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December 06, 2012

Historic L.A. Church Sues Ex-Pastor Over Finances and Control

The oldest African-American church in Los Angeles filed suit this week against its former pastor and his wife, alleging they misused the church's money, writes the Los Angeles Times. The suit against the Rev. John J. and Denise Hunter comes as First African Methodist Episcopal Church, which has a congregation of 19,000, faces nearly $500,000 in debt.

The suit alleges the couple charged personal expenses to First AME credit cards, that proceeds from $6.5-million in property sales during Rev. Hunter's tenure are unaccounted for, and that Ms. Hunter sought to sever the church and the charities it launched in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The bishop overseeing western AME churches transferred Rev. Hunter to a San Francisco parish in October, but it rejected him.

The Hunters have denied any wrongdoing, attributing the church's financial straits to the recession, and are seeking to maintain their positions at First AME.