An Alabama pastor shocked his flock by reportedly confessing from the pulpit that he has AIDS, had slept with church members, used drugs and misused funds. Rev. Juan Demetrius McFarland of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery confirmed to NBC affiliate WSFA that he made the admissions in a series of sermons that began in September. Deacon Nathan Williams said the church membership voted 80-1 to remove McFarland as pastor on Oct. 5, but he refused to step down.
"He fraudulently concealed from the congregation...that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS," said the resolution to remove McFarland.
He also "fraudulently withheld information that he had been engaging in the use of illegal drugs while preaching and performing pastoral duties" and "withheld information from church membership that he had misused church funds," the resolution said.
Williams said his reaction to pastor's disclosures was "disappointment and hurt...I never dreamed of anything like that." He said that the congregation's response to McFarland's initial disclosure that he was HIV-positive was concern for his health, but the sentiment changed when he admitted to misdeeds and then tried to appoint a new set of deacons. "He said he was in control and there was nothing we could do to stop him," Williams said.
Church leaders tried to change the locks on the door, but were confronted by McFarland and a supporter who declared they were banned from the premises and would face "castle law" if they tried to attend services, said the deacons' lawyer, Kenneth Shinbaum. "They're worried if they show up to church, they could get shot," he said. "Unless the pastor steps down voluntarily, this may very well end up in court."
McFarland, who has been pastor for 21 years, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Montgomery Police Sgt. Denise Barnes said he is not under investigation because no one has made a complaint against McFarland. Barnes said that in Alabama, spreading a sexually transmitted disease is a low-level misdemeanor.