MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A minister who confessed to having sex with church members and neglecting to tell them he had AIDS was temporarily banned from acting as pastor on Thursday.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price issued a preliminary injunction, as sought by deacons and trustees of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Price ruled that the Rev. Juan McFarland, 47, must turn in his church keys and his church Mercedes vehicle and then stay away from the church he led for 24 years.

Church members hugged and prayed after the ruling. “Now we’ve got the church back, and the healing can begin,” said Lois Caffey, a member for 21 years.

The judge scheduled a hearing Dec. 1 to decide whether to issue a permanent injunction.

Lee Sanford, chairman of the board of trustees, said the challenge now is to reunite the 170 active members of the congregation. “I’m confident with God’s help we will be able to do that,” he said.

A supporter tries to hide Rev. Juan McFarland, left, from cameras as they leave the courthouse during a break Thursday in a lawsuit filed by deacons and trustees of Montgomery's Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, who want McFarland removed as the church's leader.
Mickey Welsh/APA supporter tries to hide Rev. Juan McFarland, left, from cameras as they leave the courthouse during a break Thursday in a lawsuit filed by deacons and trustees of Montgomery’s Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, who want McFarland removed as the church’s leader.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said that the congregation voted to fire McFarland after his confessions but that he refused to leave and changed the church’s locks and control of church bank accounts.

McFarland said nothing inside or outside the courtroom Thursday during two hearings. He attended without an attorney.

The boards of deacons and trustees sued both McFarland and church parliamentarian Marc Anthoni Peacock, who was involved in changing the locks and bank accounts. Peacock resigned from the church after testifying in court Thursday and was dropped from the suit.

One of the plaintiffs, Deacon Nathan Williams Jr., said church leaders had no suspicions about McFarland until he delivered sermons in in August and September, during which he confessed to having sex with church members in the church building, but not in the sanctuary; having AIDS but not telling sex partners; and using illegal drugs. Williams and Sanford said McFarland told the congregation that God directed him to make a public confession.

Williams testified that the congregation first tried to help the pastor but that when it didn’t work, members took a vote during a service Oct. 5 to fire him.

Parliamentarian Marc Anthoni Peacock testified that the meeting wasn’t officially called as part of the Sunday service and described it as “holy hell.” Peacock was originally a defendant in the lawsuit but resigned from the church Thursday and was dropped from the litigation.

Price said the courts have no role in religious matters, but they sometimes have to step in when congregations can’t settle their differences over control of buildings and money. “If it could be resolved in the church, it would have been already,” the judge told the courtroom packed, with more than 100 people.

Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church is more than 90 years old and is part of the National Baptist Convention. Church members on both sides of the pastoral dispute said the convention gives churches autonomy in personnel decisions

 An Alabama church properly fired its minister after he admitted having sex with married church members and not telling them he had AIDS, a judge ruled Friday.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price ruled that the Rev. Juan McFarland did not have a lifetime appointment as pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, as he had contended in court.

The judge said the church’s constitution allows the members to vote to terminate the minister and they did that with lopsided votes in October and November.

The church’s deacons and trustees sued McFarland when he continued to show up after an 80-1 vote to fire him on Oct. 5. The judge’s ruling requires McFarland to stay away from the church, return any church property he has and inform the church’s banks that he can’t sign financial documents.

The chairman of the board of deacons, Nathan Williams, said the judge gave the church’s leaders what they wanted.

McFarland’s attorney did not return a phone message and email seeking comment.

McFarland, 47, pastored the church near the Alabama State University campus for 23 years before a sermon in August in which he said he had HIV. Then in another sermon in September he made several confessions: He was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003; he had sex with married female church members in the church complex, but not in the sanctuary; he did not tell them about his illness; and he used illegal drugs, including on Sundays.

McFarland’s attorney, Dwayne Brown, contended the church had changed its constitution in January 2013 to give McFarland his job until he either resigned or died. But the judge said the change was not valid because McFarland had attempted to amend the constitution without giving the required two-week notice to members and without a quorum of members present.

McFarland’s attorney also contended the courts had no role in a church dispute. Price wrote that the court was not getting involved in ecclesiastical matters or doctrine, but was resolving a dispute involving control of the assets and property of the 95-year-old church.

At a hearing in the case Monday, McFarland testified briefly with his voice soft and halting. His attorney said he was terminally ill with AIDS

Ephesians 5:5KJB For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Revelations 21:8 in the KJB mentions that all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire.

Jeremiah 23:1 KJB Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.  The pastors are to feed the sheep, not sleep with or commit adultery. Matthew 7:15 KJB Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.Exodus 20:14KJB Thou shalt not commit adultery.