Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, the former home of Bishop Earl Paulk Jr., sold Aug. 10 for $17.6 million to another Decatur church, said the representative of the real estate company that brokered the deal.
The Greater Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church bought the building. Listed as one of the largest churches available for purchase nationwide it has spent roughly seven months on the market, initially listed at $24.5 million, said Matthew Messier, principal at CNL Specialty Real Estate Services, which handled the sale.
“The market is not the best,” he said. “But when you look at the square-foot basis, it’s actually a pretty good cost per square foot.”
The sprawling site sits on more than 50 acres and once held a congregation of more than 10,000 before Paulk became the subject of numerous sex scandals that led to an exodus of congregants. He died in March after a long battle with cancer.
The church still holds services, though Messier said Traveler’s Rest will likely move in within 30 to 60 days.
“They basically have outgrown their property,” he said.
Representatives from both churches could not be reached for comment by press time.
CNL, which specializes in religious and school properties, said they met with several buyers before the Paulk family settled on Traveler’s Rest.
Paulk was a national religious leader who helped create one of the nation’s largest independent megachurches. He was known early in his career for crusading against racism, and he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. at a time when it was unpopular among local religious figures to support civil rights.
But his issues began in 1960 when he resigned at Hemphill Avenue Church of God in Atlanta. It was later revealed he had an extramarital affair with a them at the church. That same year he started building a congregation that would eventually blossom into Cathedral at Chapel Hill, which opened in 1991.
But over the course of his career, several women came forward and claimed they’d been sexually abused or coerced into extramarital affairs by Paulk, who sometimes told women a sexual relationship with him was closer to God and, by extension, beyond the bounds of normal morality.
It was also later revealed that Paulk’s nephew, Donnie Paulk, was actually his son. Paulk had had an affair with his brother’s wife.
Donnie Paulk is the head pastor at the church. It was unclear at press time when its final services will be.