With Betty Peebles’s death, Jericho joined several other family-run megachurches facing upheaval over succession issues. Others include Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., where founder Robert H. Schuller, 84, was recently kicked off the board of directors, according to news accounts. The church has filed for bankruptcy. At Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, the family of the late Rev. James Kennedy lost a bid to maintain control when the church board brought in a young pastor.
“When someone like Betty Peebles or James Kennedy dies, or Robert Schuller retires, there is a significant leadership void to fill,” said Scott Thumma, a researcher and sociology of religion professor who has studied megachurches for two decades.
Several church members on both sides of the divide declined to speak publicly about the court decision, saying they wished the whole issue would go away. Bass said Peebles hopes to be a calming influence as the church moves forward.
“He will continue to do the work that he has done in the church,” she said. “He has not missed a beat in that regard.”
In an e-mail, trustee Denise Killen cited three Bible verses to explain that both parties are looking ahead, including Habakkuk 2:2-3 from the Old Testament:
“And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
“We are focused as a unified body. The vision has been written,” Killen wrote. “We as a unified body are running with it.”
Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.