Florida megachurch pastor found dead in New York hotel room
Zachery Tims led a congregation of 8,000 outside Orlando, Florida.
August 15th, 2011
01:24 PM ET

Florida megachurch pastor found dead in New York hotel room

By Chris Boyette, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) - An inconclusive autopsy left unanswered questions Monday in the death of Florida megachurch founder Zachery Tims, whose death in a New York hotel room shocked members of his congregation.

More tests are needed to determine the cause of death, a process that could take a few weeks, said Grace Brugess, spokeswoman for the New York Medical Examiner's Office.

Tims, 42, was found unresponsive about 6 p.m. Friday on the floor of a room in the W Hotel in Times Square, New York Police Department spokesman Sgt. John Bethorn said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tims was the senior pastor and founder of New Destiny Christian Center, a nondenominational church in Apopka, Florida, about 15 miles northwest of Orlando.

The church declined to comment Monday on Tims' death, saying a public statement would be made at 7 p.m.

"At this time, we do not have all the details concerning our pastor, Dr. Zachery Tims," read a sign posted Monday on the church's doors. "We ask that you keep him and his family in your prayers."

Dozens of congregants gathered at the church Monday morning to mourn the loss of their pastor. Roses were tucked into the handles on the church's front door and tied to the sign marking the parking spot for Pastor Tims.

"He was powerful," Nigel Claxton told CNN affiliate WKMG. "He would reach you - whatever he had to say, he would reach you."

France Paul expressed disbelief at the news, telling CNN affiliate WESH, "I think I still can't believe it. I'm just praying (to) God that I can come on Thursday and he's going to be preaching."

Hundreds of condolences also poured onto the church's Facebook page.

"I was shocked to hear of Pastor Tims passing. I will miss you and am thanking God for the time you were here. Go rest high on that mountain," one member posted.

Wrote another: "Forever grateful to Dr. Tims and NDCC. Our daughter and son in law began their Christian journey with Pastor Tims. On this sad day we want to send our condolences to his family and flock and simply say ... Thank you! His life and ministry were not in vain."

Tims founded the church in 1996, overcoming a youth filled with personal struggles, including attempted murder charges and drug addiction.

He documented his troubles in the 2006 book "It's Never Too Late," published by Charisma House.

"We are saddened by the news of Pastor Tims' untimely death," the publisher said in a statement. "His ministry impacted many throughout Central Florida as well as nationally through television, books and speaking engagements. His personal testimony of redemption became the earmark of his ministry and was continually demonstrated via community outreach, preaching and teaching."

New Destiny's first service was held in a hotel room with just six people; membership has since swelled to more than 8,000 members, according to the center's website. With television and radio broadcasts, the center's site claims the Sunday worship service reaches more than 100 million homes worldwide.

As a major leader in the evangelical movement, Tims' death reverberated through the Christian community.

"DEEPLY saddened to hear of the passing of Pastor Tims ... praying for his family and church," tweeted Bishop T.D. Jakes, founder and senior pastor of the Dallas-based megachurch The Potter's House.

Police say there are no current plans for a criminal investigation.

CNN affiliate WESH reported that Tims' ex-wife and other family members were in New York on Monday to identify the body.

Tims was the father of four children.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Crime • Florida • Leaders • New York • Pastors

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.