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DRAMA IN THE BLACK CHURCH: Pastor Joel Peebles Literally Cast Out Of Jericho City Of Praise (VIDEO)

In the church, we dedicate babies. We celebrate weddings and anniversaries. We also bid farewell to those who passed away.

What happens when the pastor of the church, the spiritual leader, dies? That then puts the church in turmoil.

Jericho City of Praise in Landover, Maryland, once one of the largest mega churches in America; the spiritual leader, Apostle Betty Peebles, its pastor. After she died in 2010, her son, Joel Peebles, expected to take over after serving over 20 years as associate pastor at Jericho City of Praise. But he was cast out of Jericho and now conducts services in a high school auditorium. How Joel Peebles came to be preaching in this high school auditorium and not at the Jericho City of Praise involves a deathbed controversy, a bitter court battle and a literal casting out.

MR. MARTIN: In the church, we dedicate babies. We celebrate weddings and anniversaries. We also bid farewell to those who passed away.

What happens when the pastor of the church, the spiritual leader, dies? That then puts the church in turmoil.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): The church, the Jericho City of Praise in Landover, Maryland, once one of the largest mega churches in America; the spiritual leader, Apostle Betty Peebles, its pastor.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

PASTOR BETTY PEEBLES: I want you to drop the name “Jericho” and just call it “The City of Praise,” see? Because that’s what it’s going to be, and it is: The City of Praise!

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): After she died in 2010, her son, Joel Peebles, expected to take over after serving over 20 years as associate pastor at Jericho City of Praise.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

PASTOR JOEL PEEBLES: Anybody feel what I’m saying? I got my joy, no matter what hits my life. My joy is not dependent on people, on issues.

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): But he was cast out of Jericho and now conducts services in a high school auditorium.

[FOOTAGE OF WORSHIP SERVICE.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): Thousands of followers of his mother, Apostle Betty Peebles, came with him – like Paulette Shelton, a Jericho member for 15 years.

MS. PAULETTE SHELTON: I think they follow him because he’s such a good example setter. His mother, Apostle Betty, had taught us very well The Word. And just watching her son lead us – I mean he’s doing the same thing. He’s teaching us The Word. He’s showing us by his own example.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): For others, like long-time Jericho member and general counsel Elder Bobby Henry, the church is not the building. The church is the people.

ELDER BOBBY HENRY: God no longer dwells in temples. God dwells within us. We are the temple of God.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): The task of making a temple out of an auditorium falls to Tree Walters, who had been a member of the old Jericho City of Praise since he was nine.

[FOOTAGE OF MR. TREE WALTERS AND OTHERS PREPARING THE AUDITORIUM.]

MR. TREE WALTERS: We meet the demands of what we would normally do in the old church, but we’re just mobile now.

We come here every Sunday morning, and we set up for service. We have a whole sound system [and] video ministry that we have to set up.

[FOOTAGE OF PREPARATIONS.]

MR. WALTERS: Hey, Tom! Give me the first two tones.

[FOOTAGE OF WORSHIP, ETC.]

VOICE: Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? One, two, three!

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): How Joel Peebles came to be preaching in this high school auditorium and not at the Jericho City of Praise involves a deathbed controversy, a bitter court battle and a literal casting out.

ELDER HENRY: The Jericho Church has a very, very distinguished history. It was initially started as a family church back in 1962, in the Kenilworth area of Washington, D.C. It was started by Bishop James R. Peebles, Sr., and his wife Betty Peebles; and they stayed in that Kenilworth area until we purchased at that time about 78 acres in Landover, Maryland, in 1995, for approximately $7.2 million in cash.

MR. MARTIN: And it’s on this spot they built Jericho City of Praise, which in its heyday boasted 19,000 members. Today, the church property spans 150 acres.

Jericho City of Praise was rich – in members, in spirit and in cash. In addition to the 10,000-seat sanctuary, the monthly offerings ran to six figures. There’s a $52 million retirement community; a school; a lucrative parking arrangement with the Washington Redskins and their home field, FedEx Field; as well as a business center. All in all, it’s estimated that Jericho City of Praise had accumulated assets …

ELDER HENRY: In excess of a hundred million dollars.

MR. MARTIN: … but then, after the death of Bishop James Peebles in 1996, and his wife Apostle Betty Peebles in 2010, it all went wrong. The casting-out occurred in 2012, as Joel Peebles was escorted out of the church by police in a dispute over collections.

[FILE FOOTAGE.]

PASTOR PEEBLES: This is the bible that my father, Bishop Peebles, had.

[END OF FOOTAGE.]

MR. MARTIN: But the drama began two years earlier as his mother, Betty Peebles, was dying from cancer. She met with a small group of Jericho City of Praise officials who claim she told them to keep her son from assuming control of the church and its financial operations.

Son, Joel Peebles, argues that, as his mother’s top assistant, the group doesn’t have the power to block him. Eventually, the church group fired Joel Peebles as pastor. The battle rages on in the courts.

MR. WALTERS: And I believe sometimes you have to go through the fire. Everything that is worth something has to go through a fire.

MS. YLAWNDA PEEBLES: If I hold on to God long enough, in the end I’m going to be okay. And that spilled out to the congregation; and in their personal situation, they now know that they’re going to be okay, so we all healed together.

PASTOR PEEBLES: My parents would be glad to know that we are trying our best to take care of God’s children. We want to make sure that we help as many souls as possible find Christ and find some real peace in their life.

[FOOTAGE OF WORSHIP.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): Who will eventually control the spiritual and financial life of Jericho City of Praise is still not clear, but what is clear is that faith has sustained parishioners and pastors alike wherever they may worship.

[PREVIEW OF INTERVIEW WITH PASTOR RALPH D. WEST.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): When we come back, the story of a rising, young pastor thrown out of his small church by jealous elders.

PASTOR RALPH D. WEST: It was kind of embittering at the moment, you know, in some ways. It was. Made me a little testy.

MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): It may have been the best thing that ever happened to him and the 20,000 members in the church he went on to found.

MR. MARTIN: Wow!

PASTOR WEST: Yeah. It has – [unintelligible].

MR. MARTIN: See, this is even tall enough for you.

PASTOR WEST: Yeah.

MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lou.balston Lou Balston

    The City of Praise now worships @ Eleanor Roosevelt High school 7601 Handover Parkway Greenbelt Maryland 20770. Sunday Service at the Greenbelt location starts @ 10:00 AM

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