The pastor, in public

Jan. 6, 2003

By Jacob Quinn Sanders
The Desert Sun

INDIO — David Tyrell Moore, former senior pastor at Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, wrapped his speeches Sunday in entreaties of perseverance, personal strength and the future during what he called a “New Year’s celebration.”

“We wanted this to be part information but mostly inspiration,” Moore said, standing next to the stage at the Empire Polo Club after his first public speaking appearance since he resigned from the church Nov. 23.

His resignation came amid financial questions and publicity from topless hot-tub photographs of him with his wife and another woman.

An eager audience – some 2,000 strong – crowded the dirt floor of the 48,000-square-foot tent at the polo grounds to hear Moore speak.

He said, the turnout notwithstanding, that he had no plans to start a new church. Instead, he said he hoped to redirect his efforts to corporate speaking engagements focusing on marketing and media, and continuing to preach through the medium of the Internet.

His wife, Sonya I. Moore, spent the three-hour event sitting with their son and two daughters. After it ended, she fought tears as she tried to explain the toll of the last two months on her family.

“For me, when all you see is the negative and all the publicity …”

She trailed off, dabbing her eyes.

“I’m sorry I can’t continue to talk,” she said. “I’m not the one in this family who can easily explain what’s in her heart.”

David Moore used his time on stage to push his audience – so many of them brought under the high-ceilinged white tent Sunday because of their common history of faith and trust – to look forward to 2003, even as he himself reflected on things that came out of 2002.

Surgery. His mother’s death. His resignation. And Desert Sun reports that he and his wife, 46, received at least $1.8 million between 1997 and 2001 from the church and from Paradigm Ministries, a separate nonprofit which does business as Moore on Life.

“It’s really very simple,” he said Sunday. “With regard to Moore on Life, all I’ve ever received is a 10 percent royalty from product sales from around the country and honoraria. … Sometimes I use them for personal income, sometimes I use them for a legitimate business purpose.”

Founded in 1991, Moore on Life produced a national religious radio show from 1994 until October, when its carrier, Salem Communications, pulled it from the airwaves. To complement the show, the ministry sold CDs, tapes and MP3 files of Moore’s sermons.

Moore, 49, spoke twice during the event Sunday.

The first speech, which lasted 12 minutes, contained his response to press reports.

Before the second speech, music by Dallas-based Christian musician Al Denson preceded a statement by Moore on Life Executive Director Brad Davies, Moore’s son-in-law.

Davies outlined the ministry’s future on – “24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year” – and passed collection buckets through the audience. He said money collected Sunday would only go to pay for that day’s event.

During his first speech, Moore focused on specifics.

An example of legitimate business expense, Moore said, was a car for Sonya Moore as the ministry’s $35,000-a-year vice president.

An internal Moore on Life memo from 2000 prepared by then-Executive Director Gordon K. Marcy says the ministry paid $10,209 as the first payment on the lease, gas, maintenance and insurance for her car.

He also addressed a Desert Sun report that a donation of 20,000 shares of stock worth $1.2 million, which a Palm Desert woman said she intended to give to Southwest Community, instead went to the ministry. Moore elaborated on a statement he made Friday in a telephone interview: She knew where her money was going.

“Not a dime of donor money has ever gone to me personally,” he said.

He characterized the donor, Judith W. Isaac, 68, as “a lovely lady, a wonderful person.”

When she approached the church in late 2001 about making what would have been the largest donation in its 30-year history, Moore said, he spent 40 minutes on the phone with her explaining options.

“I told her she could donate to the building fund, to the general fund, to special projects, that she could divide it up any way she would like to, because the effort is always to honor the wishes of the donor,” he said. “… I told her an option is also Moore on Life.”

But Isaac told The Desert Sun she wished her gift to go to the church and thought it had – until she learned otherwise in November. She said she has asked the church to get the money from Moore on Life.

“She received a donation slip from Moore on Life,” Moore said Sunday. “We took her to dinner the next week to say thank you and explained to her what her gift was going to do nationally.”

He said he had called, written and e-mailed Isaac to speak on what he called a “misunderstanding.”

“So far she hasn’t responded,” Moore said.

Another issue Moore addressed was a combined $258,867 listed under “expense accounts and other allowances” on the ministry’s federal tax returns – $142,515 in 2000 and $116,352 in 2001.

The same figures appear next to his name under the same heading on the page of the returns showing his compensation.

“I don’t have an expense account with Moore on Life,” he said.

Much of his real fire he saved for the transitional leadership board at Southwest Community Church.

A statement from the board read Dec. 22 before the congregation noted that an initial audit found the church’s building fund depleted and “evidence of misappropriation or misuse of funds beyond what could be considered as insignificant.”

The statement did not mention Moore by name.

Sunday he decried the term “misappropriation” as well as the board’s order of a fraud audit to dig deeper.

“You need to know bottom line that I have very little to do with the finances at Southwest,” he said.

He asserted that he rarely signed checks and never transferred church money for Moore on Life.

“I never had direct or indirect contact with the accounting department,” he said. “In fact, I can’t even tell you for sure where the accounting office is at Southwest.”

Moore said the transfer of money was not his responsibility.

The Desert Sun reported Saturday that church finance records show Moore received four checks from Southwest Community totaling $23,704 for security at his $635,000 home in a gated La Quinta community.

Moore did not address inquiries into church and ministry documents being conducted by the state Board of Equalization – which enforces tax laws – and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

He said an audit he ordered of the last two years of Moore on Life finances would finish in mid-January.

Traffic stretched three miles north from the polo grounds to Highway 111 at the event’s advertised start time of 10 a.m. – a delay that gave Moore time to rustle 500 wooden chairs to complement the 1,000 plastic chairs already set up.

They still were not enough.

Matthew Newman, 33, of Indio said he expected the turnout given Moore’s audiences at Southwest Community, the Coachella Valley’s largest church.

“People are here because we believe in Dave and want him to know he has our support,” Newman said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Not everyone was as pleased.

Lewis P. Spivak, 62, of Cathedral City said he had hoped for more from Moore.

“I came here with questions and didn’t get them answered,” he said. “I walk out of here unsatisfied.”

In addition to Moore, the crowd listened sitting or standing to Denson, who flew in for the day just to perform at the sermon, and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves and winter resident of the valley.

Clearly, though, the day was Moore’s.

His second speech, which ran 27 minutes, cited World War II veterans and Babe Ruth and made references to the Biblical prophet Isaiah.

His message: overcoming adversity.

Moore said the theme occurred to him this summer, before his trouble began.

His audience thought it appropriate anyway.

“It is possible that God gave him this tool because someone figured out he would need this message later on,” said Elizabeth Groom, 37, of La Quinta.

Moore said he wished the theme had been a want, not a necessity.

“The overriding thing is this,” he said after the event. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

  1. Erich says:

    The song says we fall down but we get up. I hope the message gets through despite this

  2. paster david more is one of the best god had to use for the kingdom work i learn a lot from him. i am sure many others feel the same way. may god bless you and yourfamily paster we may hear from you soon be blesed

  3. james baker says:

    In my opinion, David T. Moore is a pathological liar. He is still having an affair with Lori Ebeling. He is drunk.

    • Rosie (hetzler) Farda says:

      Dave and Sonya, This is Rosie, the person you knew in the very beginning of your ministry in Citrus Heights. I agree with Alemayeku. I love you guys and will pray for you.

  4. tara says:

    He is still an inspiration and a very gifted speaker !!! A blessing to us that need to hear the word from GOD !

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