Pastor John J. Hunter Reassigned to Bethel AME San Francisco After Sexual Harassment Suit at LA Church
Pastor John J. Hunter of First African Methodist Episcopal Church is reassigned to San Francisco after a controversial eight years that included a sexual harassment suit and a federal tax probe.
First AME Church is the oldest black church in Los Angeles yet Pastor Hunter has moved on to Bethel AME San Francisco by Bishop T. Larry Kirkland.
Many of Hunter’s critics were elated by the change. They complained that he was:
- overspent on personal security guards
- and chose to live in the town Encino instead of his South Los Angeles community.
The church’s attendance and tithings had dropped under his tenure.
On the contrary, many of his supporters say he was a positive role in the church and community. In a 2009 interview he stated he:
- brought more than 3,000 souls to Jesus
- obtained $4 million in grants to the church’s nonprofit affiliates
- offered such aid as shelter to Hurricane Katrina victims
- and a summer academic enrichment program for children.
The LA Times reported:
Hunter was appointed in 2004 to the storied church, which became the city’s epicenter of African American political and social activism under his legendary predecessor, the Rev. Cecil L.”Chip” Murray. Under Murray, the church grew to 19,000 members with a $25-million budget encompassing more than a dozen corporations. It became a de rigueur stop for Democratic political candidates over the years, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore and President Obama.
A sexual harassment lawsuit against Hunter by a former church assistant, Brenda Lamothe, was dismissed in December after he agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount. He also apologized to the congregation in 2008 after The Times reported that he had used church credit cards to pay for at least $122,000 in vacations, jewelry, suits and other personal items. The Internal Revenue Service launched a tax investigation against him. Hunter said he had set up a payment plan to repay his back taxes.