The personal wealth of pastors and ministers has often been a hot-button topic. This time, it is the pricey $230,000 Bentley Bentayga of Pastor William H. Curtis of Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that has become the subject of controversy.
His luxury car, which costs twice as much as a regular home in their Larimer neighborhood, was recently photographed outside church.
The photo was taken by Jarrell Taylor, who posted it on Facebook. "If ya pastor driving a Bentley truck.... he's sucking ur community dry with hope and tithes," he wrote, even adding the hashtags #babylontricks #jesusroadacamel and #pastorBigBs.
When sought for a comment, Curtis' assistant said the pastor is not likely to respond to questions about his car. The assistant also acknowledged that the church has been receiving several reactions regarding the vehicle, but she refused to confirm the sources of the criticism.
While Curtis remained mum throughout the controvery, several individuals have stepped forward and offered their opionions to his purchase. Samuel Cruz, who is an associate professor of Religion & Society at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, expressed doubt on how Curtis was able to afford such an expensive vehicle.
It's true that Curtis also earns an income from his marketing firm, as well as from his books and speaking engagements, but Cruz said that "at a minimum, I think that for a pastor to go to his church in a car that is worth twice the median of what homes are worth in his neighborhood, it shows me that this person has no common sense."
"To own a car that expensive you have to be among the top 10 percent of income earners or even higher of these United States of America, and I can't consider how preaching could lead someone to so much wealth," he said.
He added that owning a Bentley does not even contribute in any way "to the furtherance of the Kingdom," since "the Gospel was good news to the poor."
Meanwhile, Damon Young, editor in chief of Very Smart Brothas, also wrote on his website that seeing the Bentley parked outside of church felt "wrong" and "vulgar, even," especially since the church is situated in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
"I have to admit that my instinctual reaction to this was to wince," he said. "I also don't believe that a pastor of a large church - who ultimately functions the same way a CEO of a corporation might - needs to live like a pauper."
" And to be frank, I think it says a lot about a pastor who thinks it's a good idea to display such an extravagant item in front of a church where the majority of his congregation is living check to check. It's messy," he added.