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:
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.
[Montgomery pastor admits to having AIDS, sleeping with church members]
[Deacon: Pastor who admitted to AIDS, sex with congregants, changed locks and bank accts.]
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.
[DOCUMENT: Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church lawsuit (.pdf)]
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.
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 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.
WSFA 12 News has obtained hard copies of resolutions that deacons read aloud during church service on Sunday, Oct. 5.
McPhillips says he met with four deacons, including Deacon Chair Nathan Williams, Jr., and drafted the very detailed resolutions.
“He [Juan McFarland] thinks he is above the fray or the fight. He is not above the fray. He caused the fray,” McPhillips said.
Williams has insisted the majority of the members just want to take back their church.
Juan McFarland has not been charged with any crime, despite Alabama law stating it's a Class C misdemeanor to knowingly spreading a disease, because no victim has come forward to press charges.