More trouble at Hobson church

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Suffolk judge has told members of Macedonia Baptist Church that they must work out the problems that have split the congregation on their own.

Protracted infighting among members of Macedonia Baptist Church has caused more calls from the church to police, who responded there Saturday on reports of a padlock being cut from a chain that was securing the entrance.

A Suffolk Circuit Court judge also threw up his hands earlier this month, issuing a final order in the case that has been ongoing for most of this year.

The church, located at 8300 Crittenden Road, asked the Circuit Court to preside over elections of deacons and trustees at the church, as well as an election to determine whether Pastor Melvin Lyttle should be retained or dismissed.

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The division began on March 7, when a deacon and several trustees informed Lyttle prior to the Sunday morning service that he had been terminated as pastor of the church.

Lyttle left that day, according to documents in a 4-inch-thick court file. However, supporters of Lyttle become angry when they learned what happened. Police were called to the church and ordered all in attendance to leave. No worship service was held that day.

On March 20, members voted to retain Lyttle as pastor, and he called for the court to hold a court-supervised meeting to ratify the vote. That meeting was held May 16, where the pastor was retained by a narrow margin and several people were elected trustees, deacons and treasurer.

However, Lyttle held a meeting on July 25 where a handful of his supporters voted to terminate the newly-elected trustees. Police were called to the scene and noted that people in the church were “out of control” and “screaming.”

Calls for police because of disturbances also came on June 13, July 11, and twice on Aug. 1. Each of those dates fell on a Sunday.

Three members of the church have been charged with criminal acts in relation to the disturbances, including assault and threatening to burn the church.

Recently, Lyttle was once again voted out and a padlocked chain was put on the door. A police record from Saturday indicated that “padlocks were cut off a chain that was securing the entrance to the Macedonia Baptist Church.” The incident happened between 7:30 p.m. on Friday and about 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk Jr. has declined to intervene further in the case. He issued a final order on Nov. 1 that stated the “intractable division” had led to the court “effectively being called upon to supervise the continuing operation of the church,” something that “would significantly undermine the doctrine of separation of church and state.”

“This Court specifically declines to further insert itself into the governance and management of the church, other than as specifically provided by law,” Delk wrote.

He also ordered that no member of the church should be denied lawful access to the building while it is in use.

Trustee James Townsell, who is part of the group that opposes Lyttle, acknowledged on Monday that the chain had been cut, but did not want to discuss the issue further until he talked with a lawyer.