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Christian News Today

Ephesians 5:11 & Mark 4:22

 

Rev. Karl Strader – Senior Pastor

Carpenter’s Home Church, Lakeland, Florida

 

Pastor Karl Strader Is History

One thing can be said for Assembly of  God  Pastor Karl Strader of Lakeland -- he just refuses to go away quietly. A year after giving up the most visible symbol of his one-time religious conglomerate -- the monumental Carpenter's Home Church sanctuary -- Strader is now 76 and fighting prostate cancer. And after experiencing the loss of a once-thriving ministry and seeing one of his sons serve years in jail, his theology now embraces a concept not much talked about in his Pentecostal tradition -suffering.

One thing can be said for the Rev. Karl Strader -- he just refuses to go away quietly.

Yet he still preaches twice on Sundays and has plans for new ventures, launching a satellite preaching ministry and an Internet "congregation."

"I feel very fulfilled . . . because I've turned the baton over to younger men. I don't have to deal with the nuts and bolts of pastoring," Strader said recently in an interview.

Like a Shakespearean king or a biblical patriarch, Strader has divided the dwindling Carpenter's
Home Church into two congregations and given them to his son and son-in-law. Stephen Strader is remodeling a former Scotty's hardware store as a home for Ignited Church on the north side of Lakeland, and Shane Simmons has taken over the Auburndale Life Church.

Technically, Carpenter's Home still exists as a "multisite" church in the two locations, with Strader as an overseer or bishop. Auburndale Life Church operates under the nonprofit charter held by Carpenter's Home, although
Ignited Church now has a separate legal identity. But there is no longer a single congregation that bears the name so long identified with Strader. He preaches at a Sunday morning service in Auburndale and on Sunday afternoon at Ignited Church.

Relaxing in his home not far from the sanctuary he built, Strader said he has no regrets about selling the building to Without
Walls Central Church because it had become such a burden.  Saturday, July 15, 2006 by The Ledger

O LORD my God, if I have done this: if there is iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, or have plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue me and overtake me; yes, let him trample my life to the earth, and lay my honor in the dust. Selah (Psalms 7:3-5)

Roy Aldrich, a retired school teacher, who was robbed of a 100,000 by Dan and Karl Strader, knew that Karl Strader was an enemy of good men.  In January, 1995 in regard to Pastor Karl Strader Sunday sermon on ‘Enemies’ Roy Aldrich made the following remarks:

I would like to join the ranks of those who Karl Straders counts as his “enemies.” by the following statements:

1)    I am the enemy of lying and deception which hurts and robs people.

2)   I am the enemy of those who practice cruelty in the administration of any corporation, especially churches.

3)    I am the enemy of any minister who allows the use of his pulpit for personal vendettas.

4)    I am the enemy of any minister who uses his pulpit for soliciting public and personal sympathy over controversial matters involving his family.

5)    I am the enemy of every minister in the world whose sense of right and wrong is based on nepotism and favoritism.

6)    I am the enemy of the policy of Karl Strader who raised $52,000.00  for Dan’s defense fund and $58,000.00 for repairing a roof and not one dime for his son’s elderly and devastated victims.

7)    I am the enemy of the disrespect represented in the Strader attitude towards the State Attorney and Judge Robert Doyel, a true servant of God.

8)    I am the enemy of the policies of secret salaries which conceal huge benefits flowing from trusting church members to their leaders- salaries which provide sumptuous life styles, while at the same time, these same leaders are firing and traumatizing the “little people” under their care like Cindy Deaton, Patricia Aldrich, Jack and Betty Collins.

9)    I am the enemy of huge personal gain to Karl Strader and Joe Perez derived from their secret management fees from the CHC Life Center Retirement Estates.

10)    I am the enemy of the thinking that some claimed “anointing  or supposed special privilege with God gives anyone the right to turn a Christian church into their own personal “cash-cow.”

11)    I am the enemy of the thinking expressed in the attached sermon outline which implies that the welfare of CHC is determined by any one man or family. We are supposed to worship Christ, and not the Straders.

12)     I am the enemy of any minister who uses his oratorical ability to rally church audiences into cheerleading and other emotional excess as a device to shore up a crumbling personal empire.

13)   I am an enemy of any organization that suggests opposing the leader’s lifestyle and words is opposing God.

Believe it or not Pastor Karl Strader actually preached on Psalms chapter seven and made it his prayer one Sunday morning. He actually mouthed the foolish words and asked God to do the same to him if he did evil to others. Well, God heard and answered Karl’s prayer and his honor was laid in the dust. And now Assembly of God Pastor Karl Strader is history!

The Assembly of God denomination unlike other denominations is not a democratic organization. It is an old boys club made up of pastors to support pastors. It’s hierarchy including superintendents are appointed by pastors and not by members. Ministers instead of a church member preside over board meetings unlike in other more democratically operated Protestant churches. Many of its churches are owned by pastors rather than by members. In America it’s a very small religious, arrogant and hypocritical denomination which produced the three Musketeers: Jim Bakker (1987), Jimmy Swaggart (1988), and Karl Strader (1989). Together, these so called men of God have robbed, raped and even murdered the defenseless elderly people in their communities and affected many lives across America.
 
 The money that flows through the Assembly of God denomination, as well as other denominations in
America and is not openly accounted for, is in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and offers religious politicians and unscrupulous scoundrels a gold mine or “cash cow” as Roy Aldrich called it. Some of the things that go on in AG (Assembly of God) CHC (Carpenter’s Home Church) and Baptist Christians make the soap operas on television appear mild in comparison.
 
 More money is embezzled from the church each year ($16 billion) than is given to foreign missions ($15 billion) reported the newly published second edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia. The exhaustive survey of global Christianity contains some good news. It notes that Christianity has become “the most extensive and universal religion in history,” with some 2 billion adherents—one in three of the world’s population—at the start of the new millennium.

CLEMENCY BID DENIED

Daniel Strader To Stay In Prison

Son of religious leader is serving a 45-year sentence for stealing $3 million from investors.

Published Friday, June 16, 2006

By Jason Geary

The Ledger

 

BARTOW -- A bid for clemency by Daniel Strader, a former insurance agent and son of a prominent Lakeland religious leader who is in prison for stealing more than $3 million from investors, has been denied.

 

Strader, 48, has been searching for mercy since his 1995 conviction on 238 criminal charges.

 

He is serving a 45-year prison sentence with a scheduled release date in 2033.

 

In December, Karl Strader, the founder of the Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland and father of Daniel Strader, and other supporters made their plea to aides to the state Clemency Board. They suggested Daniel Strader should be released from prison to begin repaying his victims.

 

But the State Attorney's Office in Bartow received a letter Tuesday from the Office of Executive Clemency in Tallahassee with news that Strader's request to waive the clemency rules to allow his case to proceed had been denied.

 

Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet members, who serve as the Clemency Board, denied Strader's request on Feb. 6.

 

"It has been the position of this office all along that his case wasn't appropriate for clemency," said Chip Thullbery, administrative assistant state attorney. "We believe the board made the correct decision."

 

Calls to the Governor's Office did not glean any further detail about why the board came up with its decision.

 

"There is not an in-depth explanation for decisions written in the files for the clemency hearings," said Russell Schweiss, a spokesman with the Governor's Office.

 

"The individual cases are decided by the board based upon the recommendations of the clemency office in addition to testimony and also records that are provided to the governor and Cabinet members."

 

Strader may not apply for another waiver for at least three years from the date the waiver was denied, according to the rules of executive clemency.

 

Jason Geary can be reached at 863-533-9079.

Rolling the Dice With the Jury

Let's be clear: Daniel Strader, the son of a prominent preacher, could have been out of jail years ago if he'd taken the option given to him in 1995: Confess to his financial scam and be sentenced to serve 14 years in prison (which would have been cut in half for good behavior) for bilking 60 investors, mostly elderly, out of more than $3 million. Many were members of a church at which his father, the Rev. Karl Strader, was pastor.

 

He agreed -- and then renounced his guilt, rejected the plea, and tried to convince a jury to let him go.

 

It is a decision that he and his family have much reason to come to regret.

 

After five weeks in court, the jury spent a mere three hours convicting him of 238 out of 240 counts of fraud. One juror told The Ledger he was let go on those two counts because the jury "gave him the benefit of the doubt because he had paid back their money."

 

Circuit Judge Bob Doyel imposed a 45-year sentence saying, "The court can have no confidence in the word of a man who is unwilling to admit his wrongdoing. The first step toward rehabilitation is an admission of guilt, so it seems unlikely Mr. Strader will ever be rehabilitated."

 

Now Strader's family wants Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Cabinet to let Strader out of jail.

 

A Major Abuse of Trust

 

Before the governor and Cabinet members vote to give Strader a full hearing on reducing his 45-year sentence, they owe it to Strader's victims and the cause of justice generally to familiarize themselves with how badly Strader abused the trust placed in him.

 

Just after he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a 14-year sentence, Dan Strader stood in the pulpit of his father's church while about 2,000 people listened.

 

"So what did I do wrong?" Strader, then 36, asked the congregation as a way to explain away his guilty plea. "I didn't follow through with the intricate details of every business transaction to ensure the integrity of every investment I represented."

 

There you have it: Sloppy bookkeeping, that's all it was. Evidently, Strader convinced himself it was exactly that. So he withdrew his plea and went to trial.

 

What happened to the sloppy bookkeeping defense? "The way he answered (questions on the stand) just sort of indicated his guilt," Linda Detwiler, a jury member from St. Cloud (jurors were bused in from neighboring counties because of the notoriety of the case), told The Ledger shortly after the jury delivered its verdict.

 

If there had been accurate bookkeeping, it would have been embarrassing. During the trial, the former manager of a check-cashing company said Strader frequently cashed checks there in 1992 and 1993 -- so frequently that he ran up $30,000 in fees in one month. She also testified that he had given her $5,000 in tips. Other testimony showed he was going there because officials at three banks had closed his accounts because of bad checks.

 

After conviction, Strader tried to claim his defense lawyer wasn't competent. That may have worked if the defense lawyer had been a novice. But Jack Edmund was representing Strader. Before his death in 2002, Edmund was considered one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the state, and he advised Strader to stick to his plea bargain.

 

At a hearing last week in Tallahassee, family members told aides to Cabinet members how badly they want him out of prison. "I'm hurting. My wife is hurting," said the Rev. Strader.

