An Alabama pastor's alleged admission that he has AIDS and has slept with church members without notifying them of the disease has left his congregation shocked and dismayed.
Juan Demetrius McFarland, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, reportedly confessed to parishioners in a series of sermons beginning September 14 that he has the disease and has had sex in the church building, according to WSFA-TV.
McFarland, who is also the head of the Alabama Middle District Missionary Baptist Association Inc., a 34-member church association, reportedly said that he contracted HIV in 2003 and was diagnosed with AIDS in 2008.
While the congregation at first supported him, members say it became clear as new details emerged over the course of three sermons that the situation was more dire than they originally suspected.
The preacher, who has served at the church since 1990, also allegedly admitted that he had misused church money and abused illegal drugs while pastor.
"He concealed from the church that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS," Nathan Williams Jr., who has attended the church for more than 70 years, told WSFA-TV.
Now, at least one female church member is said to fear that she might have contracted the disease, as Williams and other leaders attempt to pick up the pieces and sustain the congregation.
"Our moves are going to come directly from counsel. We want peace and we want to do things right, legally," Williams, who said the church has obtained legal counsel, continued. "We are not looking to hurt him. We are looking to get the church back. That's our theme: Get the church back. We want the church back. That's it."
Deacons reportedly voted October 5 to remove McFarland, but it seems there's some internal debate raging among members over that decision.
Police were called to the church this past Sunday, with Williams claiming that he believes someone called authorities on those who voted for McFarland's removal; no one was removed from the church during the incident, which involved infighting over the unanimous decision, according to AL.com.
Locks on the doors were also reportedly changed by McFarland and some of his new appointees Monday morning, with the church's old deacons now talking with lawyers about how to take back control of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, the outlet reported.
Some at the church want McFarland removed, brought up on charges and held accountable for his purported actions — but others are apparently backing the embattled preacher.
A biography on the church website reads: "Juan D. McFarland is a man of vision and mission; a man of passion, prayer and purpose; a man whose life is centered in Jesus Christ."