MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – It’s an announcement that continues to rock a Montgomery church and the surrounding community.
WSFA 12 News confirmed with church leaders, including the now former pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Juan Demetrius McFarland himself, that McFarland confessed from the pulpit a few Sundays ago that he had full blown AIDS and had slept with church members without revealing he had AIDS.
Shocked and stunned, church members contacted the 12 NEWS DEFENDERS and reaction is coming in from the congregation that is still in disbelief.
McFarland didn’t hold back when he revealed to worshipers at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on Sept. 14, that he contracted HIV in 2003 and discovered in 2008 he had AIDS.
“The church was very accepting of Reverend McFarland and was willing to help him in any way possible,” a church member, who wanted to remain unnamed, explained.
Once the pastor, with 23 years of leadership, started revealing more and more on the following Sundays, members and leaders say they realized he had crossed the line.
In a resolution read aloud at the church, leaders shared, and Pastor McFarland confirmed to WSFA 12 News, that he admitted to drug use and mishandling of church funds. And there was what members say was the ultimate shocker, described by church deacon Nathan Williams Jr.
“He concealed from the church that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS,” Williams said.
McFarland was removed as church pastor on Oct. 5. Still, church members say some congregation members are afraid to come forward and many others are concerned.
“Who does this to people, and you are the leader? Who does this?” another unnamed church member asked.
“I know a young lady who is a member of the church who says she has slept with him and that she didn’t want this to go public, and she running out now trying to find out if there is anything wrong with her,” the member explained. “And my heart goes out to her because she’s been a wonderful church member, and then for something like this to happen. The fact that he didn’t tell them at all. That’s a crime in itself.”
The unnamed church member went on, “And I’m hoping by doing this interview that she will see that she can come and talk to someone and her name or whatever will not be revealed. And maybe she can have some peace by coming forward and not the shame that goes along with it.”
Deacon Williams says he’s been a member of the church for 70 years, and this is the biggest scandal the church has ever experienced.
“He confessed to the entire membership and then to the City of Montgomery, because as soon as he got done confessing, it went all over Montgomery anyway,” Williams said. “So it’s nothing we [are] making up. It’s coming out of his mouth.”
Williams says leaders have obtained legal counsel, and are now focused on moving the church forward.
“Our moves are going to come directly from counsel. We want peace and we want to do things right, legally,” Williams said. “We are not looking to hurt him. We are looking to get the church back. That’s our theme: Get the church back. We want the church back. That’s it.”
But some members say they want justice.
“I believe that he should be put on trial,” another unnamed church member said. “Go to court and let the judge decide if he should go to jail or not. We tend to sweep things under the rug, especially if they’re the leader. It’s like oh, no, please let’s not get this out but I think after this that they will have more discussions on HIV and AIDS.”
These types of discussions are what local pastors like Jackie Slaughter of Metropolitan United Methodist Church say need to happen in all churches.
“If we are all sisters and brothers, when one person is hurting, we all should feel that hurt. And if we think about the statistics, specifically for our ethnic group, we are bearing the brunt of it,” Slaughter said. “So I think it behooves us to try to really want to try to be involved because we are all connected, we are all connected and that makes a difference when we are thinking about issues like this.”
WSFA 12 News spoke with Pastor McFarland on the phone after he made his announcement. He answered questions and confirmed everything he shared with his congregation.
WSFA 12 News reached out to him again to get a comment after he was removed as pastor, but he did not return calls or text messages.
“Transmitting a Sexually Transmitted Disease” is a Class C Misdemeanor, according to the Montgomery Police Department. At this time, no charges have been filed against McFarland.
Deacon Williams and other members who spoke both on and off camera say they want to start the healing process and move forward with new leadership. Members are asking for prayers to lift their church.
McFarland also holds the position of Moderator with the Alabama Middle District Baptist Association, which includes 34 churches across the state. Calls to association leaders indicate that at this time there are no discussions to remove McFarland from his position.
WSFA 12 News will continue to follow any developments concerning this story.
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