A once proud church was rocked by another controversy as the board of Jericho City of Praise fired Pastor Joel Peebles last week.

The two sides had been in a lengthy and nasty battle over the Landover church’s finances before a judge gave the board ultimate control over that.

That apparently put a strain on the relationship that was never mended. According to the board, the final straw was what they say Peebles did to put the church’s tax-exempt status at risk.

“Elder Peebles attempted to operate a for-profit company from the Church,” the board said in a statement. “This action is a clear violation of IRS 501(c)(3) regulations and threatened the very existence of Jericho, and the Board was forced to act.”

Peebles responded to those charges on his own by releasing a video explaining his point of view about what happened over the past several years.

One thing Peebles refutes is the fact that Apostle Betty Peebles, his mother, signed a will that left the board in control of the church’s finances after she’d fallen ill. Joel Peebles believe members of the board took advantage of his mother in her weakened state and convinced her to sign documents handing over control to them.

The will required that Peebles fulfill certain spiritual obligations to receive his portion of his mother’s trust.

“Joel must place himself under the spiritual tutelage of the Pastor of the Spirit of Faith Christian Center, currently Dr. Michael A. Freeman, at the sanctuary location determined by the Pastor, for not less than one year or more than two years as determined by the Pastor (which may be extended if additional time is required to pursue a doctoral divinity degree),” the will says.

Peebles also spoke of people blocking him and his family from seeing his mother for months after she’d fallen extremely ill in in late 2009. He said he had to threaten to bring police action before he was notified where his mother was. He said when he was finally allowed to see his mother he found out that she’d been in intensive care at Levindale Hospital in Baltimore for five weeks.

“My mom had suffered greatly,” Peebles said. “My mom had cancers removed from her uterus and her colon. Over 70 percent of her colon was dissected.

“When I found my mother in January of 2010; I walked in the room and to my shock my mother had a tracheostomy, a bed sore the size you could put your fist in, she had a peg tube because she could not eat or swallow, she had catheters all over her body and she was struggling with tremendous and painful spasms,” he continued.

Those accounts, however, were refuted by the board. They say that any statement that Betty Peebles was manipulated, mistreated or held from her family is “preposterous and outlandish” and that his legal challenge to the will was defeated in court.

Peebles is holding service in the ball-room of the Metro Points Hotel in New Carrollton on Sundays. He has appealed the decision to turn over control of the church to the board.

The board maintains that it has reached out to Peebles on several occasions. It says it’s now “working swiftly to ensure an orderly transition.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO