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Father Under Fire: A Westlake Church Rallies Around its Pastor After Charges that He Sexually Abused His Adopted Daughter



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Fourteen years ago, the Westlake building that now houses the Church on the Rise joined the family too. It sits on 19 acres and is one of the most technologically advanced churches around, boasting a state-of-the-art sound system and HD cameras that broadcast services on five large screens above the main stage. Recordings are broadcast on streaming sites, part of Endrei's attempt at reaching a younger demographic. It's a non-denominational organization, Bible-based and aimed at appealing to born-again Christians. Gay marriage and abortion are signs of the end of times.

The two Sunday morning services — 9:15 and 11 a.m. — start with more than 20 minutes of live music with electric guitars, keyboards, drums, and singers belting out upbeat and lyrically simple God-loving tunes to the standing worshippers, many of whom hold their hands in the air with their palms facing forward, taking it in and singing along with the words projected on the screens above the stage.

Then an assistant pastor — oftentimes Endrei's wife Patti — takes the microphone and stands on the smaller stage in front of the musicians. There, it's announced that first-time visitors just need to fill out a form and they'll get a mug and a certificate for something from the cafe off the lobby. Second-time visitors, it is announced every week, will have mailed to them a $10 gift certificate to Chick-fil-A, the famously Christian company that has pumped a lot of money toward anti-gay marriage groups.

Visitors are also peppered with requests for money, because money is good, and the more you give, the more God graces you. Tithes and offerings are investments — "you reap what you sow" — and the Church conveniently stocks the lobby with donation kiosks resembling ATMs called "Giving Centers" where people can swipe their credit cards. Forms on the back of each chair allow people to fill out their bank account information for automatic withdrawals.


The Church has treated the Endrei family well. They live in a large five-bedroom, five-bathroom home in a development on a golf course in Avon, valued by the county at nearly a half-million dollars.

Paul and Patti have also written two books together: Sex Is Like a Sports Game ("Wanna rev up your sex life? Get ready to laugh as you learn about sex in a way you've never heard it before from Marriage Authors Paul and Pattie Endrei," the books says) and Glue: Sticking Power for Lifelong Marriages ("With examples taken from their own humorous and serious real-life experiences, the Endreis candidly give you the inside story of what it takes to make a marriage stick!")

The Endreis have built a tidy network on their speaking tours and have been able to lure some big names to Northeast Ohio in return, like evangelical pastor Keith Hudson, the father of pop mega star Katy Perry, who stopped by in January 2012.

"You know how to make the Jews jealous? Have some money, honey," said Hudson during his guest sermon, "You go to L.A. and they own all the Rolex and diamond places. Walk down a part of L.A. where we live and it is so rich, it smells. You ever smell rich? They are all Jews, hallelujah, amen."

That appearance earned global headlines from London to New York, and Endrei made the media rounds to do damage control.

"I just took 42 people to Israel and had a wonderful time," Endrei said at the time to the Cleveland Jewish News. "We pray for Jerusalem's peace. We're 100-percent backing the Jewish people and their struggles to maintain their land that we feel like God gave them from the time of Abraham. If I should be criticized, honestly, it would be to be too pro-Jewish. That's why it's so funny the way the cards got played in this particular situation."

Even preaching celebrity Joel Osteen is counted among friends of the Church on the Rise. The wealthy mega-church star filmed a promo for the Endreis last year when they gave away Osteen's latest book to visitors.

Joel Osteen Promo for Church on the Rise from Church on the Rise on Vimeo.

"Hello everyone, I'm Joel Osteen," the sharply dressed and white-teethed preacher says in the video, standing in front of a massive spinning globe in the background. "It's a joy to be with all of our friends there at Church on the Rise in Cleveland. We love your pastors, Paul and Patti, their heart to help people. I always encourage people to get in a good Bible-based church; well certainly, Church on the Rise is one of those churches that I would recommend."


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