 

There are trust accounts set up more than five years ago that potentially could be used to repay victims. But supporters also said a bank account related to the fund currently has only $110 in it -- the minimum needed to keep it open.

 

It's nothing compared with millions of dollars needed for restitution. If people are serious about wanting Strader out of jail, there should be serious money in it to make restitution for his crimes.

 

And then there was the $500,000 mortgage on development property. Daniel Strader's supporters said it could be an asset used to pay victims. They claimed the mortgage's validity was being questioned in an ongoing lawsuit.

 

But Lakeland lawyer Mark Miller, whose clients sued Strader's companies over that mortgage, told The Ledger last week that there's no dispute about it: "I have a final judgment from the court invalidating that mortgage," Miller said.

 

`Earned Every Day'

 

State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose office prosecuted Strader, attended the hearing. He told the aides that Strader "earned every day" he served -- and will serve. For some, said Hill, there is no restitution because the victims have died. Many couldn't afford their losses, and Hill said he thought some had suffered premature deaths as a "direct result of the deceit and harm" Strader's dealings caused.

 

A Web site attempting to raise support for Strader's early release notes that one of Strader's business associates, Gary Pernice, received probation for his part in the scam. (He was also required to spend one weekend a month for 15 years in the Polk County Jail, and ordered to pay 28 percent of any earnings toward restitution.)

 

The site notes Stephen Smith of Winter Haven, another scam artist convicted in the late 1980s, served only four years of a 15-year sentence. And Alice Faye Redd, who also separated investors from their money, only served 18 months of a 15-year sentence.

 

But here's the difference: Pernice, Smith and Redd all confessed to their crimes and settled for plea bargains. Pernice pleaded no contest to the charges. Smith pleaded guilty to charges involving oil and gas explorations. Redd, charged with selling bogus investments in a clinic where her husband worked, pleaded no contest and was sentenced. (She was granted a "conditional medical release" in 1998 because she had terminal cancer. She died in 2002 at age 65.)

 

Strader rolled the dice and went to the jury -- perhaps believing they would trust him just as much as the people who had given him money.

 

Members of the jury didn't buy any of Strader's excuses.

 

Neither should the Clemency Board.

(Published Wednesday, December 21, 2005 The Ledger)

 

Clemency for Strader? Don't Buy It

By Thomas Roe Oldt

 

Supporters of imprisoned Polk con artist Daniel Strader say the 45-year sentence he received is too harsh and ought to be undone by a grant of clemency.

 

But State Attorney Jerry Hill feels so strongly the other way that last week he journeyed to Tallahassee for a pre-clemency hearing to argue against an early release.

 

Strader, who is the son of Carpenter's Home church founder the Rev. Karl Strader, was convicted in 1995 of swindling investors, many of whom were elderly and lost their life savings.

 

Among his petitioners was Strader's father, who asked the state clemency officials to release his son, saying he would be better able to repay his victims if not incarcerated. The imprisoned man's 16-year-old daughter also testified, saying she and her brother missed their father and wanted him home.

 

One can sympathize with the family tragedy the younger Strader selfishly created when he elected to steal his millions, but his family's anguish should not become a compelling reason to release him.

 

Strader and his supporters can talk all they want, but not everyone who lost their money to Strader is able to be heard. Some of the victims can't speak for themselves because they are dead, having expired in Strader-induced poverty.

 

Hill is their advocate. On Friday, he talked to The Ledger about why Strader should serve out his sentence and about the damage Strader caused his victims and society.

 

Though the clemency hearing focused on Strader's family, "what got us here," said Hill, "are 172 pages of charges, $3.5 million, 63 victims, 250 separate counts and a guilty verdict on each count.

 

"It's not as if this was a petty, poorly thought-out, one-time scam," Hill said. "Among the things you have to remember is that Danny Strader didn't make cold calls. He went to people in the church, to old friends he sold insurance to. He picked on people he knew and who trusted him. Instead of using a gun, he used trust, a smile and the confidence people had in him.

 

"He didn't just take a watch and a wallet," he said. "He took the trust and security from these folks, who generally were older and more vulnerable. . . . This involved people who were already close to the line financially. These were people who needed every dollar every month."

 

As with other clemency hearings he's attended, Hill said, he "expected to hear how he's been a counselor, a teacher, started some religious classes. There was none of that. What he's in fact done in 10 years in prison is file grievances against a judge, file appeals in every court he can find, petition the U.S. Supreme Court and complain to the Bar about every attorney involved in the case, including his own.

 

"His whole life is so self-centered that it has nothing to do with anything other than getting Danny out of jail," Hill said.

 

As for the effect on his family, "if the love of a family or the harm done to a child are grounds for releasing a felon, then we can pretty much empty the jails tomorrow," Hill said. "He created victims in his own family. That's unfortunate, but no excuse for releasing him."

 

Like most con artists, Strader arrogantly believed himself to be not just above the law but superior to most of the people he encountered in the legal system, including his own counsel.

 

What else could explain his decision to renounce, on the eve of his trial, a guilty plea that would have given him a 14-year sentence. Instead, convinced he could game the system as surely as he conned his victims out of their money, he went before a jury.

 

"He complains about the sentence he got," notes prosecutor Wayne Durden, "but he had his chance and gave it up."

 

This is a good thing for society, Durden said.

 

"Everybody's talking about sexual predators. Strader's a financial predator," Durden said. "Even if he were released, there would be significant restrictions on his financial capacity, so I don't know how he would pay back anybody. My concern is that others would be victimized if he were released."

 

Among the victims Durden remembers are "an elderly couple he hit up on Christmas Eve for tens of thousands of dollars. Strader would tell his victims anything he thought they wanted to hear in order to part them with their money. He had no scruples about what he had to do or say to get it."

 

Circuit Judge Robert Doyel, who presided over Strader's trial and sentenced him, noted in his sentencing report that Strader "is unwilling to acknowledge the simple truth that it was criminal for him to lie to people to get their money and then use the money for his own purposes. He evidently believes that he is above the law and that it is perfectly acceptable for him to defraud people as long as he intends eventually to pay them back."

 

To this day Strader has not acknowledged that "simple truth," which Doyel pointed out to the Clemency Administration in a Sept. 9 letter.

 

Clemency, says Hill, "is nothing more than an act of grace or mercy. Strader is entitled to exactly the same amount of clemency he granted his victims -- none."

 

Thomas Roe Oldt is a Winter Haven-based columnist for The Ledger. His opinion column appears on Sunday.

 

Published in The Ledger December 18, 2005

 

Carpenter's Home  Church Sold to Without Walls

By Cary McMullen

Ledger Religion Editor

 

LAKELAND -- The 9,000-seat sanctuary of Carpenter's Home Church sits empty on Sundays these days.

 

Worshipers walk past the massive building to gather in the auditorium of Evangel Christian School next door.

 

Worship services are as lively as ever, but the worshipers easily fit in the much-smaller school auditorium. The Carpenter's Home congregation has been worshiping there for about two years, since not long after a deal fell through for a Tampa megachurch, Without Walls International, to purchase the sanctuary.

 

Now Carpenter's Home is one step closer to having the burden of the idle sanctuary lifted from it, although the future of Evangel Christian School and Day Care is uncertain beyond next year.

 

The Rev. Karl Strader, pastor of Carpenter's Home, told the congregation Sunday that the church's board has unanimously approved a contract that would sell the sanctuary to Without Walls.

 

Carpenter's Home would receive $8 million plus a 3,000-seat sanctuary in Auburndale now used by Without Walls Central, a satellite of the Tampa congregation. The Auburndale church has been appraised at $5.7 million, Strader said.

 

"We have a contract with a deposit in escrow, but there are several contingencies that must be met before closing, which must take place within 60 days. We are not done yet," he said. He did not say what the contingencies are.

 

As Strader outlined it, the deal calls for the Without Walls Central and Carpenter's Home congregations to exchange places, although there would be a transition period of one year during which Carpenter's Home would continue to hold worship services in Lakeland on Sundays and Wednesdays.

 

Without Walls Central would worship at the Lakeland sanctuary on Thursdays.

 

Carpenter's Home would continue to own and operate Evangel for one year, Strader said, but he implied that the school's future beyond that is unclear. Referring to Evangel's principal, Mike Cooper, and Without Walls Central's pastor, Scott Thomas, Strader said, "One of the things we're hoping is that Brother Mike will get Pastor Scott to take an interest in the school so it can continue on."

 

Strader said the deal would enable Carpenter's Home to be free of debt and to use its resources for advertising and evangelistic outreach.

 

"I can't tell you what this means to me. It's a new era for us. . . . We haven't gotten behind on any bills, but we've been living on our assets the last few years and you know you can't do that," he said.

 

Following the service, church member Randy Baatz, who lives near the site of Without Walls Central in Auburndale, said he supported the deal.

 

"I want whatever God wants. It would be good to be able to pay off our debt," he said.

 

Without Walls International is an independent Pentecostal church that draws as many as 20,000 worshipers each week. Its pastors, Randy and Paula White, are flamboyant figures who have attracted celebrities from across the country to their services, and Paula White has a popular TV show on Christian cable channels.

 

The church has a wide-ranging set of ministries, from food and clothing distribution to Spanish-language programs.

 

Without Walls was close to a deal to purchase the Carpenter's Home sanctuary in 2003, and the Tampa church held regular services in the sanctuary for several months, but the two churches could not agree on a price. Without Walls subsequently purchased the Life and Praise Temple in Auburndale and established the satellite church, Without Walls Central, there. The church now has about 5,000 worshipers each week.

 

The current deal between the churches was made public when the Whites told the Tampa Tribune last week that a contract was in the works. The report caught Carpenter's Home officials off-guard, and they were cautious in their comments, because the church board had not approved the contract and church members had not been notified about the deal. A letter was hurriedly sent out to members, and Strader said Sunday, "Randy and Paula got a little rambunctious. They're excited about it."

 

Strader led the First Assembly of God of Lakeland to build the sanctuary in 1985 at a cost of $12 million, renaming the church Carpenter's Home. At the time the church had about 5,000 worshipers, a TV ministry and an FM radio station, but its fortunes fell after an internal struggle in 1989 over Strader's leadership led several hundred people to leave and form Victory Church. The 1995 conviction on fraud charges of Strader's son, Daniel, further hurt the church.

