Jericho City of Praise dispute: Appeals court orders lower court to reconsider decision

Pastor Joel Peebles, center wearing glasses, was ousted from the church ln April. (Photo: Sam Ford)

There's a new debate over who's in charge at one of the D.C. area's best known mega churches.

The pastor of the Jericho City of Praise says the church must allow him back.

And an appeals court has overturned a local judge who gave total control of Jericho City of Praise Church to a board of trustees. In April the board fired the pastor, Joel Peebles, and had the police escort him from the lucrative church built by his late mother, Betty Peebles.

The appeals court said Prince Georges Judge Dwight Jackson erred when he granted summary judgment to the board and accepted the board's claim that Peebles had no authority at the church when there was evidence that Peebles was also a board member with certain rights.

They sent the case back to Judge Jackson to look at the case again.

Jericho is a lucrative property. It's not only a church, but school, office complex, apartments, and brings in millions of dollars from parking from fans of the Redskins whose stadium is right next door.

Since his ouster Peebles and the vast majority of the thousands of members have worshiped in the rented auditorium of Eleanor Roosevlt High School.

Church member and Peebles attorney Bobby Henry said they want to return to their church.

Late Friday, an attorney for the church board issued the following statement:

Yesterday, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the decisions of the Circuit Court on two of the three issues it considered, and in favor of the Board of Trustees of Jericho Baptist Church Ministries (the “Church”). We look forward to resolving the one issue that has been sent back to the Circuit Court for resolution, which we anticipate will again support the conclusions of Judge Jackson’s earlier ruling. The Court of Special Appeals’ decision does not change the current status quo; the current leadership of Jericho remains, and the church will continue to serve its members and provide vital services to the community.

The Court of Special Appeals did not change the status of the current governing board, or in any way recognize any other board or authorize any change in the current leadership structure of the church.