Joel Peebles loses court battle over megachurch Jericho City of Praise in Prince George’s


Reverend Joel R. Peebles. (Marvin Joseph/WASHINGTON POST)

The ruling by Judge Dwight Jackson says the lawful governing body is the board of trustees, whose members argued that Betty Peebles wanted her son to oversee the church’s spiritual direction but not its finances.

The court ruling banned Peebles from “interfering with the day to day operations or collection of tithes, offerings, or any other monies” of the ministry. It also ordered Joel Peebles to provide an account to the board within three weeks of any money he had collected on behalf of the church.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would be appealed or what it means for the daily life of the ministry, which includes a 19,000-person church, a seniors’ complex, business park, college, school and a lucrative deal to provide parking for Washington Redskins games.

City of Praise is one of the region’s largest and most prosperous ministries. Betty Peeble’s husband, Bishop James Peebles Sr., founded the church in 1964. She later became a co-pastor and then took over the church when her husband died in the 1990s. She died last fall.

While she and her son, Joel, loved one another, acquaintances said, she worried he was not ready to handle the financial reins of the mega-ministry.

“It is clear that a power struggle exists within the walls of Jericho Baptist Church,” the court said Monday.

Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.

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