A June 21 meeting billed as a town hall for former members of the House of Prayer Christian Church nearly led to fistfights as tempers flared.
The contentious meeting inside the Liberty County Recreation Department’s Stafford Pavilion was organized by activist Bobby Worthy.
Former members used the platform to attack the church and its leader, while current members of the church interrupted speakers and defended the church.
The meeting quickly turned confrontational and led Worthy to demand church members leave if they weren’t respectful.
Once church members left the meeting continued.
Among those who spoke out against the church was the Rev. Ray Yorke, who said he and his wife came from North Carolina to attend the meeting.
Yorke said he was a pastor at HOPCC for 12 years. He claims the church and its leader, Rony Denis, are frauds and has created a website, hopcc.com to allow former members to tell their stories.
Yorke claims church leaders are forging documents, manipulating the members of the congregation, harassing former members with scare tactics and committing fraud.
As he spoke, current church members continually interrupted Yorke, including Cesar Vargas and Mike Patterson, both of whom stepped up to the podium to speak.
Vargas said he wanted people to know that Yorke willing took money Denis paid him during his 12 years at HOPCC.
Patterson repeatedly askewhether God or the Devil started the House of Prayer.
Yorke replied that Denis founded HOPCC and said, “God doesn’t start a lie to answer your question. (The church) is a fraud and all of you know it is.”
Vargas and his mother, Gladys Jordan, a former church member, clashed at a public protest in May. Jordan, who was also at the June 21 meeting, noted both Vargas and Patterson were wearing blue tooth earpieces and said that others from the church had brought in cell phones.
Jordan said the church doesn’t allow its members to own cell phones, computers, television or access to the internet because they consider those a portal of the devil to spread lies.
She claimed it likely that Denis allowed them access to technology to video the event and tell Patterson and Vargas what to say.
Jordan has been trying to convince her older son to leave the church and said at the May protest that she and her two sons joined HOPCC when it formed in 2004.
She claimed she was “cast out” when she started questioning leadership and the church’s unaccredited education program.
Jordan’s younger son was also expelled from the church for the same reason, she said.
Jordan said children at the church will never receive a high school diploma and will stay stuck in the corrupted system.
Worthy said he’s met three young men who are ex-church members struggling to get higher education because they had no diploma and tested at an eighth grade level.
“This is the kind of stuff that the House of Prayer is bringing into our neighborhood,” Worthy said.
Activist subject of charges
Worthy, who said he is a member of the New Black Panther party, has a checkered past, according to court records.
He was convicted of felony forgery in Ware County.
The forgery charges covered Ware, Liberty and Wayne County.
According to the Georgia Department of corrections Worthy was in and out of jail between 1990 until 1998.
According to a news report on Douglas Now, Worthy was convicted of theft by deception in October of 2015 in Ware County and was sentenced to one year probation.
Worthy, who on his Facebook page seems to be in a running battle with several organizations, said he invited Walthourville officials to attend the meeting.
None attended, and Worthy posted urging a recall petition against the city’s elected officials.
An even more serious allegation was made when Jordan said Denis and the man who run the school have admitted, during church testimonies that they lust after young kids.
In a Hinesville Police Department incident report dated Dec. 15, 2016, a representative from the Department of Family and Children Services was escorted by HPD officers to a home owned by House of Prayer and allegedly occupied by Denis, his wife and their daughter.
The incident report states they were investigating an allegation of child molestation. No charges appear to have been filed.
Scuffle in parking lot
After the June 21 meeting broke up, another confrontation occurred in the parking lot as church goers waited for the people to exit the building.
Tensions rose and two people pushed each other before calmer heads prevailed.
Yorke said church officials are trying to distance themselves from allegations and have changed the name of the church to the Place of Help Prayer Force.
The church, located off Airport Road, has placed up new signs with those names.
More on this story in upcoming issues of the Courier.