RELIGION

Church dispute lands in court

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The 20,000 member Jericho City of Praise Church came together last year for the funeral of senior pastor Betty Peebles. But battles over money and leadership have sharply divided the church ever since.

In a packed courtroom Friday, attorneys for Peebles' son and current pastor Joel Peebles argued he and his board of trustees are the legitimate church government - not a board elected, they allege, in secret in March of 2009.

“I am enthusiastic that we got the truth out," Joel Peebles said in a statement afterwards.

But others argue the truth is that Betty Peebles, before her death, had put in place another board that did not include her son Joel and that she believed he was a good preacher but not capable of running the multi-million-dollar church complex.

Supporters of pastor Joel Peebles told us they're confident he'll win:

“I know that he will,” said one supporter. “He's a wonderful man, he's a wonderful man of God, he's a great pastor, and he is a great leader.”

Meanwhile, Jericho is gearing up for tonight's one-year commemoration of Betty Peeble's passing and downplaying the schism.

“It's not a house divided,” said Robert George, a board of trustees member. “We have a few people that are a little confused right now. The church is not divided. The church is sound and we're going to celebrate our apostle tonight.”

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