Deacon says he was fired for speaking out about being threatened with knife at church

| February 12, 2010

Newport News, Va. – A deacon says another church member pulled a knife on him. Now, he says he was fired for telling his story to NewsChannel 3.

Deacon Isaiah Smith says he was threatened with a switchblade at church by fellow deacon, Hurley Jones.

"I'm uncomfortable, very, very much so. I don't like someone who has threatened me seated at my back," Smith said.

Deacon Jones has two misdemeanors – assault complaints pending against him in Newport News.

One of his neighbors swore out a warrant which said in part, 'I am in fear for my life."

Smith says that's how he felt when Deacon Jones stood up during a deacon meeting.

"And that's when he came out. 'You don't know who you are messing with, no you don't mess with Hurley Jones' and pulled his knife out and raised it above the head," Smith explained.

Smith says instead of getting support from the pastor, he got a call telling him he's fired – relieved of his churchly duties.

"The leaders no longer look at the constitution," said Helen Seldon, Southern Conference UCC.

Helen Seldon is a board member of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. She says the congregation has the authority to vote out a deacon – not the pastor's decision alone.

"I said they can't fire you Isaiah. You are picked by the nominating committee, voted in by the church and he can't fire you," she added.

Reverend Alexander Jamison declined an on-camera interview, but left a voicemail saying:

"I have high regard for both these brothers, Jones and Smith. This is a misunderstanding that somehow got into the media, this is an internal matter and we are trying to deal with it as we have been trying to deal with it. We ask for your prayers."

Smith says the pastor is playing down the violence that took place at the meeting.

According to the warrant, the incident was witnessed by the entire deacon board and other deacons confirmed Smith's version of the event.

And now the hierarchy of the United Church of Christ is involved – not only to help resolve the issue of the dueling deacons. Some board members hint at a deeper issue involving the leadership of the beleaguered church.

"It's something that's got to be dealt with. We'll be dealing with it I can't tell you how but it's serious, very serious, something we don't do very often," Seldon said.

Seldon is also advising Smith to attend the next deacon meeting if or until the congregation chooses to change his status.

In the meantime, Deacon Smith and Deacon Jones have a court date on the assault case in Newport News February 22.,0,3168448.story

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Category: Church Security

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