Former megachurch pastor Joel R. Peebles Sr., who was removed from his position at Jericho City of Praise in Landover, Md., in April, has revealed that he is taking his case against the church to court in a battle to reclaim leadership.
Peebles, the son of the late Bishop James R. Peebles Sr. and Apostle Betty Peebles, who helped establish Jericho City of Praise, was removed from his position as lead pastor at the church by the administration's board members over financial disputes and ideas about running the church.
Jericho's decision created a great divide in the 4,000-member congregation, with a large portion of them deciding to stick with Pastor Peebles as he continued holding services in high school cafeterias and hotel ballrooms. But the pastor is now taking it a step further by declaring that he will challenge Jericho's board members over what he sees as a very unjust decision.
Oral arguments for the case are scheduled to begin on Sept. 11 before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, The Washington Post reported. Peebles is apparently confident not only that he will regain control of the Jericho building, but that he will be able to expand the ministry to Virginia and Southern Maryland.
"I don't feel displaced. I feel free," Peebles was quoted as saying. "We are excited to be stretching the ministry."
According to reports, he has also been installed as senior pastor of City of Praise Church in Springfield, where he hopes previous church members will be able to join him.
"I want to share with you that we will be having church. We will be having church," the minister said the first Sunday after his removal from Jericho. "We're gonna have church here. We're going to have church everywhere. . . . Nobody will never stop the people of God from worshipping God. . . . We're going to stand as a church. A church is not a building. The building is simply a tool where people can worship."
Peebles' attorney reportedly said the issue is not just about restoring the former pastor to Jericho, but that the case is "extremely urgent because there is a serious risk that the employees are grossly mishandling the church finances and will continue to do so."
Representatives of Jericho City of Praise church have not yet commented on the news.
The Washington Post reported that only a few hundred people now attend Sunday services at the building, which can hold up to 10,000 people.
"Steps taken today will ensure an orderly transition that will continue to provide thousands of people from across the region the opportunity to participate in worship, school and other services that are a vital part of our church and community," read a previous statement on the issue from the church. "Today begins a new day for Jericho."