Bethel AME Church of San Francisco Fires Pastor John J. Hunter

Bethel AME Church of San Francisco Fires Pastor John J. Hunter

The Rev. John J. Hunter, who last fall was abruptly reassigned from L.A.’s storied First African Methodist Episcopal Church, has been fired from his post at Bethel AME Church in San Francisco.

The Rev. John J. Hunter, who last fall was abruptly reassigned from First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black church in Los Angeles, has been fired from his post at a San Francisco church.
“I hereby immediately relieve you of the pastoral charge of Bethel AME Church,” Bishop Larry T. Kirkland wrote in a letter to Hunter dated Friday. “You will have no further contact with that congregation in an official capacity.”
In January, the judicial body of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denied Hunter’s petition to return to First AME, the storied black church in Los Angeles.
Hunter was moved after a controversial eight-year tenure in L.A. that was clouded by a federal tax investigation, a sexual harassment lawsuit and the questionable use of $122,000 in church credit cards.
Hunter, who was moved from First AME in October, challenged his reassignment to Bethel AME after that congregation rejected him. He maintains that his rights as a minister were violated, saying Kirkland moved him to a smaller church without the proper 90-day notice and without reason.
The church’s governing book states that a “new appointment, when available, shall be comparable to or better than the previous one.” First AME has a congregation of 19,000; Bethel AME’s membership is 650.
The nine members on the council — the denomination’s equivalent of the Supreme Court — ruled Feb. 1 that Hunter skipped steps in the judicial process by petitioning them first. They denied his appeal because Hunter did not follow the proper chain of command.
Meanwhile, Hunter has filed a civil lawsuit against church leaders in San Francisco for physically barring him from taking the pulpit.