Judge orders Alabama pastor with AIDS to surrender church control

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Over several weeks, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Juan D. McFarland progressively revealed his use of illegal drugs, adultery with congregational members, and infection with AIDS. | Shiloh MBC

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (ChristianExaminer.com)-- A judge ruled Oct. 16 to temporarily relieve Juan McFarland, longtime pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, of his duties. The case is set to return to trial on Dec. 1.

Church leaders sued McFarland Oct. 14 after he refused to step down as pastor despite members having voted for his dismissal 80 to 1 on Oct. 5. Instead of leaving the church McFarland made a power play and changed the building's locks, altered passwords on church bank accounts and returned to the pulpit the following Sunday.

After a morning hearing, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price ruled around 1:30 p.m. that McFarland, who chose not to have legal representation, should return the church's keys, bank accounts and Mercedes Benz by 5 p.m.

Local news station WSFA12, which has been in contact with members and covered their story since it was made public, reported that most of the church's members attended the hearing and that the former pastor complied with the order around 4 p.m.

Trouble between McFarland and the church first began in September after he gave several shocking sermons—that drew national attention—revealing his drug abuse, misuse of church funds, AIDS diagnosis and sexual affairs with female church members on church grounds.

The lawsuit filed against McFarland and Marc-Anthoni Peacock Sr. by attorneys Kenneth Shinbaum and Julian McPhillips claimed that in addition to McFarland maintaining control of the church property, Peacock, the former church parliamentarian, had threatened to shoot them.

During the hearing, both parties attempted to justify their position by pointing to the church's bylaws and the bylaws of its regional association which say that membership controls who leads and operates the church.

Peacock claimed that a 2013 church constitution stated that only the "divine commandment of God" or "death" could remove McFarland as pastor.

According to Shinbaum, any contract or constitution was invalidated on Oct. 5 when members voted on a number of church resolutions. WSFA12 received copies of the resolutions and posted pdf images on their website of the documents terminating the 2013 contract, removing the pastor and reaffirming the deacons McFarland previously dismissed.

The website AL.com reported that Peacock "became irate" during questioning, but that later, as the court recessed, he and his attorney Charles Anderson, worked with Shinbaum and McPhillips to remove himself from the lawsuit.

After the judge ruled, the reinstated deacons issued a statement saying Peacock had resigned from the church as parliamentarian and as a member. It also stated that Peacock was nothing less than "a gentleman of integrity and character."

McFarland, 47, had been pastor of the church for 23 years.