Huge church founded by Earl Paulk sells for $17.6M

Decatur's 51-acre Cathedral at Chapel Hill has been sold to Traveler’s Rest Baptist

Cathedral at Chapel Hill has a new owner: The Greater Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church.

The sprawling south DeKalb church sold for $17.6 million, according to CNL Specialty Real Estate, which handled the deal. Built by Bishop Earl Pearly Paulk Jr., who later lost his congregation after a sex scandal, the property was put on the market last year for $24.5 million.

“This was one of the largest religious facilities available in the United States,” Matt Messier, broker and principal for CNL, said in a release. “We are happy to have brokered a successful outcome for a property of this size, especially in today’s challenging economic climate.”

The church campus, with a 6,000-seat main auditorium, large fellowship hall, offices, classrooms and theater, sits on 51 acres.

Paulk, who died at 81 in March, was a leader in the civil rights movement. He was one of the white clergymen who stood with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and was recognized by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and Atlanta Mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young. He built Cathedral at Chapel Hill with his brother, Rev. Donnie Paulk, and the church at one time had an interracial congregation of 10,000.

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In the 1990s, however, Paulk was the subject of several accusations by women who said they had affairs with him. One woman claimed he molested her as a child while another said he coerced her into an affair. It was later revealed that Paulk fathered a son with his brother’s wife.

The Rev. D.E. Paulk, his son from that affair, now leads the church, which bills itself as “the trendiest, friendliest, most radically inclusive worship experience in Atlanta.” He said last year that the church, which lost members after the scandal, was smaller and did not need the space at the Cathedral.

Greater Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church members will relocate to the cathedral and sell their current building, also in south DeKalb.

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