 

About 500 people were present at two services Sunday.

 

In November, Carpenter's Home members approved a plan to put the sanctuary on the market and create what Strader termed a "multi-church," essentially what Without Walls has done, with multiple congregations under one name. Strader said Sunday the church had received several offers for the sanctuary and compared the process to the birth of an elephant.

 

"Elephants have a gestation period of 18 to 22 months, and if ever there was an elephant, it's that sanctuary," he said.

 

Strader thanked the worshipers for their faithfulness.

 

"We hope to be in at least two new locations soon. We want to be sure you go with us wherever we go. We want the best for you," he said.

 

http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050613/NEWS/506130356/1134

 

Strader Seeks Reduced Sentence

Family helps convicted swindler with Web site, e-mails to governor.
By Jason Geary The Ledger jason.geary@theledger.com

BARTOW -- Daniel Strader is turning to the Internet and Gov. Jeb Bush for salvation, having exhausted his legal appeals.

Nine years ago, a judge sentenced Strader -- son of Karl Strader, founder of one of Polk County's largest churches -- to 45 years in prison for swindling elderly investors out of more than $3 million.

In March, a federal judge denied Strader's request for a writ of habeas corpus -- effectively ending his chance of reducing or overturning his sentence through the courts.

So his family began a letter-writing campaign, focused on persuading Bush to reduce his sentence.

About a month ago, the family created a Web site to jumpstart what it refers to as a "divine intervention." See http://www.danielstrader.com/


The site includes essays from the 46year-old inmate about his divorce and incarceration, updates on his appeals, pictures of Strader with his son and daughter and a "Free Dan" graphic that explains the clemency process and how to write a letter of support to Bush.

"He needs to be with his family -especially his 16-year-old son who has leukemia," said Karl Strader, the 75year-old patriarch of Carpenter's Home Church in North Lakeland.

So far, Strader's cyberspace campaign has generated a relatively lackluster response -- between 30 to 40 supportive letters, Karl Strader said.

"These are people (like) presidents of Christian television companies," he said. "They are really influential people who are writing. They say Jeb Bush reads his e-mail, but I don't know."

The state's Office of Executive Clemency was created in 1975 to assist convicted felons seeking pardons and help in restoring their civil rights or to obtain relief from punishment. The governor and members of the Cabinet serve as the Clemency Board.

Inmates make applications to the Florida Parole Commission, which investigates the cases and makes recommendations.

In the past 24 years, the office has commuted 118 sentences, according to state records. That means the sentences were nullified or lessened.

"Post-conviction relief is a rarity," said Tim Weber, the St. Petersburg lawyer who represented Strader on his last appeal. "In my experience, the cases where you get relief are where you are able to show the court clear innocence.

"Clemency is not always an easy route because it becomes political."

STRADER'S STORY

Strader's is not the story of a man with a vast fraudulent scheme but one of a man who lied in a desperate attempt to save a failing business, Weber said.

In his bid for clemency, Strader likely would argue that his trial lawyer, the late Jack Edmund, provided an ineffective defense and that he was given an unusually harsh punishment, Weber said.

The harshness of Strader's sentence already appears to be a central element of his family's talking points and strategies.

Karl Strader described his son as a "political prisoner" who fell victim to a media blitz in the early 1990s as eager prosecutors looked to win praise for defending the elderly.

The danielstrader.com Web site contains a detailed chart comparing other local highprofile fraud cases.

Daniel Strader's co-defendant, Georgia lawyer Gary Pernice, was sentenced to spend one weekend a month in jail for 15 years and to pay restitution.

Another white-collar criminal convicted about the same time as Strader, Alice Faye Redd, received a 15-year prison sentence and served 18 months for bilking $3.6 million out of people who thought they were investing in Watson Clinic.

However, unlike those people, Strader rejected a plea bargain offering a 14-year sentence. Instead, he went to trial and was convicted on 238 charges -ranging from theft and conspiracy charges to securities fraud and racketeering.

Another aspect separating Redd's case from Strader's is that Redd, who died at age 65, received a "conditional medical release" in 1998 because of terminal spinal cancer.

WHAT INVESTIGATORS FOUND

Assistant State Attorney Wayne Durden spent more than a year with three investigators working full-time to unravel the complex web of deceit in the Strader case.

Durden said Strader claimed to have been investing money in discount mortgages, annuities, mutual funds, short-term loans, property development -- even hot air balloons.

Instead, he cashed investors' checks and returned some money to victims as fraudulent interest or profit in what investigators described as a classic pyramid scheme.

"The financial hardship that he (inflicted) on these victims in the case is enormous," Durden said.

"To this day, there is no true indication of remorse or general acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing. . . . Society is better off with Daniel Strader incarcerated."

Karl Strader contends his son was an honest businessman who intended to repay everyone.

"There are about half a dozen people involved in the investment who want vengeance and want him to rot in prison," he said. "They are full of hate.

"He has apologized to everyone for making mistakes in business, but he never intended to defraud anyone," he said.

THE VICTIMS' STORIES

At Strader's trial, victims testified to being "financially ruined" and feeling "betrayed not only by the business community but also by the Christian community in which Mr. Daniel Strader is held in such high regard."

Nora M. Kuppinger, 81, who retired to Lake Wales from Chicago, was one of 60 individuals and couples who testified against Daniel Strader.

When she met Daniel Strader in 1979, Kuppinger said she thought he was a good insurance agent and was impressed with his morals.

"You have faith in a man like that because he has a big religious background," she said.

Kuppinger said Strader assured her she would not lose anything. She handed over $100,000. Investigators calculate she lost about $56,000 in the scheme.

"He took me into it," Kuppinger said. "I just felt he was so honest. Here I am a bigcity girl from Chicago, and he got me."

For years, Kuppinger said she felt embarrassed and was grateful that her husband, John, died years before the scandal broke.

"When he died, he thought that he'd taken good care of me," she said.

Kuppinger said she has tried to forget Strader's lies but does not feel he should be given clemency.

"In this case, it was absolutely pure greed, and I have no sympathy for him at all for what he did," she said.

Some of Strader's victims said they do not believe they will ever see their money again. At the time of Strader's 1995 sentencing, five of his victims had already died.

Karl Strader said his son continues to maintain his innocence and wants to get back home.

The family has managed to stay together -- calling on the telephone, writing letters and making visits every couple of weeks to Avon Park Correctional Facility, where Strader is incarcerated.

"We've kept close in touch, but it's like having four hurricanes in a row -- it begins to wear on you," Karl Strader said.

http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041003/NEWS/410030380/1004

 

Judge Denies Strader's Last-Chance Appeal Writ

By Jeff Scullin, The Ledger, March 27, 2004

 

BARTOW -- After nearly a decade, a federal court ruling this week all but ended Daniel Strader's appeals of his 45-year prison sentence for cheating elderly investors out of millions of dollars.

 

Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew denied Strader's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, declining Strader's request to review his claims that the state of Florida had violated his constitutional rights in prosecuting him for fraud and other charges. The judge denied Strader's petition with prejudice, barring him from filing a similar petition.

 

Unless Bucklew or the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta grants Strader what is known as a certificate of appealability -- basically, permission to appeal -- Bucklew's decision means Strader is out of legal challenges.

 

"An appeal is not automatic (because) the standard of review is fairly strict," Assistant Attorney General Trish McCarthy, who handled Strader's case, said Friday. "From our perspective, the case is at an end."

 

Tim Weber, the St. Petersburg lawyer who represents Strader, said he thought there were sufficient legal grounds on which to appeal Bucklew's ruling. He said he plans to discuss an appeal with Strader and his family next week.

 

If Strader decides not to appeal or the federal courts were to deny a certificate of appealability, Bucklew's ruling would be the "end of the line" of Strader's legal challenges, Weber said.

 

In 1995, Strader -- the son of Karl Strader, pastor of Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland -- was sentenced to 45 years in prison after a jury convicted him of 238 counts of theft, conspiracy, securities fraud and racketeering. He's been in prison since August of 1995 and is currently housed at Avon Park Correctional Institution.

 

As president of Interstate Financial Services, Strader, 45, organized a Ponzi scheme that bilked 56 investors, most of whom were elderly, out of $2.3 million.

 

Strader's subsequent appeals and motions for post-conviction relief failed. Two years ago, Weber filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court in Tampa, arguing that Strader's due process rights had been violated.

 

The petition included allegations that prosecutors had withheld evidence favorable to Strader's case and that Strader had received ineffective legal representation because his lawyer, the late Jack Edmund, had not adequately prepared for trial or investigated the case.

 

But the heart of Strader's allegations was that prosecutors had coached their star witness and his former business partner, Gary Pernice, to change his testimony about promises they had made to him about receiving a lenient sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

 

Pernice, a former Atlanta lawyer, pleaded guilty in 1995 to felony grand theft charges involving three of Strader's victims. He was sentenced to spend one weekend a month in jail for the next 15 years and ordered to pay 28 percent of his income toward restitution.

 

Weber said Bucklew never addressed the allegation that prosecutors coached Pernice, which he called "the guts" of Strader's petition.

 

"We do not feel that the court even addressed the primary argument that we made, which is a little disconcerting," he said.

 

Other than appealing Bucklew's ruling, Strader's remaining option for lessening his sentence would be asking the governor for clemency. Weber said he thought Strader would have a case for clemency based on what he described as the inordinately lengthy sentence Strader received.

 

Strader is scheduled to be released from prison in September 2024, according to the Department of Corrections' Web site.

http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040327/NEWS/403270360/1004

 

 

Carpenter's Home Church will be sold

The name Strader carries weight in charismatic circles. Strader, 72, has been pastor of Carpenters Home for 35 years and has ministered at various churches nationwide. A Pentecostal church under the Assemblies of God denomination, Carpenters Home has owned radio stations, hosted concerts and conferences featuring big names in Christianity, such as evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, gospel singer CeCe Winans and Christian music artists Jars of Clay and Michael W. Smith reported the St. Petersburg Times.

 

But the past 15 years have also carried controversy. Some Assemblies of God leaders, including televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, have publicly questioned Strader's theological teachings, according to the Lakeland Ledger.

 

"We've been to hell and back," Strader said during a recent church service. About 800 of Strader's members left to form their own church in 1989, after a dispute over his leadership.

