Services and events have been canceled until further notice at a troubled Lexington church where some members have tried to oust the pastor over financial irregularities.
Southern Acres Christian Church announced the cancellation Monday night. It occurs as pastor Cameron McDonald is involved in a lawsuit and separate civil complaint with church members.
A newly elected elder of the church, Bill Powell, filed a lawsuit last month to remove McDonald from the church. A court hearing was delayed until March 13.
In court documents, McDonald’s attorney claimed the new board is not valid and does not have authority to remove McDonald. Furthermore, McDonald argues the courts can’t intervene in ecclesiastical questions.
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McDonald is also being accused by church members James Keogh and Chad Martin of embezzlement, unlawful conversion of funds and unjust enrichment in a civil complaint.
According to the lawsuit, Keogh gave $170,000 to the church in December 2016 and $100,000 of it was diverted to McDonald or his wife to help pay the mortgage on the couple’s $530,000 Jessamine County home they had purchased five months prior.
Last year, McDonald also insisted the church add his wife to the payroll, giving them a combined income of more than $100,000, the lawsuit said.
The complaint alleged that McDonald fired the church’s officer manager to prevent her from being able to provide information about the church’s finances to law enforcement.
The pastor was involved in a previous lawsuit last November, also filed by Keogh and Martin, that accused him of concentrating power among himself, his wife, and fellow pastor Tim Jones. That lawsuit was dropped in January.
Prior to the November lawsuit being dismissed, church attorney Austin Wilkerson denied all allegations made against McDonald and the church and said all actions were taken in accordance with the Bible.
There has also been frequent police presence at the church in recent months. McDonald repeatedly barred some members access to the church and an off-duty Lexington police officer blocked their entry.
Last month, the church’s members voted 173-0 in favor of a resolution to remove McDonald as pastor and elect a new board of elders. The church members had to vote at a nearby park because they weren’t given access to church property; the church was locked during service that Sunday.
The resolution demanded that the McDonalds and Jones deliver the new board the keys to the church property and control of church bank accounts, property and assets, according to court records, but they did not.
Southern Acres, located on Harvard Drive, was chartered in 1972.