Preying on the church

Stanley O. Williford | 10/31/2012, 5 p.m.

When the church doors open at the First African American Episcopal church in Los Angeles--known simply as FAME--many in the congregation will delight in a desired change. Gone will be their former pastor for the past eight years, the Rev. John J. Hunter.

Some members of at the church, located at 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., will no doubt raise their hands skyward in praise because after the A.M.E.'s Fifth Episcopal District's annual meeting ended on Sunday, Hunter, the source of much controversy at the church for the past eight years, has been reassigned. He is now at Bethel A.M.E. Church in San Francisco.

One church member put it this way: "Personally, I liked the guy, but as far as my spiritual leader, it was past time for him to go. I'm just glad it's over with."

Replacing Pastor Hunter will be the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, formerly of San Francisco's Bethel A.M.E., where Hunter has gone.

For some, there is a revolving-door similarity to the controversies involving a number of A.M.E. churches and the way some Catholic priests were shuffled from one parish to another after being accused of sexual misdeeds.

In January 2010, a judge ruled that a lawsuit against then-Pastor Frederick Murph of Brookins Community A.M.E. Church could go forward. The Rev. Murph had been accused of encumbering church properties for more than $6 million.

Also, few days after Hunter was dispatched, the Rev. C. Dennis Williams who, had presided at Brookins for just shy of two years, was reassigned to Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church in St. Louis, Mo.

The new pastor at Brookins is Gregory McCloud from St. Louis.

Williams had taken over at Brookins after Murph. Before that, Williams had taken over at Ward A.M.E. Church from the Rev. Sylvester Laudermill Jr., who was accused of molesting boys, first at St. Peter's A.M.E. Church in St. Louis, then at Ward.

Also, reassigned was Pastor Joseph Nixon at Ward A.M.E. Church. He was sent to Allen A.M.E. Church in St. Louis. He is being replaced by the Rev. Taurus Myhand from Grant A.M.E. Church in Long Beach.

A statement from the board of stewards and trustees of FAME "thanked Pastor John Hunter and first lady Denise Hunter for their eight years of dedicated service to the church and the larger Los Angeles community."

It noted that "A.M.E. church pastoral appointments are made on an annual basis and are subject to change. The decision for a change has been made by the appointing power of the bishop. As leaders of the church it is our responsibility to make the transition to new leadership as smooth as possible.

"As part of the leadership of First A.M.E. Church our responsibility, first and foremost, is to the church. We are grateful for all the good Pastor John accomplished to further the mission of our church, and now we welcome the new leadership. Our motto is 'First to serve' and we will continue that tradition of community service and building the kingdom of God."