 

Then in 1994, Strader's son, Daniel, was arrested on fraud charges. He was convicted the next year and is serving a 45-year sentence in federal prison. A small number of fraud victims were members of the church, causing further tension. Strader said he believed his son was innocent and was treated unfairly by the system. But his son's appeals have been denied. Strader asked members of Without Walls to pray for his son's release, saying seven years behind bars was enough for a "white collar crime."

 

At one time membership rolls swelled to about 5,000. Strader and a jubilant congregation had the 10,000-seat auditorium built, believing that in time it would be filled to capacity. Instead, attendance dwindled.

 

Published the St. Petersburg Times August 12, 2002

 

LAKELAND -- The dreams of a Tampa megachurch to buy the massive Carpenter's Home Church sanctuary in Lakeland have come to an end.

 

Without Walls International Church, a 14,000-member Pentecostal church, concluded a 10 month arrangement with Carpenter's Home on May 31, ending its Saturday night worship services and closing off negotiations to buy the 10,000-seat sanctuary.

 

Inability to agree on a price doomed the sale. Jennifer Mallan, an associate pastor at Without Walls said Thursday the figures were confidential but the two sides were "a couple of million dollars" apart.

 

In February, negotiations reached a stalemate when the Tampa church's offer of $10 million was rejected. The board of Carpenter's Home set an asking price of $12.5 million.

 

At that time, it appeared Without Walls would have to end the Saturday night worship services at Carpenter's Home it had started last August. Carpenter's Home canceled a lease agreement between the two, but then it appeared that negotiations revived, and Without Walls continued to hold worship services until three weeks ago.

 

However, Shane Simmons, Karl Strader's son-in-law and an associate pastor at Carpenter's Home who handled the church's negotiations, said Thursday that Without Walls had made no new offers.

 

"We were never offered anything higher than the price we turned down," he said.

 

Published the Ledger  June 20, 2003

 

The problem with lying and thieving preachers in America is that they all preach to others but never listen to others. They are after all better than their sheep?  Someone should tell preachers such as Karl Strader, Benny Hinn and Randy White, who said I was demon possessed and needed to get a life because I don’t do what they did, that robbing and raping the money and well being of the sheep under their care is not just a "white collar crime." They should read their own bible that they talk so much about and see what God said to Eli and his raping and thieving sons:

 

Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?  'Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? 'Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?'  "Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the LORD says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. 1 Samuel 2:27-30

 

Carpenter's Home Finances

 

In our local news recently is a report that the Carpenter's Home Church, under the leadership of Karl Strader, will be sold.

 

I wish The Ledger would investigate and publish the finances of this deal. The Carpenter's Home Church started out as an Assembly of God church before Karl Strader took control.

 

I have relatives who were members of that church since the 1940s, and they helped pay for it.

 

I have visited often in the past and heard many of Rev. Strader's sermons. I was puzzled why he often said in his sermons that anyone who disagreed with him should not make a fuss, just walk out the back door and leave.

 

His congregation has now dwindled down and he is left with a multimilliondollar facility.

 

My relatives left after Rev. Strader became a more-autocratic minister, there were questions about his family being given jobs at the church and his son was convicted of defrauding church members (mostly elderly ones) out of their life savings.

 

It seems to me part of the problem is that the Assembly of God denomination allows ministers to preside over board meetings instead of a church member, as in other more democratically operated Protestant churches.

 

Nonetheless, it was good Assembly of God people who paid for that Carpenter's Home Church property, and any benefits from the sale should go to the Assembly of God denomination.

 

The question before the public is, will it?

 

TRAVIS EPSHIRE

 

Published The Ledger Saturday, August 31, 2002

 

Strader continues as president of the separate nonprofit corporation that operates Carpenter's Home Estates retirement facility.

(THIS IS WHERE HE STEALS MONEY FROM IN LEGAL MANAGEMENT FEES!)

In conversation with Strader or his supporters, the word "integrity" comes up frequently. He clearly wants to emphasize that, unlike other famous Pentecostal preachers who fell from grace, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, his personal morality has never been questioned. "I don't know a finer man in shoe leather than Karl Strader," says Reggie Scarborough of Family Worship Center. "He's a man of love who walked in love with people." CARY McMULLEN Ledger Religion Editor  

The Straders

“Judge says nobody can trust Strader”

(The Tampa  Tribune  August 10, 1995)

“People speaking in his behalf, honorable people, believe in Mr. Strader’s innocence. They too are victims who have been taken in by what Straders says, rather than seeing what he is and what he has done.” Judge Doyle

“He’s created as much damage and heartbreak and ruined as many lives as any homicide case I’ve every seen. “ State Attorney Jerry Hill

Clients complained to state about Strader

By William R. Levesque

LAKELAND- The Florida Department of Insurance received two complaints in 1989 that Daniel Strader was misdirecting some of his insurance  client’s money, documents obtained by the Ledger show.

One complaint came from Strader’s employer, the Banker’s Life and Casualty Co. which told the state it fired him after customers raised concerns, documents show....

According to insurance investigators Dan Strader took funds from clients to purchase a policy or annuity; but instead deposited the money into an Interstate account. On May 21,1987, an 80 year old Haines city woman, wrote the insurance department a letter stating that she gave Strader $87,000 thinking that it would be invested in a Chicago Insurance company.

But instead the money was deposited, without her consent, into an account controlled by Strader’s company—Interstate Financial Services, of which Daniel was vice-president. Strader was investigated by Banking officials of the Florida Department of Banking and finance, but the inquiry was closed because Strader repaid the woman.

The  Ledger, Lakeland Feb. 23,1994

Elderly Polk Investors left waiting for Money

By Williams R. Levesque

... Some people as Craddock and Riser, knew Strader well because he was their insurance agent. Many investors knew him as the son of a well known local pastor.

Strader 35, is the son of Karl Strader, Pastor of the Carpenter’s Home Church in north Lakeland.  

A 1979 telecommunication graduate of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. the younger Strader formed Interstate in 1985...

... But Strader now operates out of an office at 222 Carpenter’s Way- The Carpenter’s Crest condominium complex - and he no longer occupies his former South Florida address. interstate is a general Partner in Carpenter’s Crest Complex...

Daniel Strader, 36 was arrested on Friday May 20, 1994, at his father’s beautiful home, on a lake, across the street from an 18 hole golf course, for what the State of Florida alleged that Dan did. He was the son of the Pastor and a devout Church member of Carpenter’s Home Church. Also a former insurance investigator and a self-made and self-proclaimed investor with a once-thriving insurance practice.

The State Attorney office of Florida would give a picture of a confident pitchman whose financial world was in shambles. Interviews with investors by the media revealed that Strader offered attractive double digit interest rates on their so-called investments which turned out to be a sham.

The Investors solicited by Dan Strader  were told many things about where their money was being invested, from real estate to insurance companies or stocks or bonds, but ended up instead in a company run by Dan Strader, Interstate Financial Services or in his personal pocket or bank account. 

All the while, Dan Strader was telling others that he was paying the interest with income from company owned properties. While it mainly came in from other gullible investors who believed the Pastor’s son and this so called man of god and graduate of Oral Roberts University who prayed with and preyed on them, while he  talked about Christ and quoted Bible verses.

Investigators would later show that Dan Strader’s five of the properties he had purchased for investors with their funds, were actually in Strader’s own name. Many of his so-called investors or victims, were his insurance clients or members of his father’s church.

Dan and Pastor Karl Strader also told the parishioners of Carpenter’s Home Church, Lakeland, Florida that Dan faced real threats and dangers because of threats from his investors. Although, this was never established as a fact, by the Straders or by  the court.

Many people in and around Lakeland, Florida, especially preachers and retired elderly, were really upset that they were conned out of their life’s savings by the son of a prominent Assembly of God, Pastor. Karl Strader who once told others that his original calling was to serve God in Russia as a missionary, and started to learn the Russian language in order to fulfill his calling. Too bad, Karl didn’t go to Russia, so many people would have been spared the pain and agony of knowing and working with him! 

Dan Strader said about the arrest and all the rumors that he was innocent and it was all a misunderstanding. A theme that was replayed by Dan and his family for the next two years.

On Sunday, May 22,1994, Pastor Karl Strader, 64, of Carpenter Home Church in Lakeland, Florida, paraded his complete family including in-laws in front of the congregation and  told them that the media and government were not hearing the full story of his son’s plight. 

This circus parade of the Straders was to repeat itself over the next two years, because the Straders thought they were special in the eyes of God and man. Little did they know what the community around them, religious and business, really thought and said about them. Words such as crooks, hypocrites, Pharisees, thieves, liars and murderers and wanted nothing to do with them.

All along the Straders couldn’t figure out why the ten thousand seat church had only a fraction of the people, the turnover of members and adherents was the highest of any church in the states, and church was in financial trouble all the time.

Karl said, he was perplexed by the picture of his son portrayed by the investigators and in the media reports. He also stated, that they have pictured us as a part of the family we don’t know, for his son is a warm, loving, kind, very human person, a person who trusts God and after 36 years was caught in a web drowning. Nothing was farther from the truth, as Karl Strader’s spoken words were, as the mountain of evidence and testimony of real elderly victims, would later show.

One thing about the Straders was true, they knew how to use nice oratorical words, other people  and bring God into it. In their words and deeds, it was always the fault of others, but never of the Straders. They also acted and did things as though they were better an others, and stayed aloof from everybody. Pastor Karl Strader was hard to find after a church service. Even Joyce Strader, his wife, said that the Pastor kept to himself and didn’t say much to others.

In the circus parade, Pastor Karl Strader stated what was to be his standard response for the next year about Dan Strader, “ All we ask is a fair trial and opportunity for him to make restitution. His heart is very tender towards God. He is seeking the Lord. There never has been a time when he hasn’t sought the Lord to my knowledge. We’re all looking for a supernatural deliverance, for God is a God of miracles.” 

Well Dan received his fair trial, he was found guilty of seeking illegally the riches of this world,  supernatural deliverance never came, Karl’s knowledge was of Dan was poor, and Dan never confessed that he did something really wrong, and neither did the Straders.

The fact remained that as a result of the Ponzi scheme operated by Dan Strader and the Redds (also once members of Carpenter’s Home church) in Polk County, Florida, some people lost their homes and many other things including their lives.

A Ponzi scheme is where returns are paid to older investments by using funds from newer investors. Many were not able to recover financially, from the loss of their life’s savings being stolen by so-called Christians, who were also members of the Assembly of God Churches. 

