The recent removal of the founding pastor at Crossway Christian Center has had a ripple-down effect. Now the Throggs Neck congregation is entangled in a legal nightmare with their parent organization , Assemblies of God, over ownership of the property.
Pastor Mark Gregori, the founder of the congregation, was removed for alleged misconduct with several female churchgoers. Sources from the congregation said he is currently appealing his case before the ecclesiastical authorities at Assemblies of God.
While awaiting the results of the appeal, congregation member and spokesman Robert Ayala said the church is now in court trying to block a move by the New York district office of the Assemblies of God to seize control of the worship hall and property located at 2730 Bruckner Boulevard.
“Assemblies of God helped [financially] throughout the beginning years of the church,” Ayala said.“This property is now paid off, free and clear, and nothing is owed to the Assemblies of God. Assemblies of God is trying to wrest control of the property because of the allegations against Pastor Mark [Gregori].”
Under a clause in the 30-year-old financial agreement, signed when the church was originally being formed, Assemblies of God retained the right to take possession of the property if Pastor Gregori was removed for misconduct. The possible land grab has Gregori’s supporters rallying to his and the church’s cause.
“The members of Crossway Christian Center recently voted to remove this amendment, and Assemblies of God refused to give in,” Ayala said. “About 80% of the membership voted to have this clause taken out. The [congregation] wants to dissociate itself from Assemblies of God.”
The district office of the Assemblies of God is presently providing interim pastors and other support to the congregation while the Gregori case is resolved.
Alaya said that in the meantime, the matter is before the New York State Supreme Court. He also said that most members of Crossway Christian Center, some of whom have known Pastor Gregori since he first began the church more than three decades ago, believe he is innocent.
In addition, according to a police report, Lucilla Serrano, one of Gregori’s accusers, was recently charged with criminal possesion of a forged instrument. It is alleged that Serrano used the church credit card to make personal purchases at the Bruckner Boulevard Home Depot, signing the name of the pastor’s wife and three others.
Throughout the whole ordeal Gregori has maintained his innocence and hopes that when he is exonerated he can return to his ministry. In a written statement to the Bronx Times Reporter, Pastor Gregori claims the charges against him do not involve any sexual overtones.
“The charges explicitly state that any alleged infraction is ‘of a non-sexual nature,’” Gregori stated. “I am in the process of appealing our Fellowship’s decision in this regard and fully expect to be exonerated and returned to my pulpit of 34 years.”
Assemblies of God New York district office did not comment on the matter as of press time.
Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org