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Church and state

Church discipline is getting a bit intense

Gazette staff May 24th, 2011

Many churches will have some sort of division in their time. Many of these conflicts can be resolved by talking things out; other differences are a bit bigger and end with the nailing of theses to the church door.

But you know your church’s problems have begun to spin out of control when they suck City Hall and a good portion of an Oklahoma City Council meeting into the fray.

It’s safe to say the Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1829 N.E. 36th St., has had some issues lately. According to a City Council memo, the matter started with an internal dispute at the church and escalated to a charge of disorderly conduct against the head deacon, then two complaints of assault and battery against the pastor, which were declined for prosecution. Two cross complaints of assault and battery between the pastor and head deacon are pending review.

Because the alleged holy smiting was investigated by the Oklahoma City Police Department, the complaint went to the city attorney’s office for prosecution. However, there is a conflict of interest, since someone in that office is a member of the church and sides with one of the two factions, said Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan at the May 17 council meeting.

There was also a second conflict of interest, Jordan said, but did not elaborate. Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly presided over the May 17 council meeting until the Tabernacle matter was heard, at which point he recused himself and left the room. Kelly represented the pastor in a court case in the matter.

With the absence of Mayor Mick Cornett, Councilman David Greenwell, Councilwoman Meg Salyer and the recusal of Kelly, it barely left a quorum to decide whether to appoint a special council to review the complaints by police and, if necessary, file charges.

Police Chief Bill Citty told the council that he spoke with District Attorney David Prater, who said he would be willing to review the cases and prosecute them, if necessary.

The two factions in the fray, both of which were well-represented in attendance at the meeting, both agreed this was the best option.

Praise the Lord and pass the Maalox — the city’s leaders have found at least one thing they can agree on.

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