Many of the real victims were retired elderly, who invested with Dan Strader or the Redds because they were recommended as a good Christian people. They trusted these Christians, as they came from a prominent Assembly of God church, which was supposed to be the home of the Carpenter, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Well for the record, the real  “Carpenter” worked for a living, He didn’t collect money nor steal from others. He also blessed, healed and delivered people and gave even His own life for them rather than to put them in bondage.

Jesus Christ was literally innocent of all the accusations that the religious leaders and the authorities of the day made against Him. The Straders and Redds were guilty of their crimes, which included robbing, stealing, lying, hurting and even causing people to die prematurely.

Many of their victims, out of embarrassment, or because they were Christians, didn’t file any charges or complaints against them. Some of the victims, especially in Carpenter’s Home church, even believed that Dan Strader one day would return their money, because he gave his word and the Strader name was “a good name which could be trusted.”

Dan Strader, after his arrest on May 20, 1994, by investigators of the Florida State’s Attorney office, stated that the only thing that he was guilty of was stupidity and ignorance.  Well, the Ledger also printed an article by William R. Levesque, about Dan Strader’s home, which he purchased in 1991.

It’s an unbelievable story and showed more than just ignorance and stupidity.  Even though Dan defrauded around four million dollars from others, on May 14, 1994, he owed $210,564.00 on a mortgage on it, that had an original value on his home of $210,000, which was in his wife’s name, and owed back taxes on it from 1989 of $20,400.00. Strader’s electricity had also been turned off 13 times since 1995 for non-payment of bills through 1994. Concerning this entire area, the bible is very clear.

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)

This is something, that as a pastor’s son, he should have been aware of. The state attorney’s office stated that some cash derived from expensive local check-cashing services, of investors checks, were deposited in bank accounts of Dan Strader and his wife Melissa, and they were used to pay the couples personal debts. Again Dan, as a pastor’s son and graduate of Oral Roberts University, should have known the bible, which stated:

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)

It was also established in the courts by Debby, Dan Strader’s secretary from 1989 to 1992, that Dan quoted the bible “The wealth of the wicked will be inherited by the righteous.” Especially when he talked about and mocked three of his investors and called them alcoholics, a red neck and a truck driver. Other events would show that the Straders knew how to quote Scripture verses but they didn’t know how to live by them. There is a difference that is evident to all!

Although, some people, including Senior Pastors of Assembly of God churches, memorized chapters and even books of the Bible, they definitely didn’t put into practice the bible the way it was meant to be. For many of them did not do anything about the injustices and wrongs in their denomination. Again, there is a difference between memorizing and doing the bible.

What was proven and established by the courts was that Dan stalked and preyed on the trusting and defenseless elderly. The unfortunate part is that the group of people, who were mostly hurt by the criminal actions of Dan Strader and his competitor Alice Faye Redd, were the elderly. It was a group that was defenseless and powerless and an easy prey to those who were supposed to be trustworthy.

In the PTL Scandal, it was also the widows with their small monthly incomes that became the target of Jim Bakker, in his search for easy money. It was no coincidence that both Jim and Dan pleaded not guilty and they both got a 45-year sentence.

However, it was a group that Jesus Himself would have been most upset about, because Jesus saw what the widow and the Pharisee gave to the house of God.

So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; “for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:3-4)

Jesus, also told us:

“Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:46-47)

Once upon a time, when the Straders had their abundance in Carpenter’s Home Church, Pastor Karl Strader had bodyguards, who were protecting him and other people who would park his limousine for him, but the times have changed and so have the people.

At first, when Daniel Strader company was under investigation, he told the Ledger he owed investors no more than $235,000.00 and that some of that was not due immediately. Court records would later reveal the amount he owed was closer to $1.5 million.

It was another one of those ‘heavenly exaggerations,’ of religious people as Stephen Strader has defined it or a lie to normal people like you and I, that both Dan and his father, Karl, did over the years when they talked about Dan’s company or Carpenter’s Home Church’s finances. Ironically Dan Strader’s wife, Melissa said, “my husband’s biggest crime is being the son of a preacher.”

Daniel Strader, as per Judge Doyles’ remarks, conducted a “Ponzi scheme.” To obtain funds for his scheme Mr. Strader utilized his position as a trusted insurance agent for many of his victims, and a position of trust as the son of a well-respected minister at one of Polk county’s largest and prominent churches.

The guise under which the defended obtained money from his victims varied from victim to victim. To many of the victims, he lied that he was investing their money by purchasing and reselling “discounted mortgages.”  There is no evidence that the defendant actually purchased or sold discounted mortgages, said Judge Doyle.

Other schemes involved fraudulent representations, that the defendant was investing his victim’s money in hot air balloons, in C.D.’s, or mutual funds, and property development. In the process, Dan Strader gave some victims worthless mortgages. The evidence also showed he was using investors’ money to make payments to earlier investors, not where he told them he was investing their money. 

A similar technique was used by some in Carpenter’s Home Church to keep it alive since the split of 1989. In other words, find new people to replace the people that had left and deceive the new people in contributing more. In addition, to sell any church asset and do anything to stay alive at all costs.

As a result, in June 1995 WCIE the churches radio station built from the donations of others was sold before the mid pint of the season for 5.1 million dollars to offset the church’s indebtedness over the last seven years.

Something that Judge Doyle stated that Dan Strader was doing just prior to his arrest trying to stay alive and ahead of the law. Rather than investing any of his victims money the defendant stole their money or returned it to them as fraudulent interest or profit. Most of the Victims were unsuspecting and trusting elderly.

The Straders not only talked well but also wrote letters. I, as many others, read a one page letter sent by Daniel Strader’s brother, Stephen Strader and his sisters, Karla and Dawn which was also reprinted in the Ledger.  The letter solicited funds for Strader’s legal defense. Investigators were charging him with 259 felony counts and for scheming to defraud Central Florida’s elderly residents. The letter didn’t talk about the real victims of Dan’s crimes but stated:

“Dan is facing bankruptcy and life imprisonment because of mistakes he made in his business. Because of these mistakes and the economy, some of  Dan’s business clients have suffered losses. While many of these good people have been willing to give Dan the opportunity to recovery financially, others have been unwilling or unable to give Dan more time to make things right.

The  system  which holds Dan’s fate in its hands seems almost sinister in its inclination, conscious or not to damage Dad and the church. The press and some of Dan’s investors have not hesitated to drag out Dad and the Church into the mire.”

All we want for Danny is that he be treated fairly, and that he be given the opportunity to set things right. He has been faithful to the Church and to his small family [ whose electricity was cut off 14 times in one year because of non payment of bills by Dan ]. He loves God and feels the call of God on his life. He is seeking the Lord now more than ever in his 6 by 10 cell with only his Bible. Being human, Danny  has made mistakes, but he is sincere in his desire to make things right. He wants all of his investors and business associates to be made whole.”

Our reasons for contacting you is to let you know about this trouble, because we know that you will want to show your love and support to our parents. We also want you to know how critical this situation is. Dan has no money, and cannot afford to pay a qualified lawyer to defend himself. Our parents cannot afford to handle  the expenses of Danny’s defense by themselves.”

Mary wrote a letter to the Editor titled “Strader gutless, selfish“ which was printed in February, 1995, in the Ledger, concerning Daniel’s decision to withdraw his guilty plea. For Strader was accused of soliciting investments in income producing properties and in his company and instead the money was converted to cash and deposited for his personal use and pleaded guilty. She stated:

A truly revolting and shameful display. The Reverend Strader should be double ashamed - not only did he raise a criminal, he raised a gutless selfish whiner.

Later, we were to learn that  Dan’s  parents, the Straders,  lived in a debt free  $400,000 home on a lake next to a golf course drove two luxury towncars and made a salary in the six figure bracket not including special perks.

While other parents, who sold their homes and possessions to help one of their daughters or sons in their time of trouble, the Straders in their usual style asked others to contribute and made only  small token contributions themselves. For their other children protested that dad was not to spend their inheritance in defending Dan.

If Dan was innocent as Pastor Karl Strader said many times, why didn’t Karl Strader, as a concerned parent sell any of his assets, especially the luxury towncars to help him? This was something that haunted me and spoke loudly to me that  something was really wrong in the pastor’s behavior and actions as a Christian.

Later, Pastor’s old time friend and associate of seventeen years would tell me why. The other children complained that the Pastor was spending their inheritance to help Dan Strader.

In response to the Strader’s letter soliciting funds for Dan Strader’s defense fund, the Ledger ran an article on Saturday, May 28, 1994, titled, “Strader family requests prayers, donation.”  Saying in part:

Jim Bakker’s one-time top aide in PTL ministry has set up a legal-defense fund for jailed businessman Daniel D. Strader, the beleaguered son of a well-known local pastor.

Richard Dortch [ An Assembly of God Pastor] who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy in the PTL scandal served 16 months in federal prison, has set up a trust fund to pay Strader’s legal fees.

Dortch helped sell $158 million in “lifetime partnership to PTL followers, but federal prosecutors later charge the ministry could never meet those partnerships included-like three night’s lodging at PTL hotels in  South Carolina.

Dortch also arranged a $265,000.00 payment to Jessica Hahn to keep her from revealing a sexual liaison she had with Bakker at a St. Petersburg Beach hotel.

An engineer who was on staff with CHC worked, out a plan for Carpenter’s Home church in the summer of 1995, to fix the roof for $24,000.00 and presented it to them. The Executives of CHC decided they would raise $160,000.00 instead and do it differently. Why not? This has always been the Strader way of doing things, using other people’s money  to do things.

A former staff member of CHC told me the story one day, of how a poor and needy person came to Carpenter’s Home Church and was in need of food and shelter. Joyce Strader, the wife of pastor Strader, ordered CHC to immediately write a check for this lady for fifty or a hundred dollars. While this act by Joyce was a very noble one, it displayed a few things that were wrong with the Straders.

·        First, the check didn’t come out of Joyce’s pocket but CHC’s.

·        Second, Joyce commanded that a check be written and issued right away even though she was not an executive or on the board of CHC. (The Straders know how to get and use others people’s money for noble causes, such as Dan’s defense fund, and put very little of their own and do nothing for the victims.)

