The public loves a scandal, even where one does not exist. The curious provide a market for the imaginative and the more creative within the media are all too often eager to fill the void. In the death of Florida pastor Zachery Tims, who died in New York on August 12, that creativity has driven speculation that the Reverend may have died of a drug overdose or that a relapse back into his former addiction may have in some way caused his untimely death.
The Rev. Tims was found by a hotel worker when they entered his hotel room, which sources told the Wall Street Journal he was supposed to have vacated the previous day. Unidentified law enforcement sources told the Journal and the New York Daily News that a glassine envelope containing a white powdery substance had been found in a pocket on Tims' unresponsive body. Those and other media sources provided the genesis of further conjecture that the pastor might have died the victim of a drug overdose.
According to the Christian Post, the New Destiny Christian Center, which Tims co-founded with his former wife, Riva, in 1996, called a special meeting of the congregation to address the "rumors" of drugs being involved in the death of the popular pastor. As the Post noted, some, including those who were close to Tims as head of the megachurch, have been calling for a cautious appraisal of the situation. Others seem to be willing to entertain the opinion that the death of the pastor was just another sad story in a long line of fallen megachurch preachers over the years.
Although it is known that the 42-year-old Tims was once an addict and given to a life of criminal activity, information he freely disclosed on the New Direction website and in his memoir, before his conversion to Christianity, there reportedly as yet have been no indications from friends and family members that the Reverend may have had a relapse. Given the pressures of running a 8,000-member megachurch and the recent personal troubles associated with divorce and its concomitant legal worries, there seems to have existed an atmosphere that might have fostered conditions favorable toward a relapse.
It is still unknown what was in the glassine envelope as well. Authorities are testing the contents to identify the powdered substance.
It is also unknown, even if the substance in the envelope ultimately is revealed to be some form of drug, if Rev. Tims was actually taking or using it. The New York Medical Examiner reported that the cause of death could not be determined and that a ruling could be possible when toxicology test results, which would indicate if there were chemicals in Tims' body, became available. The tests and the medical examiner's final autopsy report will take several weeks to conclude.
In summation: All factors associated in the death of Rev. Tims remain circumstantial and as yet provide no way to empirically conclude why or how he died.
Except via extrapolation, conjecture, and speculation -- and perhaps a need to make a judgment on character, a judgment based on nothing truly factual but fostered by the strange need of some to see the successful fail, the mighty fall. And given the list of fallen famous church leaders, from PTL Club televangelist Jim Bakker to Atlanta megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long, the supposition would seem to have precedent. But such thinking denies that each religious leader's case stands alone due to the individual(s) involved and the personal and situational circumstances that comprise it.
Investigators were looking into Rev. Tims' schedule and reviewing surveillance footage to see if he may have been traveling with someone. The pastor was found on Friday, August 12, but he was supposed to have left for Texas the day before. Although detectives originally believed he was alone in New York, rumors have led the investigation to look into the possibility that the pastor may not have been alone or even died alone. Authorities have also requested Tims' cell phone records.
WFTV in Orlando spoke with Orlando Pastor Randolph Bracy about Zachery Tims' untimely death and although he remained noncommittal on the reports out of New York, he observed the one thing he did know: "... sooner or later the truth will come out."
Known to be close with Tims, Bracy was asked if he thought that the pastor may have had a relapse.
"All of us can have a relapse," Bracy noted. "None of us are exempt. I'm not going to judge."
He added that Tims' should be remembered for all the good he accomplished as the pastor at New Destiny Christian Center for 15 years. In that time, he built a congregation of 6 people to nearly 8,000, built a youth center, and was involved in many charitable outreach programs, including giving away toys at Christmas.
The investigation into the pastor's death remained ongoing as of the weekend of his funeral. Thousands attended the public viewing at the pastor's megachurch Friday. The funeral and procession that followed on Saturday, held at the First Baptist Church of Orando, were witnessed by thousands as well.
(photo credit: Utente: Tinette, Wikimedia Commons)