It’s Getting Chilly in Church

Ah, church. The warm bath of social acceptance… the quiet presence of divinity… the lovely prospect of lawsuits and restraining orders…

Wait, what?

A central Toledo church is seeking protection from 13 members of its congregation who allegedly have become disruptive to the church. Southern Missionary Baptist Church, 1224 Indiana Ave., has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. The church and its pastor, the Rev. Lemuel A. Quinn, have asked the court to block Elmore Sturdivant and 12 others from engaging in disruptive conduct that has included physically assaulting the pastor, holding a meeting in which they allegedly acted to remove the pastor and others from their church offices, making false reports to police, threatening church members and leaders, and circulating rumors of the pastor’s death “in order to diminish the attendance at the church’s weekly services.”

‘Do Not Steal’ Is Just So Ambiguous

Thou shalt not steal sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? No loopholes there, right?

But wait. Per Wikipedia:

Significant voices of academic theologians … suggest that the commandment “you shall not steal” was originally intended against stealing people — against abductions and slavery.

There! A loophole big enough to drive a church van through! So maybe that explains what one of God’s earthly stand-ins, Pastor Arthur Pearson, decided to do with his congregants’ money.

Pastor Arthur Pearson pleaded no contest to embezzling between $50,000 and $100,000 from the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church. The allegations first surfaced in early January 2012. He turned himself in, and claimed his contract did not specifically prevent him from using certain funds on personal items, such as car repairs and mall shopping trips.

His contract did not specifically prevent him from taking other people’s money for his personal shit. Another awesome loophole! Thank you Lord!


In March, [Pearson] was ordered to stand trial. He was eventually fired from the church in June.

That the flock ousted the shepherd may have had something to do with the findings of forensic accountant Michelle McHale-Adams.

McHale-Adams examined checks and credit card statements from the church. For instance, $5,000 and $4,500 checks that Pearson wrote to himself for bonuses. She also referenced Pearson’s $22,000 credit card bill that was paid by checks from the church’s account. The accountant’s testimony showed that checks from the organization’s accounts even paid the Pearson’s mortgage and license plate renewals. “That check was flagged for $607 because on the back of the check it referenced Reverend Pearson’s four personal vehicles,” said McHale-Adams.

Come on, you can see why owning four cars costs a little extra cash, can’t you?

Now get this: Pearson wasn’t the only one who had his hand in the collection box — he had a church-lady accomplice.

A second person involved in an embezzlement scheme that may have lost Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church more than $230,000 over three years has entered into a plea deal. Gerolanita Bailey, the former bookkeeper at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, pleaded no contest to a charge of embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000. Bailey, 50, is accused of taking nearly $60,000 from the church and using it for her own benefit — mostly to pay bills.

For the sake of their precious thieving souls, I’d recommend reading and reciting Psalm 62.10:

Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Seems clear enough. But what do I know?

[image via Zazzle]