Parson and backers initially barred then allowed to worship at RCC

3/31/2017, 12:49 a.m.
“We’re back. And we’re not going away.” So said Pastor Stephen A. Parson Sr. after he successfully led nearly 40 ...
Pastor Stephen A. Parson Sr., center, leads supporters into the 8 a.m. service Sunday at the Richmond Christian Center, which he founded 34 years ago. This apparently was his first appearance at a service in the South Side church in two years.

By Jeremy M. Lazarus

“We’re back. And we’re not going away.”

So said Pastor Stephen A. Parson Sr. after he successfully led nearly 40 supporters without incident into the Richmond Christian Center on Sunday to take part in the 8 a.m. worship service.

He and his followers — about one-third of the service’s participants — sat in a section to the left of the pulpit.

Pastor Parson did not speak or take a leadership role in the music-filled service led by the RCC’s interim pastor, the Rev. James Ferguson.

After the service, Pastor Parson acknowledged that his effort to regain the RCC’s pulpit might need court intervention.

The church, located at 214 Cowardin Ave. in South Side, is currently under the governance of a three-member trustee board.

A Richmond Circuit Court judge declined on March 20 to act on Pastor Parson’s request for reinstatement as spiritual leader as the church is still in bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the federal bankruptcy court in Richmond, which has jurisdiction, has yet to set a date to hear his request that any barriers to his returning as pastor be removed.

Still, Pastor Parson expressed satisfaction that he was finally back in the church he founded in 1983, once a powerhouse with several thousand members, but now mustering less than 120 people for its lone Sunday service, including Pastor Parson’s group of supporters.

Pastor Parson has been out of the church’s pulpit for the past two years as the church, with the help of a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, seeks to rebuild its financial health. He said he and his followers would be at services “every Sunday.”

He believes it is only a matter of time before he regains the pulpit and resumes what he considers his rightful role.

The fact the service went on as planned came as a happy relief to the trustees and other members who worried Pastor Parson’s push to retake the pulpit might get out of hand.

“We were glad that the Body of Christ Network members led by Pastor Parson peaceably joined us today,” the trustees noted in a statement released after the service. “We have no ill will towards them. We just want to continue to move forward to fulfill our call and ministry.”

Rhonda Hickman, president of the RCC trustee board, was concerned enough that she and her fellow board members had the church hire two sheriff’s deputies to guard the door.

Initially, they blocked Pastor Parson and his group from entering. Chuck Smith, an attorney who represents members who support Pastor Parson and is preparing to challenge the minister’s ouster in court, spent a few minutes urging the deputies to allow the Parson group to enter, arguing that there was no reason to keep them out.

Building manager Forondo Holmes and Calvin Yarbrough, one of the trustees, ultimately had the deputies open the door for Pastor Parson and his group to enter. The deputies kept a discreet eye on the service to ensure everything went smoothly.

Earlier this month, as word that Pastor Parson was launching an effort to retake control of the church began to circulate, Ms. Hickman secured an emergency protective order barring Pastor Parson from being on the property when she was there.