Court records showed that when Karl Strader told the media that he “was tapped out helping Dan,” Karl stated to the judge Doyel  that he had given $5,000.00 to help Dan’s defense fund.  This amount was peanuts for a man who earns a salary in the six figures brackets and lives on a beautiful home on Heatherpoint Drive, by a lake, in front of a golf course, and owns two luxury towncars. Not many pastors in America live like this or earn such a salary or have the luxury of writing their own articles of Incorporation to give themselves what ever they wanted.

Former staff members, who knew personal and intimate things about Joyce and Karl Strader, told me that  when the Dan’s teacher used to tell the Straders that Dan was a doing something wrong, the Straders scolded the teacher, not the boy. It seemed  that  the Straders’ way of bringing up their kids was to refuse to see or accept that anything was wrong with them, and deal with it.

This is what started the 1989 church split, not doctrines and not finances, but that Steve Strader, the son of Karl,  and Shane Simmons the  son in law, were abusing and using church properties to their own advantage. Shane had the church truck for his use and home in the evening and weekends when others didn’t.

It was this that led Roy Aldrich, in January 1996, to write the following strong and maybe true remarks to Karl Strader:

You may remember Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son if necessary  but you have gone about sacrificing any-one who questioned Dan’s lies, a total perversion of such magnitude that Dan, obediently following your lead, has been judged very harshly, not primarily by judge Doyel but by God.

You are the one who should be in that jail.

Since Abraham was willing to put truth and his Lord in preference over his precious son, Jehovah gave his son back.

Since you put your son first in willful disregard of the truth and your Lord, you have had Dan taken away. When the Father gave up His precious Son Jesus for death, the example was established that sacrificial love is mandated for people like you, not Mafia-style termination’s.

In other words, in Christianity God gave up his only Son Jesus, to save the world; in Straderism, Karl gave up his sheep to save His son, Dan.

Stephen Strader, whom I got to know quite well, an Associate pastor and Evangelist at large for Carpenter’s Home Church, was a sincere, idealistic, and helpful  individual who honestly didn’t  or didn’t want to know what he, his father or brother were doing wrong. But neither did the rest of the Straders!

As a matter of fact, to Stephen, his use of different facilities of Carpenter’s Home church, such as a special salary, cellular telephone, trips and stationery were alright as  the church was now the responsibility of the Straders. Others more qualified were let go so that he could remain on the staff. The Straders now ran the church,  because everybody else was untrustworthy or was out to get them.

Karl and Joyce Strader, also made references to this idea. They would remind many times the audiences, even during the Sunday morning services, about  the night when they were betrayed, like Jesus was by Judas, by their closest friends. It was etched in their minds and expressed in their words from their heart.

In 1988 to 1989, Jim, an associate Pastor and second in command to Karl Strader, a man of law and order, rebuked the leadership for Stephen and Shane’s, Karl’s son in law,  misuse of church property. This  made Karl Strader become very angry and upset.

As a result, Karl  went about doing everything to try to make Jim leave including getting his choice false prophets to speak to Jim about leaving. Karl Strader’s unmitigated anger and actions concerning his expressed dislike of Jim resulted in the sixty-four charges to be made by the board of Carpenter’s Home Church against him. Which resulted in the split of the church in 1989.

One of the accusations  made  during this infamous Church meeting, was that  Shane, was driving the church truck in the evenings, while others were not allowed. Another was Stephen was getting paid overtime, while other were not.

The result of this church split  was that over fifty percent of the members including the most influential, educated and wealthy ones left the church. Partiality and being a respecter of persons was common among the Straders and other leadership in AG even though the book of James says:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

It was a point that I was later to bring in writing to Pastor Karl Strader and the other Associated Pastors. I wrote to them on September 18, 1995 the following:

I can not help but to write and say  what is on my heart; even though you and your pastoral staff have your hands full!

After much prayer and agony on the matter, the Lord gave me some verses and key words about some of the things that seem to be going on in Carpenter’s Home Church and why things have been delayed. I would like to bring these key words found in James 3 to the  attention of the pastoral staff and elders for their prayer and action. The key words are “meekness of wisdom”, “self seeking”, “confusion” and “without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Unfortunately, these words do not necessarily apply to one person individually; but sometimes collectively to the body of Christ at Carpenter’s Home Church. It is easier to handle something when we can zero in on a few individuals, persons or a group and deal with them.

In James 3:13, we read, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

14: But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15: This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

16: For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18: Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Obviously, the Pastors of Carpenter’s Home Church didn’t pay much attention to my letter. For as Pastor Karl Strader stated to me “Who was I,” and “Why should he listen to me?”

In their minds I was a stranger, a nobody, and as Karl stated to one of the church counselors “a very opinionated person.“ Definitely I was not one for wearing gold rings and fine apparel. Worst of all I parked my own car and it was not a Lincoln or a Cadillac, never mind a Mercedes, as some of the pastor’s friends had. My car was an ordinary Ford. But they made the bible come true:

For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. They have corrupted themselves; they are not His children, because of their blemish: a perverse and crooked generation. (Deuteronomy 32:4-5)

It is amazing that many Assembly of God pastors, as Karl Strader and Jim Bakker,  claimed to speak and act on behalf of God. But according to the Bible, we see that God’s ways and character are for justice, truth, and righteousness. Something these Pastors did not show by their attitudes and obvious actions.

Although we attended Carpenter’s Home Church for around 18 months, Sandy and I never got to know any of the Strader women; except passing them by like ships in the night on the church grounds.  Mind you, Pastor son-in-law Shane Simmons, an associate pastor of the church, was a nice guy and I talked to him a few times. Then I am reminded by the Straders  about what is wrong with con artists? They always smile, speak softly, never get angry or show their emotions in public. You never get to know the real person, just the image of what they want you to see.

Well, I personally dislike superficiality and the shallowness of con artists. I love the realness, and spunk of ordinary people. The facts would later show the Straders for what they are and how they:

·        Ignored the plight of the elderly victims and raise tens of thousands of dollars for Dan.

·        Ignored moral discrepancies in Dan’s multiple admission of lying and guilt, and declare victory over their enemies, which never came.

·        Identified the forces of darkness as anyone who would question their views and positions on matters, especially in regards to Dan’s crimes.

·        Ridiculed and lampooned Dan’s victims, by deriding them for testifying against Dan.

·        Arrogantly refused to admit doing any significant wrong and say it was the fault of others a conspiracy out to get them, because of who they are, high profile Christians.

·        Repeatedly used  the pulpit of Carpenter’s Home church to issue misleading statements about Dan and others such as “we are being crucified by the press” and using lies and deceptions.

·        Issued unbelievable hate and slander from a public pulpit, on three investors or victims, who were embezzled by a con artist.

·        Used people and things in Carpenter’s Home Church for their own hidden agendas. Jim, who was used by the Straders for his considerable talent, and to do the punishing work of building Carpenter’s Home Church, then threw him out like a gum wrapper. Jim  believed in checks and balances, and this was something that Karl and Dan Strader didn’t do or practice. Therefore, they hated Jim for loving the truth, and sought a means, at all costs, even at the price of splitting the church, to see him removed from his position.

·        Denied members and staff members access to elected deacons, and used others on staff  as Roy Aldrich had written  to work them over with “a rubber hose” for not submitting to their demands and wishes.

·        Ensured that their salaries were confidential and their positions were maintained at all costs, while others less fortunate and more talented had to leave, even though they had given their best and expected a degree of respect for their loyalty and hard work. It wasn’t what you did but who you know, and the same is true in churches today.

“We’ve Won!’

When the jury came in with its verdict on July 11, 1995 and found Daniel David Strader, the son of Senior Pastor Karl Strader of Carpenter’s Home Church, guilty on 238 counts for robbing and raping the sheep, the following Sunday, July 16, 1995 Pastor Karl Strader told his congregation “We’ve won!’

Well the Associated Press reported on November 15, 2001 that the sheep lost:

"The North American Securities Administrators Association says there were $500 million in losses from religious affinity scams in 1989, the first year the organization made such a tally. That figure has been eclipsed by two recent schemes -- the Baptist Foundation of Arizona and Florida's Greater Ministries International -- which together have cost 40,000 investors nearly $1.3 billion.

In the last three years alone, 27 states have taken action against scams that used religious or spiritual beliefs to bilk more than 90,000 investors, the NASAA estimates."

Well Lyons, Strader, Hinn, Tilton, BFA and Greater Ministries have been on CNT’s hit list for a number of years? Check out

http://www.christiannews.0catch.com/hinn.htm

http://www.christiannews.0catch.com/tilton.htm

http://www.christiannews.0catch.com/rodney.htm

http://www.rickross.com/groups/lyons.html

http://www.rickross.com/groups/gmi.html

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/bfa/baptist.html

http://www.bfafraud.com/

http://headlines.yahoo.com/Full_Coverage/US/Henry_Lyons

http://www.davidicke.net/religiousfrauds/pentecostal/godfraud.html

http://www.christiannews.0catch.com/strader.htm

http://www.christiannews.0catch.com/news1.htm

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/9te/9te026.html

http://www.discernment.org/Charismania/drjoyce.htm

http://tampabayonline.net/reports/minister/homealt.htm

http://tampatrib.com/News/GreaterMinistries.htm

 

So in a way Christian News Today can say “we’ve won!’ For we have been successful in exposing wolves in sheep’s clothing since AP is now reporting about it and 27 states have taken action about it? Therefore Watch, And Remember

 

"Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.   "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 

 

"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.  "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.  "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Acts 20:26-35

 

The Enemy

 O LORD my God, if I have done this: if there is iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, or have plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue me and overtake me; yes, let him trample my life to the earth, and lay my honor in the dust. Selah (Psalms 7:3-5)

          Believe it or not Pastor Karl Strader actually preached on Psalms chapter seven and made it his prayer one Sunday morning when we were there. He actually mouthed the foolish words and asked God to do it to him if he did evil to others. Well, God heard and answered His prayer and his honor was laid in the dust by enemies, Roy and Walter.

Early 1989, Roy Aldrich wrote many letters both to Karl Strader and the dissidents including brother Jim. It was very interesting to examine what Roy saw and stated then and how he changed; once the shoe was on the other foot.

That is how most of us are when it doesn’t touch us, we aren’t bothered about a problem until it touches us directly. So Roy wrote a letter to his friend and pastor Karl Strader that stated:

These are traditionalists whose warfare is not only against Pastor Strader but also against the entire charismatic movement, and if they succeed here, there could be an adverse ripple effect around the world because of the special nature of this church.

We need to stand and fight, not to preserve our position, but to keep the faith and the ministry going. The real casualty here will be worship and spiritual warfare this is the target of the demon world and Satan.

Is it possible that we should abbreviate the Easter program or change its complexion in order to preserve our energy for the continuing storm?

It has been my opinion all along that the enemy's strategy is a war of attrition, not an attempted knockout punch, and that is why no charges have been filed.  A frontal attack against you would miserably fail.

If you, indeed, do call for a vote of confidence, then let some of us mail out a letter to members which clearly delineates the issues as we see them. By naming the ten or so prominent people against you, the dissidents would be drawn out in the open where they are at a great disadvantage.

Putting this insurrection to an end is as simple as just clearly identifying bitter people and enabling all to see their objectives.

This is what they fear the most, and they now need to be drawn from seclusion without exception or else we may lose our battle by default.

Sincerely in Christ

Roy Aldrich

Roy Aldrich, like his friend Walter loved to write letters. On March 10, 1989 Roy and his wife Patricia wrote a letter and sent 2,500 copies to members of CHC and they distributed it themselves. The Letter stated:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

As you probably already know, a very important vote concerning the status of our beloved Pastor Strader will be taken on Monday evening, March 13th, at a congregational meeting.

At that meeting there will be a vote of confidence for our pastor, and I am sure you can see the importance of attending it to make sure that your will, as it is submitted to God's will, is done.

No doubt you are familiar with the fact that there have been two previous meetings in which our church situation was discussed; however, at this one a crucial vote will be taken that will determine whether or not the vision Pastor Strader has for our church will be continued.

It is a very serious matter for any individual or group of individuals to attempt to terminate the ministry of a servant of God and, frankly, such an attempt may be made Monday night by a dissident minority who consider that their opinions should be placed above the facts as seen by a loyal majority, the staff, and the pastor.

Strong written affirmations by Uncle Shelby, Rusty Nelson, and Kevin Doddy indicate their 100% support for pastor, and other voices in support of the pastor will be heard on Monday.

Only members will have the privilege of voting at this meeting. In all fairness it should be pointed out that there will be an equal opportunity for all sides to speak under the chairmanship of a district official. [Thomas E. Trask]

Your attendance at this meeting could be the greatest contribution you are going to make in 1989 to this great church.

By responding to this call, we demonstrate our willingness to accept the responsibility as well as the rewards of our having been selected by Jesus, before the foundation of the world, for the privilege of being associated with Pastor Strader in the great mission of getting the gospel out around the world.

Concerned, loving supporters of the Strader family.

Pastor Karl Strader also enjoyed to write letters of appreciation because on March 27, 1989 on The Carpenter’s Home Church stationary he  wrote:

Dear Roy and Pat:

Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus!

Only God knows how close the vote would have been had you folks not helped to get "the letters" out to encourage people to come last Monday night.

You are to be commended.

God bless you for wanting to see things done fairly!

Sincerely Yours in Christ

Karl D. Strader, Pastor

A year later, Roy’s Aldrich friend and beloved Pastor, Karl Strader, wrote on March 28, 1990 the following:

Dear Roy & Pat

Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus!

Thank  you for your kind remarks and your input. I really appreciate the good work that you have done and are doing, Pat. I really appreciate your sweet spirit. You and Roy have been real friends.

Sincerely in Christ

Roy also wrote the following letter which in his usual style Roy distributed to others

CHARGES AGAINST PASTOR STRADER

We have been told that no formal charges have been filed against our pastor, so I would like to suggest that he is guilty of many things, perhaps too numerous to mention, which include the following:

1.  He should be charged with building the Carpenter's Home Church into one of the finest churches in the world

2.  He should be charged with loving all people, even his critics.

3.  He should be charged with being an aggressive soul winner.

4. He should be charged with praying for the healing of bodies and spirits.

5.  He should be charged with a vision for missionary efforts all around the world.

6.  He should be charged with memorizing Scripture and becoming a master preacher.

7. He should be charged With spreading the Gospel around the world by radio and television.

8.  He should be charged with being a strong family man.

9.  He should be charged with defending his wife.

10. He should be charged with deliverance’s made through Spiritual Warfare Ministries.

11. He should be charged with supporting our Easter and Christmas programs.

12  He should be charged with teaching the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

13. He should be charged with praying in the Spirit everyday.

14. He should be charged with creating a good working atmosphere for the staff.

15. He should be charged with getting the finest guest speakers for Our church.

16. He should be charged with opposing the works of the devil.

17. He should be charged with asking forgiveness for his mistakes.

The above list of charges implies that Pastor Strader is guilty and should spent the next ten years or so at hard labor working as the God’s placed leader of the Carpenter's Home Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Roy Aldrich

Later, Roy was to write one of his best letters which I consider a classic to Karl Strader  in January, 1995 in regard to his Sunday sermons on ‘Enemies’ which included the following remarks:

I would like to join the ranks of those who Karl Straders counts as his “enemies.” by the following statements:

1)    I am the enemy of lying and deception which hurts and robs people.

2)   I am the enemy of those who practice cruelty in the administration of any corporation, especially churches.

3)    I am the enemy of any minister who allows the use of his pulpit for personal vendettas.

4)    I am the enemy of any minister who uses his pulpit for soliciting public and personal sympathy over controversial matters involving his family.

5)    I am the enemy of every minister in the world whose sense of right and wrong is based on nepotism and favoritism.

6)    I am the enemy of the policy of Karl Strader who raised $52,000.00  for Dan’s defense fund and $58,000.00 for repairing a roof and not one dime for his son’s elderly and devastated victims.

7)    I am the enemy of the disrespect represented in the Strader attitude towards the State Attorney and Judge Robert Doyel, a true servant of God.

8)    I am the enemy of the policies of secret salaries which conceal huge benefits flowing from trusting church members to their leaders- salaries which provide sumptuous life styles, while at the same time, these same leaders are firing and traumatizing the “little people” under their care like Cindy Deaton, Patricia Aldrich, Jack and Betty Collins.

9)    I am the enemy of huge personal gain to Karl Strader and Joe Perez derived from their secret management fees from the CHC Life Center Retirement Estates.

10)    I am the enemy of the thinking that some claimed “anointing  or supposed special privilege with God gives anyone the right to turn a Christian church into their own personal “cash-cow.”

11)    I am the enemy of the thinking expressed in the attached sermon outline which implies that the welfare of CHC is determined by any one man or family. We are supposed to worship Christ, and not the Straders.

12)     I am the enemy of any minister who uses his oratorical ability to rally church audiences into cheerleading and other emotional excess as a device to shore up a crumbling personal empire.

13)   I am an enemy of any organization that suggests opposing the leader’s lifestyle and words is opposing God.

 


 

For the Rev. Karl Strader, 35 Years of Trial and Triumph

A Walk of Faith

Sunday, July 1, 2001

By CARY McMULLEN
Ledger Religion Editor  

Standing on the platform in Carpenter's Home Church, the Rev. Karl Strader is a striking figure in a fashionable suit with a three-button jacket. At 6 feet, 1 inch, he has the square-jawed features of a movie idol from another era, although they are somewhat dimmed with age, and his wavy hair is thinning now. He preaches from the old King James Bible in an authoritative style far removed from the slangy, modern talks that pass for sermons. "We've got to be real, genuine Christians so we can be ready for the Lord to come. I don't care how many times you've been to the altar. Let's be sure we've got Jesus in our hearts today. Today!" he exclaims.

April was a bittersweet month for Strader. On Easter Sunday, he marked his 35th anniversary as pastor of Carpenter's Home Church. A week earlier, the latest appeal by his convicted son, Daniel, was denied. In the twilight of his career, Karl David Strader is a living alloy of tradition and progress, success and loss.

In one generation, he has seen his Pentecostal tradition grow in numbers and in acceptance. And by most accounts, he has been an innovator, freely associating with faith groups outside Pentecostalism and borrowing ideas from them. He built an empire at Carpenter's Home in North Lakeland that has at times included a 10,000-seat sanctuary, a national TV audience, a private school and a retirement home. But his innovations were not appreciated by everyone, and 11 years ago, strife decimated Carpenter's Home. Today, the cavernous sanctuary is perhaps a quarter full on Sundays, and the TV broadcasts have been cut way back.

Strader bears an even deeper wound. Those who know him say the scandal surrounding his son's arrest and 1995 conviction on fraud charges have affected him more deeply than any other setback. Yet at 72, Strader soldiers on, preaching and laying hands on people who come forward in hopes of a healing touch. He says he will remain as pastor of Carpenter's Home as long as his health is good. He tells his congregation, "I'm past the age scripture tells me is given to us of three score and 10. But God has given me a wonderful life of health and strength. I'm shooting for 100."

TRADITION, INNOVATION

Strader, born in humble circumstances in Oklahoma of devout Methodist parents, committed his life to God when he was 16. After graduating high school, he went to study at fundamentalist Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. While there, he began attending Pentecostal churches and eventually experienced the "gift of the Holy Spirit" that Pentecostals believe includes making prophecies; healing the sick; and "speaking in tongues," an ecstatic form of speech that is unintelligible to humans but which believers say is understood by God Fundamentalists and Pentecostals historically have segregated themselves from other faith traditions, especially more liberal Protestants and Catholics, on the grounds those churches' doctrines are in error. Years after he graduated, a photo of Strader with Catholics and Episcopalians came to the attention of school officials. The president of the school, Bob Jones Jr., sent Strader a letter asking him never to tell anyone he studied there. Strader says the photo captured him interacting with people from other traditions who had Pentecostal experiences, such as speaking in tongues, part of a "charismatic" movement that swept through Catholic and mainline Protestant churches in the 1970s and 1980s. "They're isolationists," he says of Bob Jones officials. "I don't want to have fellowship with those who don't believe the Bible is the word of God, but I do endorse the unity of believers," Strader says. It would not be the last time Strader would get in trouble for consorting with other traditions.

In his last year at Bob Jones, Strader met Joyce Wead, the recreation director at Shriner's Hospital in Greenville. They shared an interest in poetry and theater and became engaged. "Karl took a prize on a radio program called Down Memory Lane. He would memorize poetry. And at Bob Jones, every Sunday afternoon they used to have drama," Joyce Strader recalls They were married in a garden surrounded by children in wheelchairs and on crutches. It would be the beginning of a partnership in life and in ministry. Joyce Strader, 72, has played a part in many of her husband's decisions and today has her own half-hour Sunday radio program, "Heart to Heart," on the Carpenter's Home station, WTWB 1570 AM.

