Less than a year after moving into a $6 million sanctuary in Brandywine, the Rev. C. Anthony Muse and most of his 3,000-member Resurrection Prayer Worship Center have broken away from the United Methodist Church in a dispute over money and religious practice.
The Rev. Jim Knowles-Tuell, treasurer of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, said in a statement that Muse and his congregation "are seriously in arrears" on payments for the church. The church's debt service is $55,000 a month, he said.
"He leaves behind an unfinished building with an indebtedness of $6 million," said Dean Snyder, spokesman for Bishop Felton Edwin May, leader of the regional church group.
Church officials have appointed two interim pastors: the Rev. Hal T. Henderson, Muse's associate pastor, and the Rev. Donald Llewellyn, executive director of United Methodist Community Services.
Muse said about 90 percent of the church membership was breaking away to form Ark of Safety Christian Church in Oxon Hill.
Muse, who has led the Brandywine church for 15 years, said in an interview that the church hierarchy did not like his congregation's charismatic style of worship, which includes speaking in tongues and healing. He also complained that church officials did not give the congregation enough financial aid.
"They helped other churches, but they never helped us because our biblical beliefs were contrary to the direction the United Methodist Church is going," Muse said. "They sat back and hoped that this charismatic church would die out. We have gone from a small church in the country to the largest church in the Baltimore-Washington Conference," Muse said.
Muse also said Methodist leaders didn't support his congregation because they "are racist."
That brought a rejoinder from May, who said: "As the first African American bishop of the conference, I resent being called a racist.
"We as United Methodists provide Muse with more than $1 million in security and loans, and this is far more than we have shared with any other United Methodist church in the greater Washington area," said May, who plans to preach at Muse's old church building Sunday. "We will move ahead."
Muse, 41, is a former Democratic state representative in Maryland who also served on the state ethics commission. He is married to WRC-TV Channel 4 anchor Pat Lawson Muse.
Muse's congregation dates to 1884, when it was founded by former slaves. The church has been on the same site since the late 19th century after the Rev. James Henry Gibbons, a white Methodist minister, in 1887 gave five African American families land for a church.