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Philadelphia Pastor Refuses to Leave Church After Congregation Votes Him Out

Philadelphia Pastor Refuses to Leave Church After Congregation Votes Him Out

New Central Baptist Church, a historic institution with a 118-year legacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is embroiled in a bitter dispute that has divided its congregation.

The conflict revolves around their pastor, Bernard Reaves, whom some members accuse of acting like a dictator and committing a laundry list of offenses, including misappropriating $16,000 of funds designated for emergency church expenses. Despite a majority vote to terminate his position, Reaves refuses to step down, taking advantage of a judge’s ruling that overturned the decision.

Determined not to be silenced, the members of New Central Baptist Church are fighting back. Currently, they have an appeal pending before the Pennsylvania Superior Court, seeking to overturn the judge’s decision. In the meantime, the pastor has resorted to changing the locks on the church, intensifying the battle between him and the congregation.

In Reaves’ recent sermon, livestreamed on Facebook, he welcomed his audience in the name of Jesus and spoke of the church as a place “where the feast of the Lord unfolds.” However, the dwindling viewership of the livestream, with only 49 views as of Monday, suggests that few were partaking in the church’s activities beyond Reaves himself.

The roots of the conflict can be traced back to 2018 when disputes within the church escalated. Dissenting members, including former trustee Barry Canady, argued that Reaves had disregarded long-standing bylaws by unilaterally appointing deacons and a trustee. They also accuse him of meddling in trustee elections and misusing church funds. Furthermore, Reaves allegedly dismissed criticisms stemming from a church survey, labeling them as “out of line with the Word of God.”

In response to Reaves’ actions, the disgruntled members and the church’s board of trustees filed a lawsuit in April 2019, seeking the court’s intervention to remove Reaves as pastor. However, Judge George Overton, presiding over a two-day trial in December 2021, ruled in favor of Reaves, stating that the termination had not followed the church’s bylaws adequately. Overton also deemed Reaves’ notice of termination as insufficient.

The congregation’s hopes for justice now lie with the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which accepted their appeal last October. They aim to reverse Judge Overton’s ruling and restore harmony within the church. However, the legal battle is not the only challenge they face.

The church’s location in South Philadelphia has experienced rapid gentrification, resulting in soaring property prices. Some members expressed concerns that if the conflict persists, the church may be compelled to sell its premises to developers who could convert it into condominiums. With three adjacent condominiums already priced at $2 million each, the fear of losing their cherished place of worship to the forces of gentrification adds an extra layer of urgency to their fight.

Despite the trials they face, members like Barry Canady remain committed to their cause. They refuse to abandon New Central Baptist Church and seek solace elsewhere. Canady staunchly affirms, “God didn’t put it on my heart and mind to go somewhere else. I’m not going to do it. It’s New Central or nothing.”

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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