It is relatively rare for a judge to be placed into a position of having to determine who gives a sermon at a church but that unenviable position was forced upon Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price who was faced with an uprising against Rev. Juan McFarland, 47, at his Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. They had good cause to want McFarland out. The not-so-good reverend has admitted to using drugs, having sex with church members in the church building and having HIV but not telling sex partners. Price, a GW grad who was honored for this service by having the courthouse named after him and , ordered him to step aside.
Deacons and trustees went to court to ask for the removal of McFarland. The congregation voted to fire him on October 5th but McFarland refused to step down and had the locks changed. It is remarkably unrepentant for a pastor who admitted to having sex in the church and not disclosing that he was HIV positive. The church leaders are also suing church parliamentarian Marc Anthoni Peacock for his involvement in changing the locks and bank accounts. Witnesses said that McFarland had armed guards at the church.
After McFarlane admitted to his actions in a sermon, the congregation first tried to help him but decided later that he would have to go. The meeting on October 5th was described by Peacock as “holy hell.”
The issue for Price was not a religious one but a matter of interpretation. The church bylaws adopted in January 2013 state that cannot be terminated and can leave only through resignation or death. The bylaws, which are written to give virtually absolute power to pastors, allows them to also fire church leaders. However, the former chairman of the board of deacons (“former because McFarland fired him) said that the bylaws were not properly adopted and that the church members voted 80-1 to rescind them Oct. 5. That was the same day that they voted to fire McFarland.
The meeting took on a menacing character. Peacock accused Nathan Williams Jr., the former chairman of the board of deacons, of threatening him when they argued. He said that Williams, 80, threatened to kill him and to “pop” him. When police arrived, Peacock asked about “castle law,” or “castle doctrine,” the right to defend one’s property with force — something that we have previously discussed. Williams and other deacons said that it was Peacock who was threatening.
It does sound like McFarland has an argument about the legitimacy of the vote, though the bylaws were disturbingly one-sided. Moreover, the conduct of McFarland truly shocks the conscience. He has since turned over the keys, though there remains a question of access to the roughly $50,000 in the bank account for the church.
Price, a 1972 graduate of George Washington, ordered McFarlane to temporarily step aside. In 1997, Price received the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation.