The fight over control of Jericho City of Praise and its entities continues as the son of the late Right Rev. Betty Peebles and the alleged board wrangle over who’s really in charge of the church.

Joel Peebles, son of the late pastor says the church is rightfully his as he is the lone-remaining heir of the Peebles name. However, members of the church say that isn’t the case as the church belongs to the congregation and not to just one man.

Jericho has managed to stay above water while many other mega churches in the area faced financial difficulties. The church runs Jericho Christian Academy, a private school with students from pre-K through the sixth grade; a bible college; Jericho Residences, a luxury community for senior citizens and sells parking spaces to fans attending Washington Redskins home games.

According to a Washington Post story, rumors abound about whether or not Betty Peebles trusted her son with the finances of the church. Joel Peebles’ personal finances seemingly lend credence to those rumors. Peebles is currently fighting back foreclosure proceedings in Baltimore.

There were also questions about how the younger Peebles performed as the head of JCA, a position Betty Peebles later took over amid concerns of mismanagement. That is a claim that Joel Peebles’ attorney, Bobby Henry, a long-time member of the church disputes.

“This has nothing to do with the school,” Henry said. Pastor Peebles was not responsible for the finances of the school. That’s not even something that we’re discussing at this point. This is about governance of the board and that’s all this is about.”

The situation is so heated that the sides had to seek the courts’ help to see who would handle the church’s funds until the issues are resolved. In a court order filed last month, Peebles and William Meadows were ordered to stop collecting any tithes, offerings or any other money themselves or through a third party. The men were also ordered to account for all tithes, offerings and other money collected from the church.

The fight has been messy, with both sides making accusations. So much so, it may have overshadowed the fact that there would be no out of court settlement in this case. On Aug. 2, the two sides made an attempt at mediation, but a civil trial will proceed as scheduled.

Jericho’s history spans 40 year from the completion of construction of Jericho Baptist Church in 1969. Since then, the church has seen enormous growth despite the passing of its original pastor, James R. Peebles, Betty’s husband, and Jamie Peebles, their eldest son in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

Jericho moved into its current home in Landover in 1997.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO