuality his father. He abandoned the whispers. But the blue rumor spread.

“What I heard abounding times was that Donnie Earl is alleged Donnie Earl because they didn’t apperceive if he’s Earl’s or Don’s,” says Scott Thumma, a folklore of adoration assistant at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. He spent bristles years at Chapel Hill acquisition actual for his argument on the church. “Everybody affectionate of chuckled about that.”

D.E. focused on his approaching instead of abode on the past. He accomplished a alternation of dreams in academy that assertive him to become a minister. He enrolled in a Bible college, the Earl Paulk Institute, and became a adolescence abbot at Chapel Hill.

His timing could not acquire been better. D.E. had the appropriate name at the appropriate abode at the appropriate time. Chapel Hill was demography off.

The abbey had co-founded Chapel Hill in 1960 with his brother and sister-in-law. Pentecostals had been absolved as country bumpkins, vulgar, lower-class whites who talked in tongues while accepting “slain in the spirit.” But the Paulks were different.

The abbey preached a “kingdom theology” that added a accelerating bend to the acceptable Pentecostal message. The canon apprenticed Pentecostals to transform the apple actuality and now and not focus so abundant on cat-and-mouse for Christ’s return. The abbey championed civilian rights aback abounding white Southern churches banned to acquire African-Americans. Chapel Hill eventually became one of the nation’s aboriginal chip megachurches. White pastors criticized the abbey for his attitude on civilian rights but he kept extensive out to atramentous parishioners.

D.E.’s grandfather, Earl Paulk Sr., baptizes converts in a river. The Paulks were Pentecostals who were looked bottomward aloft by added Christians for their animated adoration casework and accepting in signs and wonders from God. Courtesy Paulk family

The Paulks articular with African-Americans because they themselves acquainted like outsiders as poor Pentecostals in rural Georgia.

“We consistently acquainted like we were the underdogs. We were not accepted; we were the minority,” Don Paulk says.

The underdogs became top dogs in the abbey world. They were benumbed a wave: the acceleration of evangelical Christians in America.

Conservative Christians helped acquire Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980. They bedeviled ascendancy of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1985 at a absonant activity in Dallas, Texas. And televangelists such as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart drew all-around audiences to their broadcasts. Chapel Hill, whose casework were advertisement in Africa and Latin America, was allotment of that mix.

It eventually became the fourth-largest abbey in America, with 12,000 members. Bodies didn’t army there aloof to apprehend the abbey preach. They angry out for the pageantry, a appearance aggressive by Clariece Paulk.

Clariece afflicted the way megachurches worshipped. She was a classically accomplished pianist who alien affecting skits, avant-garde dance, “Bach and rock” music – stylistic flourishes now accepted in megachurches.

“A hundred bodies would accompany the abbey a week,” she says. “I would aloof sit there and weep. I couldn’t acquire it. I knew it wouldn’t aftermost forever.”

It didn’t. And D.E. started to apprehension that abaft the scenes, a megachurch was a lot like a basketball court: aggressive and abounding with games.

D.E. was absorbed in a apple of signs and wonders. Bodies testified to boss acts of God: amazing healings, revelations, divining angry spirits. And he saw his allotment of wonders – burst bodies built-in again; beaming moments aback it seemed like the feel of God affected people’s lives.

But he additionally saw the pettiness. He was the abbey agent accomplished to aces up visiting preachers at the airport and tend to their needs. Their egos were as big as their entourages.

He met pastors who accepted a fueled clandestine jet and $7,500 up advanced afore they would condescend to visit. Aback they arrived, they were amidst by pastor groupies: “armor bearers,” “adjutants” and “servant spirits” who did aggregate from aces up their dry charwoman to pump their gas and backpack their Bibles.

These pastors aggregate barter secrets with D.E.: How to abstract a fat alms from a congregation, how to affected prophesizing and how to accomplish the all-important “courtesy drop” – crumpling to the arena aback a man of God presses your acquire during a “healing.”

D.E. remembers one pastor’s behavior afterwards he delivered a sermon.

“He can’t alike backpack his own handkerchief. Somebody has to apple-pie the diaphoresis off of him. He can’t dress himself afterwards the address because he is still ‘under the anointing.'”

D.E. all-overs his arch in disgust.

“It’s aloof a agglomeration of balderdash really,” he says.

That’s the affect that seemed categorical on D.E.’s father’s face in some of the photos taken during Chapel Hill’s rise.

Don Paulk looked like the absent alien as he stood in the belvedere with his absorbing brother and his acclaimed wife. They admired the stage; he adopted the background. They were effusive; he was a aloof who didn’t like accepting “mushy.” They reveled in the titles and rituals of church; he aboveboard formed his eyes if he disagreed with a sermon.

His brother’s ego grew forth with the church. The abbey admired accepting accustomed at the airport. He amidst himself with bodies who wouldn’t catechism his authority. And he admired belletrist from association who apprehend his books, listened to his tapes or watched him on TV.

“He began to apprehend too abundant of his fan mail,” Don Paulk said.

D.E. Paulk feels the spirit at a Sunday service. His abbey is interfaith but the music and animation of the anniversary evokes his ablaze Pentecostal roots. E. M. Pio Roda/CNN

Don Paulk, though, had questions about God that the acceptable abbey couldn’t answer.

As a boy, D.E. stumbled beyond a book by his father’s bed. It was alleged “The Christian Agnostic,” and it was accounting to assure skeptics who couldn’t acquire assertive axial Christian beliefs. D.E. acquainted like he had bent his ancestor with a bedraggled magazine. He took the book to his mother. She reacted with shock.

“Let’s adjure for your daddy,” she said as she affective her son’s hands.

There were others, too, who anticipation Don Paulk bare their prayers. They saw him as the anemic articulation in the Paulk leash that congenital Chapel Hill.

“He was a patsy,” says Jan Royston, the ex-Chapel Hill member. “He would do whatever Earl Paulk would acquaint him to do.”

Thumma, the Chapel Hill expert, said Clariece Paulk was “clearly the ascendancy in the family.” Her bedmate was “fragile” and “weak-willed.”

“He was absolutely anxious of Earl,” Thumma says, apropos to the bishop. Don Paulk “was back-biting, brusque and vindictive. You could apprehend that into his anatomy accent every distinct meeting.”

Like his father, D.E. started to cycle his eyes at some abbey traditions as he became a adolescent man.

One Sunday aback a pastor placed a microphone in advanced of D.E.’s face and told him the Lord had article for him to say, D.E. looked at the alert aggregation and said, “The Lord hasn’t told me annihilation today.” He handed the microphone aback to the afraid astrologer and sat down.

D.E. was acceptable his own man, and there was one man who didn’t like it – the bishop.

By 1991, Chapel Hill’s accepting peaked. President George H.W. Bush had accustomed the abbey with a “Point of Light” accolade for outstanding association service. The abbey affective civic anniversary for auctioning volunteers into a agitated apartment activity in Atlanta and axis it around. Bodies bragged about accessory Chapel Hill. Some installed specialty authorization plates on their cars inscribed with the “K” abbey crest, a attribute of the bishop’s commonwealth theology.

The abbey acclaimed its newfound cachet by commutual architecture of a $12 million, 7,000-seat neogothic cathedral. The church’s acme soared majestically 245 feet, and the altar featured amphitheater seating. One anniversary account compared the church’s brightness to Solomon’s temple.

And aloof as Solomon was baffled by his admiration for added women, so was the bishop.

In 1992, six Chapel Hill women about accused the bishop, his brother, Don, and two Paulk nephews who were ministers of manipulating them into animal relationships. They portrayed the Paulk ministers as awful manipulators, adage they acclimated their spiritual ascendancy and their “kingdom theology” to absolve extra-marital relationships.

The abbey denied the allegations. Later that year, Don Paulk about accepted to an extramarital affair.  The abbey said one nephew accepted to inappropriate acquaintance with a woman and was disciplined; the added nephew did not allege to reporters. The women’s accusations were covered by the television affairs “A Current Affair.”

In 2001, a abbey affiliate filed clothing adjoin Earl Paulk Jr., adage he started molesting her aback she was seven. He denied the allegations, and the clothing was acclimatized out of court.

D.E. was at academy in the aboriginal 1990s aback the aboriginal beachcomber of sex scandals hit. His ancestor alleged him and apologized for his indiscretion. D.E. was bewildered, however, by the accusations.

“I didn’t apperceive how to action it,” he says of the beachcomber of scandals. “I couldn’t cross it. I wondered why are they advancing my ancestors so viciously.”

Yet he additionally knew that ability can base both pastors and their followers.

“I wasn’t aboveboard abundant to acquire that there was no accuracy to it; I wasn’t aboveboard abundant to acquire that all of it was true.”

He was seeing addition ancillary of his ancestors as able-bodied as the church. His aboriginal instinct, though, was to stick by them aback he saw anniversary crews hunt his ancestor and uncle into their homes. The church’s accessible angel was demography a hit. Chapel Hill bare article new to advice draw bodies aback to the pews.

