Joel Peebles, former pastor of Jericho City of Praise church in Landover, Md., hosted a service in a hotel ballroom this Sunday, attracting thousands who chose to be a part of his congregation rather than remain with the Jericho church leadership.
The Rev. Peebles was terminated from his position on Wednesday, April 18, after board members of the church decided to honor what they say was a request from the Rev. Peebles' mother and founder of Jericho City of Praise, late Apostle Betty Peebles, to not allow her son to be the lead pastor of the church.
Joel Peebles, however, questioned the legitimacy of the board's claim, and concerns were raised over the board's finances and some of the lavish expenditures it reportedly indulged in, including a 10,000-seat sanctuary, a senior citizens' complex, schools and parking for Washington Redskins home games. As the pastor was getting ready for Bible study class on Wednesday, however, he was told he would no longer be leading the church.
A statement released by Jericho City of Praise said that it was "working swiftly to ensure an orderly transition." On Sunday, security guards were present at the church's grounds, looking to keep out dissidents, Fox News reported, but not many appeared to be present only to attend the 11:00 a.m. service.
About 1,500 people had chosen to gather for a service conducted by the Rev. Peebles at the ballroom of the Metro Points Hotel in New Carrollton. Despite the controversy, the pastor focused his sermon on God, although his wife, Ylawnda Peebles, acknowledged that her husband was in a great deal of pain over the firing.
"I'm going to be honest with you, because my husband won't tell you this part," Ylawnda Peebles shared with the congregation. "It hurts. It hurts really bad. And it hurts to see the one you love the most (on this side of heaven) have that kind of pain."
The decision to fire the Rev. Peebles is being appealed in court, and the fight over Jericho City of Praise church appears to be far from over.