After graduating from Bob Jones University's seminary in 1954, Strader joined the Assemblies of God and had a brief stint as a pastor in Indiana. He then spent six years in Lakeland, first as dean of men at Southeastern College, an Assemblies-related school, then as director of youth for the Assemblies' Peninsular-Florida District office.

 FRESH WIND BLOWING
The Straders went back to Indiana in 1960. Strader served churches in Gary and South Bend, both heavily Catholic areas. They returned to Lakeland in 1966 for Karl Strader to become pastor of First Assembly of God, a 325-member congregation near downtown. Changes were afoot in the American religious scene. The Jesus Movement would soon bring waves of young people and their contemporary music into the church. "It was the year when the (charismatic) outpouring on Catholics took place. That was probably the greatest impact on the growth of the church," Strader says. Catholic and mainline charismatics were rejected by their churches, which were bewildered and turned off by their exuberance and the practice of speaking in tongues. Strader welcomed them with open arms into his church, with its enthusiastic services. But the charismatics were even too much for some traditional Pentecostals, who were used to more discreet displays of singing or speaking in tongues.

"He has always walked to the beat of a different drummer. He's a very open man," says Frank Macchia, associate professor of theology at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., who taught at Southeastern College from 1992 to 1998. "At one of the services I attended, he preached a sermon about holding the hand of God. At the end, he had someone play The Beatles' 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' I'd never experienced anything like that. He likes to grab people's attention, and I have to confess, I never forgot that."

Such theatricality invites comparisons to one of Strader's heroes, fellow Oklahoman Oral Roberts. As a young man, Strader heard Roberts preach and eventually sent his sons, Stephen and Daniel, to school at Oral Roberts University. The school awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1985, and today he sits on its board of regents. But Strader is a more reserved preacher than Roberts. He prides himself on sticking to the Bible, spends hours memorizing whole sections of it and quotes liberally from passages in his sermons.

Strader eventually allowed other innovations, including the use of drums and guitars in worship, far ahead of the current wave of contemporary music. And he borrowed from a small branch of Pentecostals known as "Latter-reign" the use of colorful banners and costumed dancers, reflecting the interest he and his wife continued to have in the arts. "He could be considered a progressive Pentecostal," says the Rev. Reggie Scarborough, pastor of Family Worship Center in Lakeland, who grew up attending First Assembly under Strader. "He broke with tradition, but some traditions needed to be broken to come into what God is doing today."

 EXPANSION, JIMMY SWAGGART, THE SPLIT

First Assembly expanded its facilities twice to keep up with growth, and Strader decided the church should build a sanctuary that would hold twice the 5,000 people who were then attending. In the late 1970s, the church acquired the retirement home and grounds of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners north of the interstate, sold all but 125 acres and began construction on the 10,000-seat sanctuary that would be named simply Carpenter's Home Church. The name, borrowed from the union, is a reference to Jesus, who was a carpenter. It was completed in 1985, at a cost of $12.5 million. It was an ideal venue for TV, and services from Carpenter's Home were at one time on the PTL and Trinity cable networks, reaching several hundred stations nationwide.

But questions about Strader's theology persisted. Assemblies of God televangelist Jimmy Swaggart filed charges against Strader with denominational offices, saying he moved the church into false religious practices. In 1987, district officials cleared him of the charges. At the peak of his success in 1989, resentments about Strader's freewheeling style came to a head. Members of the board of deacons tried to wrest control of the church from him. Opponents charged him with not following Assemblies of God doctrines and with nepotism, pointing to two of Strader's children -- Stephen Strader and Karla Dickson -- on the church's staff.

He was also accused of being dictatorial, which evokes laughter from Stephen Strader, who serves as the church's senior associate pastor. "He has a strong personality. He's not weak, but he is a meek, humble man. I'm always telling him, 'You need to take charge.' "

Strader refused to quit and survived a congregational vote, but the damage was done. About 800 people left to form Victory Assembly of God not far away. Others left to join other churches. Much of the leadership -- and much of the church's financial support -- disappeared. Strader says he has no animosity, but Carpenter's Home and Victory Assembly have few dealings with each other. The Rev. Terry Raburn, superintendent of the Peninsular-Florida District of the Assemblies of God, characterizes the relationship as "cordial in terms of Christian fellowship. That's about all I would say." The Rev. Wayne Blackburn, pastor of Victory Assembly, did not return calls requesting a comment for this story, although he has previously said he knows of no difficulties between Strader and himself.

 STRUGGLING BACK
Asked about the split now, Strader says it was simply a struggle for power, with devastating effects. "It was like going through a divorce. You feel tremendous rejection. You never get over it."

Stephen Strader says it was a vicious fight that got personal and forced the family to turn to one another for support."It nearly destroyed us. My wife and I lost every single friend we had outside the family. It was extremely isolating."

Strader's opponents filed new charges of false doctrine against him with the Assemblies of God district office, and shortly after the split, district officials sent Strader a letter notifying him he was being put on probation for 18 months. Strader threatened to leave the denomination. District officials didn't forward the letter to the church's national offices, so the probation was never put into effect. Although he was not present then, Raburn says he is convinced looking over the records that it was a misunderstanding. "It was a hasty action, taken in the midst of difficulties. They realized the grounds were so shaky, they scrapped it, which it well should have been." A second letter was sent to Strader within a few months retracting the probation.

But Carpenter's Home continued to suffer from the results of the split. Costs were cut, the church's radio station, WCIE-FM was sold. Christian concerts and conferences kept the massive church afloat financially. Strader insists it has never missed a monthly payment or a payroll. In 1993, a revival under evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne produced a flurry of activity, and it appeared the church was on its way back.

SON ARRESTED

Then, in 1994, the church was rocked when Strader's son, Daniel, was arrested on charges he defrauded about 60 investors of more than $2 million. Daniel, 43, is the second of Karl and Joyce Strader's four children. In a recent interview at Hardee Correctional Institution 6 in Bowling Green, he stressed his father was always a good example. "He had such a consistent life. We had traditional family dinners at 5:30 sharp. From my earliest years, he was not just my father but my pastor. Today it's hard to even separate those roles," he says. After college and a stint in the church broadcasting department, Daniel Strader worked as an insurance agent and Amway dealer and set up an investment firm, Interstate Financial Services. He says he never felt pressured to imitate his father's success. "I did feel I wanted to honor him by becoming successful, but Dad was more concerned about motives and integrity," he says. Daniel Strader was arrested in May 1994 on charges of fraud, theft and racketeering after his securities business ran into trouble. Prosecutors accused him of running a pyramid scheme, in which money from new investors is used to pay off previous investors. The Strader family has maintained Daniel Strader is guilty of incompetence and bad judgment but had no criminal intent to get rich by defrauding others. "When he was a boy, he never would have taken a nickel off the dresser," Karl Strader says.

Daniel Strader says he avoided using his family's name to gain clients and "less than a dozen, about a half of 1 percent" of the clients were members of Carpenter's Home. However, at his trial, several investors said they thought they could trust him because of his family's reputation. Daniel Strader was convicted in 1995 of 238 counts of theft, securities fraud and racketeering. At a sentencing hearing, his father came forward with an offer to repay the investors in hopes the sentence would be reduced, but Judge Robert Doyel expressed skepticism about the plan and sentenced Daniel Strader to 45 years in prison. Karl Strader says he is convinced his fame motivated the State Attorney's Office to make a high-profile case against his son, a sentiment echoed by Daniel. "Because of his prominence, it may have caused the press and the prosecution to be overzealous. He took it as a personal attack. He took it as any father would," Daniel Strader says. He has filed several appeals for a new trial or a new sentence, all of which have been denied, although another round of appeals is in the works.

PERSEVERING
Karl and Joyce Strader visit Daniel about once a week. "I've admired the way he's handled all this," says Daniel. "When he's down, I tell him 'It'll be OK.' But it's much more the reverse -- he's there for me. He feels strongly I'll be vindicated eventually."

The stresses have had their effect on the Strader family, however. In May, Daniel Strader was notified that his wife, Melissa, filed for divorce. "His home is all but broken. It's horrible," says his father. "But there again, he's a better person. He's been a model prisoner. When he gets out of there, he's going to be a very productive person. He's got 26 years to serve, which means I'll be about 106," he adds wryly. Strader says the experience with Daniel has given him a greater empathy for prisoners. "All they want to do is put them in jail and throw away the key. There's nothing to rehabilitate these people. There's no way a man in prison can get justice unless he has money," he says.

Today, Carpenter's Home Church has 13 pastors on staff and averages 1,800 in attendance on Sunday mornings, still large by any standard -- "in the top 5 percent of churches," says Stephen Strader -- but it's a number that seems dwarfed in the large sanctuary. The church still operates WTWB, a small AM radio station, and Evangel Christian School. Strader continues as president of the separate nonprofit corporation that operates Carpenter's Home Estates retirement facility. ( THIS IS WHERE IS STEALS MONEY FROM IN MANAGEMENT FEES!)

In spite of the setbacks, Strader's legacy seems assured. And his family will carry on his work. The Carpenter's Home board has decided if anything should happen to Strader, the senior assistant pastor -- Stephen Strader, who is 45 -- would be appointed to a one-year term and re-evaluated after that. But Karl Strader doesn't sound like a man anticipating the end of his career. He runs through a list of the church's programs and points to the missionaries and ministers the church has produced. He says he is proud of the fact that the church counts as its members people of all races and social stations.

In conversation with Strader or his supporters, the word "integrity" comes up frequently. He clearly wants to emphasize that, unlike other famous Pentecostal preachers who fell from grace, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, his personal morality has never been questioned. "I don't know a finer man in shoe leather than Karl Strader," says Reggie Scarborough of Family Worship Center. "He's a man of love who walked in love with people."

Asked if the events of the past 12 years have been discouraging, Karl Strader replies: "Sure. But I was born during the Depression, in the Dust Bowl. The Lord has prepared me for it. I will not allow bitterness to come into my heart. I'm committed to my family and to the community. God is going to see us through this."


Cary Mcmullen can be reached at cary.mcmullen@theledger.com or 863-802-7509.

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