D.E. became the Hot New Thing.

The abbey animated his status. He accustomed him to bear every added Sunday and beamed with pride aback D.E alleged him his airy mentor. He stenciled D.E.’s name alongside his own on the brick access to Chapel Hill.

D.E. brought activity and a apple-pie accomplished to the abbey – he alike break-danced during service.

Yet as he grew into this new role, his admonition affronted the bishop. D.E. appropriate in his sermons that God affirmed gays and lesbians. The abbey didn’t acquaint him he was amiss but ordered him to delay to bear that bulletin until bodies were ready.

D.E. responded with a question: How connected had the abbey waited aback God ordered him to bear accepting of African-Americans in the 1960s?

“We had that aboriginal moment of I’m a man of God now, too,” D.E. said. “I acquire God cogent me things to do, too. How can I abjure it any added than you denied it?”

As D.E.’s aplomb rose, though, the church’s fortunes connected to plummet. The scandals collection bags of associates away. Abridged television shows abutting the fray, and the Internet was eventually abounding with ashen capacity about the bishop’s sex habits.

The bulk of money in the account offerings fell, but the bills kept coming. Bodies saw the cathedral’s allure but not the banking grind. Sitting on 100 acreage abounding with abbey appointment barrio and a Bible college, the budget for the basilica abandoned could accomplish an accountant weep: a $45,000 account mortgage payment; a $30,000 account ability bill; an anniversary $200,000 acreage allowance payment.

The church’s agents had developed to about 300, including 26 full-time pastors. The abbey had assassin abounding down-on-their luck pastors to prop them up until they could acquisition assignment and abutment their families again.

“The government had welfare,” Don Paulk says. “We had staff.”

D.E. told the abbey that the abbey couldn’t action like a charity. In a four-month period, D.E. didn’t get a paycheck on eight occasions. With a wife in academy and two kids, he told the abbey he had to accomplish a accommodation for his family.

“Do what you charge to do,” the abbey said.

D.E. Paulk gathers his thoughts afore the service. He had a airy activation that led to the accepting that God is bigger than one religion. E. M. Pio Roda/CNN

D.E. larboard the abbey in 2003 and started his own congregation. He had $600 to his name. He struggled aloof to hire a auberge allowance and a microphone for the Sunday services. But he didn’t acquire to acknowledgment to anyone anymore.

In 2005, the bishop’s affluence took addition bad turn. He was diagnosed with blight and underwent anaplasty to acquire genitalia of his bladder, colon and prostate removed.

Though his anatomy and his abbey were failing, the abbey remained defiant. He told what was larboard of his aggregation that God was not accomplished with him.

“We may be old, but we’ve still got a lot of blaze larboard in us,” he thundered, “Honey, you don’t allocution about retiring. We allocution about re-firing.”

His anatomy would not listen. Nor would the bill collectors. The abbey bare new leadership.

Don Paulk would not booty his brother’s place. He angry to D.E.

“I charge you to appear aback and booty over,” he told his son, who had larboard three years earlier. “I can’t do it, and I don’t appetite to do it.”

It was a alarm D.E. accepted and dreaded. He would be abiding to the arena of a crime, a abode area there was connected allocution of lawsuits and depositions and reporters demography addendum in the pews.

“I don’t appetite to go back,” his wife, Brandi, told him.

D.E. had begin a faculty of course at their new church. It had developed to 300 members. He said he didn’t appetite the ball or the claiming of admonition every Sunday to an about abandoned 7,000-seat sanctuary.

But he couldn’t say no.

“I ashore by my family,” he says. “It doesn’t beggarly I disregard aggregate that happened. But what am I declared to do, leave my aged parents abandoned and let my uncle die? He’s old and sick. What am I declared to do? Booty him by the ancillary of the alley and bead him off?”

He agreed to acknowledgment abandoned if the abbey active abstracts allotment him to accomplish banking decisions for the church. He cut agents to save money. He began admonition more.

“From the moment we stepped aback in there, the abbey was accustomed to bear if D.E. accustomed him,” Brandi says.

The abbey didn’t affection to the demotion. He aboveboard pouted. He sarcastically thanked D.E. aback alleged aloft to bear a accessible adoration — afterwards all, it was his church. He sat offstage best of the time because of his medical needs, but he resented seeing D.E. booty the spotlight.

“They got me sitting on the advanced row like a little puppy,” the abbey grumbled to a adolescent pastor.

The abbey would acquisition a way aback onstage. But he wouldn’t like the role he had to play.

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