In a lavish ballroom in Springfield, Va. Joel Peebles Sr., once the heir apparent to the Jericho City of Praise church in Landover, was consecrated as head of his own church Aug. 5, possibly ending a battle for power over the religious dynasty his parents founded more than 40 years ago.

In a ceremony attended by several local pastors, Peebles officially became pastor of City of Praise Church Ministries, less than four months after being fired from Jericho by the current church board of trustees. Also in attendance were members of Jericho who followed when Peebles was effectively locked out of the massive church in April by the board, which a judge determined was seated by his mother, the late Apostle Betty R. Peebles, before her death in 2010.

One pastor, Apostle Stephen E. Young of Holy Christian House of Praise in N.E. Washington, hinted at the firestorm that continues between Peebles and the board, each of whom claim Apostle Peebles had put them in charge of the church’s extensive assets, including the 10,000-seat sanctuary, a school, a college and a lucrative arrangement with the Washington Redskins to provide parking during home games.

Quote from Young

Joel Peebles preached each Sunday for many years alongside his mother until she took ill with cancer and died in October 2010. After her death, a disagreement flared up between Joel Peebles, the only living member of the church’s founding family, and a group of longtime members who said Betty Peebles had put them in charge of the church’s administration and finances. The board fired him in April, claiming that he had tried to operate a for-profit company out of the church, a violation of federal tax law.

But the controversy seemed out of mind as Peebles was feted Aug. 5 by a full choir clad in white and female and male liturgical dance groups. He was accompanied by his wife, Ylawnda, and their four children.

The program was interrupted several times by shouts of praise from the audience.

Among the officials were Bishop Ralph Dennis, pastor of Kingdom Fellowship Covenant Ministries in Towson and Bishop C. Anthony Muse of Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro, who is also a Maryland state senator.

During that ceremony, the two bishops took turns asking Peebles questions to symbolically determine if he understood what his elevation would entail and if he was prepared for the responsibility.

Peebles was then adorned with a robe and ring and given a Bible that belonged to his father, the late Bishop James R. Peebles.

Part of a letter written by his wife was read. “The enemy thought he had us down for the count, but the Agape love of God that has and continues to flow from your words, your conversations, your deeds and actions is still bringing glory to the name of the Lord,” she wrote. “You have single handedly allowed God to use you to teach the world how to
handle devastating seasons….”

According to a website for the new church, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) offered congratulations to Peebles in letters.

“Greetings to the members and guests of the City of Praise Church on the occasion of your ordination of Reverend Joel R. Peebles, Sr. to succeed his mother Apostle Betty Peebles, of blessed memory, as Senior Pastor of this extraordinary congregation,” Mikulski wrote.

Said Edwards, “Under the pastoral leadership of your mother, Apostle Betty Peebles, City of Praise rendered innumerable services to help build and support neighborhoods and communities throughout Prince George’s County…he mantra of serving the community is being passed on to you with excitement and anticipation. Under your leadership, I have every confidence that these efforts will continue.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO