Pastor Juan McFarland sits in the back of the courtroom until being told to come to the front. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
A full courtroom with at least 2/3 of the church members present. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Church attorney Julian McPhillips stands with 4 deacons in announcing a lawsuit against the ousted pastor. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Ousted Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church pastor Juan McFarland (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Juan McFarland leaves the courtroom after the judge rules against him. He did not speak. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery is trying to move forward after former pastor Juan McFarland complied with a judge's order to turn over keys, bank accounts and a Mercedes Benz belonging to the church Thursday.
Board of Trustee Chair Lee Sandford released the following statement Friday:
"The members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church have felt and we appreciate the outpouring of love and support from the community of faith in Montgomery, the surrounding area and throughout the country as we worked to resolve this difficult situation while ensuring that we stayed within the will of God. Oftentimes we are faced with circumstances that test our faith yet we know that God is in control. We are appreciative of God's grace which covered us during these difficult times and it is God who gave us the strength to carry on. To God be the Glory for the things he has done and continues to do in our lives.
First, the Shiloh church family would like to thank Judge Price for his granting of the Preliminary Injunction and we count it as a victory in God's name. We extend heartfelt thanks to Rev. Leon Ross and the Weeping Willow Baptist Church family for opening their doors to us to allow us to worship as a church family on October 12th. We would also like to thank Rev. Jay Joye and the Young Meadows Presbyterian Church family for their offer to welcome us to their worship service this Sunday. Special thanks go out to Resurrection Catholic Church and Father Emmanuel for opening up their facility to us and providing spiritual support and guidance as we went through the storm and to our excellent legal counsel, McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP Law Firm.
We, the Shiloh Church family are extremely blessed that we will be able to resume our regular worship services in Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on this Sunday. We invite all members of the community of faith to come out and worship with us. We pray God's blessings on all parties involved as we move forward during this period of healing and restoration."
Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price ruled against McFarland Thursday, telling him in a preliminary injunction hearing to return the property to the church's leadership. In addition to returning the property, the judge barred McFarland from the church's property.
The ousted pastor arrived in the Mercedes around 4 p.m., surrendered it to the church, and drove away in a different Mercedes with an unidentified woman.
The ruling against the pastor came several hours after Judge Price called a morning recess for the courtroom, packed with more than two-thirds of the church's members. Juan McFarland sat on the very back row and had to be called to the front by the judge to join his co-defendant.
Both McFarland and his co-defendant, Marc Peacock, Sr. were being sued by church members who say they voted McFarland out of the church by an 80-1 margin after he admitted from the pulpit to having sexual relations inside the church building - with congregants - while knowingly having AIDS. McFarland has also admitted to drug abuse and misuse of church finances. Still, the pastor refused to step down.
McFarland did not say a word during the hearings, had no legal counsel and chose to represent himself. He left the courtroom and stepped onto an elevator with two men after the judge ruled against him.
Peacock was being sued for his alleged role in helping McFarland change the church's locks, bank accounts and for threatening to shoot deacons if they returned to the church's property. However, during Thursday's hearing, Peacock resigned his membership with the church and was subsequently removed from the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claimed McFarland passed a new church constitution in 2013 giving himself total control of the church while only a few members were present, and it sought the termination and removal of both McFarland and Peacock from all aspects of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church's operations.
"They all thought it was wrong and when they discovered it, they took measures a couple of weeks ago to pass resolutions that did away with that constitution. Also another resolution establishing who the board of deacons was and who is on it and then a resolution terminating Pastor McFarland,” said church attorney Julian McPhillips.
During the morning hearing, each side was allowed two witnesses to explain the situation. Head Deacon Nathan Williams, Jr. and Deacon Lee Sanders spoke on behalf of the church, while Peacock spoke on his own behalf and church member Chauncey Ballard spoke for both defendants.
The plaintiffs argued that an emergency injunction should be put into place, returning access to church bank accounts. They argued that if the court did not return access to the accounts, they would miss a $2,000 promissory note payment on the church building that is due by the end of the day.
The plaintiffs sought an immediate injunction while Peacock's attorney, Charles Anderson, sought the termination and removal of McFarland and Peacock from all aspects of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church's operations. Anderson attempted to have the case dismissed citing the court's lack of jurisdiction in a matter involving a religious issue, but Judge Price immediately dismissed the request saying this wasn't his first case involving a church and added that he does have jurisdiction if the church can't resolve the issue on its own.
WSFA 12 News first broke this story, which has since been seen around the country and world, and spoke exclusively with members of the church and Juan McFarland, himself. The pastor confirmed to WSFA 12 News by both telephone and text message each of the shocking details that lead to the public outcry and his ouster from the pulpit.
McFarland also confirmed when asked by WSFA 12 News that he was not going to step down from his position, even in light of his visibly failing health and the fact he had taken a leave of absence of preaching prior to the start of his Sept. 14 confessionals. McPhillips said McFarland arrived at the church on Sunday, Oct. 12 -- the Sunday after he was voted out -- with a prepared sermon on divine healing.
“The majority of the members were shocked. There were only about 50 people there. But why show up to a church you have been voted out of? A lot of members are intimidated. He has run that church like a dictator over the years,” McPhillips said.
CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
Shiloh Missionary Baptist is a member of the National Baptist Convention. The president of that group is the latest to call for Juan McFarland's resignation.
President-Elect of the National Baptist Convention Dr. Jerry Young released this statement:
"The National Baptist Convention has been made aware of the situation regarding Pastor Juan McFarland and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. Because of the nature of Baptist Polity and the autonomy of each local congregation, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., does not, nor can it, exercise ecclesiastical authority over that matter. However, Dr. Cleveland McFarland (no relation), who serves as President of the State Moderators in Alabama, has been instructed to meet with Pastor McFarland to bring a swift resolution to this situation. It is of the utmost importance that those who preach the Gospel with their lips, practice the Gospel with their lives. The Gospel cannot simply be declared, it must be demonstrated! In the final analysis, those who claim to be followers of Christ, must endeavor to make sure that they extend His life and that they express His love. Consequently, there are times when in the interest of Christ, His cause, and His church, we must do what is selfless and surrender our personal interest for the good of Christ and His kingdom. Our prayer is that God will give to Pastor McFarland and the members of Shiloh M. B. Church the courage to do only that which is in the best interest of Christ and His cause. We would hope that they would come to the realization that in order to be effective and efficient as a church, they must have moral authority. Whenever there has been a compromise of the leader's moral authority, it becomes incumbent upon that local congregation to determine whether or not that leader should remain in that position. I hope and pray that Pastor McFarland would provide an opportunity for the church to make its' will known in this matter, in accordance with Baptist Polity and the Word of God."
The Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention, which includes Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, is also calling on Juan McFarland to resign.
Reverend Cleveland McFarland Jr.,( no relation to Juan McFarland) is the president of the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention Moderators Division, which oversees more than 1,000 churches and 100 moderators statewide. Juan McFarland is Moderator of the Alabama Middle District Missionary Baptist Association, which includes about 34 churches.
Cleveland McFarland asked Juan McFarland to peacefully step down and spare Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and the association from further harm. He says he personally spoke with Juan McFarland who said he would fight it and not step down.