Walking pastor pulls wool over church’s eyes

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 10, 2008

NATCHEZ — Much the to chagrin of local church leaders, James Bowman, the Walking Pastor, is simply a walking con artist.

Bowman strolled into town last Thursday telling anyone who would listen his story of salvation and the way that God now works in his life.

Once in Natchez, Bowman came into contact with associational mission director for Adams-Union Baptist Association Rev. Dale Little.

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Little, not knowing Bowman’s true nature, introduced Bowman to local church leaders.

Bowman told church leaders that God saved him from an intentional heroin overdose and then sent him to walk the roads of North America preaching the word.

Bowman claimed he had been on the road for three years preaching the word of God and helping those in need.

Bowman’s story was so heartfelt and so genuine that people wanted to believe it Little said.

“He was a pretty slick guy,” he said.

And Bowman’s tale had some tinges of legitimacy; he had newspaper clippings from other small towns he had traveled through and actually has his own DVD that tells his story.

But all the publicity that Bowman got may well have been his demise — in Natchez anyway.

Little said on Jan. 6, Bowman was scheduled to speak at Highland Baptist Church. He planned to tell the congregation his amazing story.

Little said just before the services started, Highland’s Pastor, Paul Southerland, got a phone call from First Baptist Church Pastor Tom Smith.

Smith, whose church is in Coushatta, La., read the Jan. 6, article about Bowman in The Democrat.

Little said when Southerland hung up the phone, he simply asked Bowman if he knew Smith.

“That was it,” he said. “He asked where the restroom was and he slipped out the back door.”

Bowman had been in the Coushatta area just days before pulling the same scam.

Right now it’s unclear just how lucrative the scam is though.

Smith and Little both said Bowman never actually asked for money.

“He told his story in a way that made people want to give to him,” Smith said.

Smith estimates that while Bowman was in the Coushatta area he got about $300 in contributions plus lodging and meals.

Smith said Bowman’s stories were so outlandish, they were hard to believe — like the time he was accompanied by a moose for four days on a trek through the wilderness.

Smith said Bowman told him the moose was sent by God to keep him safe on his journey.

Little said he did not know how much money Bowman raked in while he was in the Natchez area.

Little said the whole situation was humbling.

“When you see someone who is in need you want to help,” he said. “In the future, we will have to be more careful.”