A popular Prince George’s County pastor lost his pulpit Wednesday.
The Jericho Baptist Church Ministries Inc. Board of Trustees announced the termination of Joel R. Peebles Sr., formerly senior pastor at Jericho City of Praise church in Landover, Md. He was met by a police escort at the church Wednesday.
“I’ve received a termination letter from the church that I was raised in, was born in, married in, went to college in, went to graduate school in,” Peebles told supporters outside the church Wednesday.
“While this decision was not made without prayerful consideration and patience, it became clear that this action was necessary to protect Jericho and move forward, while remaining in compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service for a 501(c)(3) religious organization,” read a statement from the board.
Peebles planned to hold a 7 p.m. Bible study at the church as scheduled, News4's Tisha Thompson reported.
“I love the people of this church,” Peebles told his supporters. “The church is not the building. It never has been.”
Peebles and church leadership have been pitted against each other in what some have called a battle for the soul of the church since the passing in 2010 of Peebles’s mother, church founder Apostle Betty Peebles. In her will, she reportedly placed the leadership of the church in the hands of a six-member board, not her son.
Peebles sued for control of the church but the court decided against him in October. Then in early November, he reportedly was locked out of the church, but an attorney for the church told News4 the locks had been changed because of a recent robbery, not to deny Peebles entry.
The main sanctuary at Jericho holds up to 11,000 parishioners. The church also operates Jericho Residences with apartments for seniors, a business development center and Jericho Christian Academy, which serves children from the age of 2 through the eighth grade. The church was originally located in D.C.