Kentucky Church Cancels Services Until Further Notice Amid Legal Battle With Ousted Pastor

(Photo: Facebook)Pastor Cameron McDonald and his wife Erica of Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

A Kentucky pastor who was accused of taking over $100,000 in church donations to pay the mortgage on his home has been legally removed from the church about a month after being unanimously voted out by congregants.

The new board of elders at Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington announced on Facebook Tuesday that it has  taken over legal possession of the church from pastor Cameron McDonald, who had led the church since 2006.

The announcement comes one day after the church told its members through Facebook that all services and events would be cancelled until further notice as a legal dispute between McDonald and the members continues.

"One month ago, members of Southern Acres Church decided, by a vote of 173 to zero, to remove Cameron McDonald as senior pastor and directed us, as members of the newly elected board, to take charge of the church's affairs," Tuesday's Facebook post explains. "Because Mr. McDonald refused to turn over the keys to the property at 301 Harvard Drive for a month after the Feb. 4 vote, last Sunday evening, we entered the building and took lawful and legal possession without resorting to the use of force or violence."

The post explains that the new board is currently working to take charge of the church's other assets.

"We thank Mr. McDonald for his past service and wish him well in his future endeavors," the statement adds. "We will have no further comment at this time and look forward to reopening the building in the near future. We look forward to worshiping Jesus and praying together soon."

According to WKYT, a total of three lawsuits have been filed against McDonald by church members.

While the first was dismissed, the second accuses McDonald of taking $100,000 of a $170,000 donation from the church in December 2016 to pay for the mortgage of the home that he and his wife had purchased months before.

The third lawsuit was filed after McDonald refused to give up leadership of the church after he was ousted. However, McDonald's attorney has argued that the new board was not valid and had no authority over the church.

On Monday, legal paperwork was filed with the state to remove McDonald as the official agent of the church. Bill Powell, who filed the third lawsuit against McDonald, replaced the pastor as the agent of the church.

Prior to his ousting, McDonald was reportedly accused in a November 2017 lawsuit of centralizing power within the church by dissolving a governing board and amending the church's operating rules. He also allegedly eliminated the need for churchwide approval on changes.

However, that lawsuit was dropped in January and the church attorney denied the allegations.

McDonald was also accused by church members of firing the church's officer manager to keep her from providing financial information to authorities.

According to Kentucky.com, when the church passed a resolution to remove McDonald and create the nine-member board of elders to search for his replacement, they had to do so at a nearby park because they had been locked out of the church that Sunday.

The Lexington Herald Leader also reports that there has been an increased police presence at the church in recent months as off-duty officers have been used to block entry to the church for members that McDonald had barred.

No announcement has been made about when services and events will resume at the church.

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