For months, a new board of directors at Jericho City of Praise Church has been working to oust current Pastor Joel Peeblesthey have changed the locks of his office door in the past, now he and his congregation have literally been locked out of the church.
The fight over who controls one of the D.C. area's largest churches entered a new round Wednesday after Jericho City of Praise fired its pastor. Instead of their weekly Wednesday night bible study, the scene turned tense outside.
Jericho City of Praise fired Elder Joel R. Peebles, Sr., who is the son of the founder Betty Peebles.
"I've been locked out. I've been told by the police I'm not allowed to come back in," Joel Peebles says.
Joel Peebles left the church saying he would be back Wednesday night to conduct bible study. Instead of their weekly Wednesday night bible study, the scene turned tense outside.
The church, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it weighed the decision but decided the pastor must go. The moment when Peebles was removed from the church was caught on camera.
"While this decision was not made without prayerful consideration and patience, it became clear that this action was necessary to protect Jericho and move forward, while remaining in compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service for a 501(c)(3) religious organization," the church stated.
Jericho City of Praise, a megachurch of more than 10,000 members, has been engaged in an internal struggle over who should lead the church after co-founder Betty Peebles died.
Some church members have claimed a six-member board had been trying to oust Joel Peebles. Joel Peebles has been helping lead worship services for the past 20 years. In her will, however, Betty Peebles turned control of the church over to a six-member board, not Joel.
The church stated Wednesday that it is working on an orderly transition. Peebles encouraged supporters Wednesday to continue to pray for the church he's no longer allowed in.
Meanwhile, the controversy is creating a financial divide as well. Some supporters have begun donating a non-profit on Pastor Peebles' website instead of the church. However, Jericho's assets, which include an office park, a school and Washington Redskins parking, don't require it to answer to the congregation for funds.
Jericho officials said in a deposition that they've made as much as $1.2 million in a year.