A Montgomery, Alabama, Baptist congregation is reeling after their longtime pastor confessed at the pulpit a few Sundays ago that he has AIDS, knowingly slept with church members inside the building without revealing his status, and abused drugs and mishandled the congregation's money.
The shocking revelation was confirmed by a WSFA 12 news report which noted that church leaders at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church relieved the offending pastor, Juan Demetrius McFarland, of his duties on Sunday. McFarland is also moderator of the Alabama Middle District Missionary Baptist Association, which includes 34 churches across the state. Association leaders told WSFA 12 that there were no discussions to remove him from that post.
McFarland, who has served at the church for 21 years according to the church's website, told congregants on Sept. 14 that in 2003 he contracted HIV which developed into AIDS in 2008.
A church member who spoke with WSFA 12 but did not want to be identified said the church was supportive of the pastor at that point of his confession.
"The church was very accepting of Reverend McFarland and was willing to help him in any way possible," said the unidentified member.
It was not until the reverend began revealing more details of his secret life in subsequent weeks did the church realize the magnitude of the scandal.
Church leaders revealed in a resolution read aloud at the church that McFarland confessed to drug use, mishandling of church funds and sleeping with female members.
"He concealed from the church that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS," said church deacon Nathan Williams Jr.
Deacon Williams, who said he's a 70-year member of the church, noted that the confession is the biggest scandal the church has ever face.
"He confessed to the entire membership and then to the city of Montgomery, because as soon as he got done confessing, it went all over Montgomery anyway," said Williams. "So it's nothing we [are] making up. It's coming out of his mouth."
Church members who were sexually involved with McFarland are reportedly afraid to come forward while others are worried about exposure. One church member who did not want to be identified is encouraging members who have slept with the pastor to come forward.
"I know a young lady who is a member of the church who says she has slept with him and that she didn't want this to go public, and she's running out now trying to find out if there is anything wrong with her," explained the member. "And my heart goes out to her because she's been a wonderful church member, and then for something like this to happen. The fact that he didn't tell them at all. That's a crime in itself."
The church member continued: "I'm hoping by doing this interview that she will see that she can come and talk to someone and her name or whatever will not be revealed. And maybe she can have some peace by coming forward and not the shame that goes along with it."
Deacon Williams explained that the church has acquired the services of a lawyer and noted that all their next steps will be directed by legal counsel.
"Our moves are going to come directly from counsel. We want peace and we want to do things right, legally," Williams said. "We are not looking to hurt him. We are looking to get the church back. That's our theme: Get the church back. We want the church back. That's it," said Williams.
Some members said they would like to see McFarland prosecuted for his sins.
"I believe that he should be put on trial," said another unidentified member. "Go to court and let the judge decide if he should go to jail or not. We tend to sweep things under the rug, especially if they're the leader. It's like, 'oh, no, please let's not get this out.' But I think after this that they will have more discussions on HIV and AIDS."
The Montgomery Police Department says "transmitting a sexually transmitted disease" is a Class C misdemeanor. No charges have been filed against the pastor.