Dayton Daily News
Pastor, board embroiled in feud
Minister refuses to accept firing. Pastor claims only congregational vote can remove him.
A dispute between church leaders and the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church has led to legal action, police involvement and raised questions about the future of the religious organization.
In February, the church’s official board, deacon board and trustees notified Rev. Timothy Newkirk he was being terminated because of a growing rift with leadership and a shrinking congregation.
Newkirk claims only the church’s general membership has the authority to remove him and he has their support.
The dispute came to a head this week when board officials called police to remove Newkirk from the premises while he was participating in a Bible study.
Leaders briefly shuttered the church last month, and its future remains uncertain.
But the church will not be closing, said Jonathan Hollingsworth, an attorney who represented Shiloh Baptist in a lawsuit Newkirk filed against the ministry.
“Churches survive because the people who make up the congregation want them to survive,” he said. “They take steps to make sure they survive.”
Newkirk’s attorney, Brandon Charles McClain, declined to comment for this article.
At 7:50 p.m. Wednesday, Dayton police were called to Shiloh Baptist Church at 3801 Fairbanks Ave. on a trespassing complaint.
Robert Scarborough, chairman of the church’s official board, told authorities Newkirk was fired as the church’s pastor and was not allowed to be on the premises, according to a police report.
Charles Myles, chairman of the church’s deacon board, told police Newkirk was trespassed from the property.
Police met with Newkirk following a service in the sanctuary involving a large number of people, a police report states.
Newkirk told police the deacons had no authority to trespass him because a week ago church members voted to remove some trustees and ministry’s leadership.
Myles was ordered to meet Monday with the prosecutor’s office about the incident, the report states. It is unclear whether church officials will seek trespassing charges.
Newkirk, some church members and church officials have been feuding since at least early February, when board members and trustees moved to fire Newkirk.
Newkirk was failing his pastoral duties and refused to cooperate with leadership, according to his termination letter.
Trustees and board members accused Newkirk of trying to control the church’s administrative and management duties.
They said the church’s membership has steadily declined since Newkirk was elected, which is attributable to his failure to perform his spiritual duties.
Newkirk said he was first elected in 2006 and was re-elected in March 2014, according to court documents.
Church officials changed the church’s locks and passcode to prevent Newkirk from accessing his office and the facilities.
Last month, Newkirk filed a request for an injunction against the church, arguing the board and trustees cannot fire him under the organization’s bylaws, which say only a vote of a strong majority of church members can result in the removal of a pastor.
Newkirk claimed he had the support of most of the congregation.
Another lawsuit asked for a temporary restraining order against the board members and trustees who sought to remove Newkirk.
Both requests were denied. Newkirk voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit after the court’s decision.
“It’s an extremely high burden to reach, and an unusual thing to be granted,” said attorney Charles McKinney, who represented some members of Shiloh Baptist, including Newkirk, in the request for a restraining order.
Religious organizations have freedom of speech, and selection or a termination of a pastor is an expression of that right, said Hollingsworth.
Churches have the legal authority to govern themselves and make hiring and firing decisions, he said.
“It is not a legal matter generally addressed by the courts here in Ohio,” he said.