Battle over Jericho City of Praise heats up

A few hundred people braved the chilly temperatures Thursday to show solidarity for the pastor of a Landover who is at odds with the church’s board.

Jericho City of Praise, a megachurch of more than 10,000 members, is engaged in an internal struggle over who should lead the church in the wake of founder Betty Peebles’ death. Some church members claim a six-member board is trying to oust current pastor and Betty's son, Joel.

Church members are holding worship services every night this week, refusing to let the board disband the pastor they've known for years. 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.

Members of the board, appointed by the court, declined to talk with reporters Thursday.

“We as the members of this church will not tolerate this board trying to search for a new pastor when we have one,” one person at the worship service said.

Worshippers complain they are getting no say in how their money is being spent.

“What are they doing with our moneys, which way is the church going, what is the vision for the church, they have not yet addressed us as members,” one said.

Faithful followers have even started a petition that has gathered over 1,000 signatures in three days demanding the board either back Pastor Peebles or back off entirely.

Members of Jericho City of Praise say on Tuesday afternoon, Joel Peebles came to the church and found the locks had been changed, a move they blame on the church's governing.

Issac Marks, attorney for the church board, said the church changed the locks after audio equipment was taken from church over the weekend.

“Why would we lock him out if we want him to continue to preach here?” Marks asked. But the head of the audio department says no equipment was stolen.

The group that claims it represents most church members says the alleged lock-out has been the last in a string of tensions. These members say they are waging a battle for Jericho City of Praise.

The fight over who controls one of the D.C. area's largest churches has been going on since its founder, the Rev. Betty Peebles, died just over a year ago, they say.

The will was contested in court and last week a judge ruled against Joel Peebles. The members say they are standing behind their pastor.

“There is nothing that represents Christ in this board,” said Mark Robinson.