Rev. Hunter Out as Bethel AME Pastor

Bishop T. Larry Kirkland

Denise and Rev. John Hunter

Pastor J Edgar Boydwas

Members of Bethel AME church in San Francisco walked out on their newly assigned pastor, Rev. John J. Hunter at their 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services on Sunday as he entered the pulpit through the back door after the church rejected him as their pastor.Presiding elder Rev. W. Bartalette Finney Sr. functioned as the pastor until Sunday and notified members that according to the AME discipline, once seated in the pulpit Hunter became the pastor of Bethel AME. Photo by Rudolph Williams.

By Lee Hubbard Rev. John Hunter has been removed from his post as head of the Bethel AME Church in San Francisco by Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, presiding prelate of of the Fifth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In a letter dated Feb. 8, Bishop Kirkland told Rev. Hunter, “I hereby immediately relieve you of the pastoral charge of Bethel AME Church, San Francisco, California. You will have no further contact with the congregation in an official capacity.” With no pastor at the helm, Presiding Elder Dr. W. Bartalette Finney preached the sermon last Sunday at Bethel. Kirkland’s letter followed a Jan. 31 Conciliation Committee meeting, held in an attempt to mend relations between Rev. Hunter and members of Bethel. However, as a result of the meeting, attended by Hunter, representatives of Bethel, Presiding Elder Booker T. Guiton and Bishop Kirkland, it was decided that “further efforts will not prove fruitful.” Bethel AME is now waiting for Bishop Kirkland to assign a new pastor. Since the beginning of January, members at Bethel AME have been in silent protest against Hunter. Every Sunday, just before he began to preach, almost three fourths of the church walked out and into the adjoining fellowship hall. News of Hunter’s removal this past Sunday was meet with approval by church members, who described the action as a fitting end to “a bad marriage.” “There are enough leaders in this congregation to make sure the church will go on,” said Randolph Scott, a Trustee Board member at Bethel. “The conclusions and action that we took were all within the Book of Discipline of the AME Church. Church members were fully supportive of the actions we took throughout the process,” he said. Hunter has filed a lawsuit against the Stewards of Bethel and individual members of the church for “assault, battery, and inflic infliction of emotional distress,” which began when he took his assignment as pastor. Hunters’ appointment to Bethel AME church in October was met with opposition from the beginning due to alleged wrongdoings while he was pastor at First AME church in Los Angeles for eight years. The allegations against Hunter included misuse of a church credit card, a sexual harassment suit and tax evasion charges that took place while he was at FAME. On Oct. 28, he was reassigned to Bethel AME church in San Francisco and replaced at FAME in Los Angeles by Bethel AME Pastor J Edgar Boyd. When Hunter’s appointment to Bethel was announced, a welcoming committee from Bethel that was in Los Angeles sought to meet with him. However, he did not meet with the committee. The first time Hunter showed up to Bethel to preach, he was met by parishioners who asked him for the “papers” that would certify his assignment to Bethel as its new pastor. He did not have them and left the church. A few weeks later, he arrived at the church, surprising members when he entered the pulpit. But when he tried to preach, parishioners walked out. Some members of Bethel raised concerns that Hunter intended to live in Los Angeles and become a commuter pastor, flying to and from San Francisco every weekend to preach, This didn’t sit well with many of Bethel’s members. Others at Bethel said he was charismatic and liked to tell stories about his upbringing. However, they said, he really did not want to be at Bethel AME and clearly wanted to return to First AME in Los Angeles. The Judicial Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – a nine-member body whose president is Patricia Mayberry, the sister of Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry of First AME in Oakland – denied Hunter’s petition to return FAME. Hunter faces a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against him and his wife Denise, filed by FAME and its new pastor for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, fraud and misrepresentation.infliction of emotional distress,” which began when he took his assignment as pastor. Hunters’ appointment to Bethel AME church in October was met with opposition from the beginning due to alleged wrongdoings while he was pastor at First AME church in Los Angeles for eight years. The allegations against Hunter included misuse of a church credit card, a sexual harassment suit and tax evasion charges that took place while he was at FAME. On Oct. 28, he was reassigned to Bethel AME church in San Francisco and replaced at FAME in Los Angeles by Bethel AME Pastor J Edgar Boyd. When Hunter’s appointment to Bethel was announced, a welcoming committee from Bethel that was in Los Angeles sought to meet with him. However, he did not meet with the committee. The first time Hunter showed up to Bethel to preach, he was met by parishioners who asked him for the “papers” that would certify his assignment to Bethel as its new pastor. He did not have them and left the church. A few weeks later, he arrived at the church, surprising members when he entered the pulpit. But when he tried to preach, parishioners walked out. Some members of Bethel raised concerns that Hunter intended to live in Los Angeles and become a commuter pastor, flying to and from San Francisco every weekend to preach, This didn’t sit well with many of Bethel’s members. Others at Bethel said he was charismatic and liked to tell stories about his upbringing. However, they said, he really did not want to be at Bethel AME and clearly wanted to return to First AME in Los Angeles. The Judicial Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – a nine-member body whose president is Patricia Mayberry, the sister of Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry of First AME in Oakland – denied Hunter’s petition to return FAME. Hunter faces a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against him and his wife Denise, filed by FAME and its new pastor for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, fraud and misrepresentation.  
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