Pastor fired from oldest black church in San Francisco

The former pastor of the oldest black church in Los Angeles who was reassigned to lead the oldest black church in San Francisco after a controversial term clouded by a federal tax investigation and sexual harassment lawsuit has been fired from his new post.

The Rev. John J. Hunter was fired from Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black congregation with 650 members, in a letter Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I hereby immediately relieve you of the pastoral charge of Bethel AME Church," wrote Bishop Larry T. Kirkland. "You will have no further contact with that congregation in an official capacity."

Kirkland said Hunter would be paid salary for up to 90 days but the amount could depend on the "outcome of the judicial proceeding against you, and/or if you agree to be assigned to another pastoral charge."

Hunter was reassigned to Bethel AME last fall after pastoring First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles for the past eight years. The 55-year-old pastor acknowledged in 2008 that he used First AME's credit cards for $122,000 in personal expenditures. He also owed the Internal Revenue Service $300,000 in back taxes. Hunter said he paid both debts.

The former pastor of the 16,000-strong First AME church is now in the middle of a public battle with both churches.

Hunter is seeking at least $25,000 from Bethel AME in a civil lawsuit that alleges assault, battery, libel and emotional distress. He claims the church leaders in San Francisco physically blocked him from taking the pulpit.

First AME has filed a civil suit against Hunter, accusing him of misappropriate millions of dollars in church funds.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church is a historic African-American Methodist denomination that began in the 1800s by black Methodists that wanted independence from white Methodists. The denomination is a member of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christianfaith groups in the United States.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News