Reverend at dueling deacons’ church suspended from pastoral duties

| March 6, 2010

The sun shines brightly over Wesley Grove United Church of Christ, but there is a storm brewing behind the church doors.

The pastor of Wesley Grove United Church of Christ in Newport News has been suspended from his pastoral duties.

It happened after the church failed to act when a deacon allegedly pulled a switchblade during a church meeting.

"A lot of older members have left because of the discord," said Helen Sheldon, United Church of Christ board member.

The discord is outlined in a document obtained by NewsChannel 3 from church insiders. In it the United Church of Christ puts Pastor Alexander Jamison on notice that he's under an official "fitness review" alleging acts regarded as "sexually inappropriate behavior" toward two female members of the congregation.

If the allegations are found to be true the document says it "raises a question of your fitness for continued ministry in and on behalf of United Church of Christ."

Helen Sheldon is the commission chair that oversees the practices of Wesley Grove.

She's not talking about the specifics surrounding the review.

"It's just something that's got to be dealt with – we'll be dealing with it. I can't tell you how but it is serious, very serious," Sheldon said.

Serious enough that the pastor is suspended and no longer able to offer communion or conduct baptisms pending the review.

It's the latest in a series of setbacks for Wesley Grove in conflict with the message on their marquee which reads: The Pathway to Pleasing God.

"There's no justification for bringing a weapon into God's house," said Deacon Isaiah Smith, Jr.

Trouble at the church first came to light when Deacon Isaiah Smith said he was nearly attacked with a knife at a deacon meeting by Church Elder Hurley Jones.

"Deacon Outlaw interceded and grabbed the knife, and then pushed him outside the door," Smith said.

Smith filed criminal assault charges against Jones outlined in an arrest warrant.

"I have a 16-year-old daughter who's afraid to attend church now because of this incident," Deacon Smith added.

Smith wanted Reverend Jamison to do something to make sure he was safe at church. He says his pastor failed him.

"He doesn't see the seriousness of it. That is the derelection of the welfare and the safety of the members."

More than two months after the alleged attack Pastor Jamison responded by calling on the congregation to suspend both the accused knife-wielding Jones and the victim, Mr. Smith.

The church hierarchy appears wary of the drama.

"This pastor has a history, and I've known him for over 20 years and he hasn't changed a bit," said Helen Sheldon.

There has been no word on how long the review process will take involving Reverend Jamison, but the outcome can range from reaffirming his fitness, an official censure, or terminating him as an ordained minister.

The dueling deacons have a court date in May to resolve the assault charges.,0,1560301.story

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Category: Church Security

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