CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - Members of a Woodstock congregation said their former pastor locked them out and threatened to arrest them if he caught them on the property.
Welcome All Baptist Church attendees said
their pastor's alleged actions stopped them from worshiping on Easter.
Channel 2's Rachel Stockman went to the church on Stell Road around 10 a.m. and found a group of church-goers gathered outside. She also saw a locked access gate and a 'No Trespassing' sign on the front door.
"Our former pastor has locked us out and we
cannot get in and he said if he caught trespassing he would have us arrested," said member Gloria Staton.
The group said
its been locked out for several months now following a dispute with Pastor Willard Hambrick about money.
"If you would have told me a year ago that our pastor would treat us like this, I would not have
believed it," said Staton.
Church members said they voted Hambrick out of his position and he's since been replaced by another pastor. But he insists that he's still the Welcome All pastor and the people who are criticizing him are actually causing the problems.
Hambrick and his son called the sheriff's office when they saw Channel 2 Action News. But Hambrick later agreed to speak with Stockman.
When asked why he refused to let the attendees in, he replied "They are not church members, number one. They have been extricated. They have been extricated for being unbecoming Christians."
Hambrick said nothing is wrong with the church's finances and that he remains the church's pastor, a role he's served there for almost 12 years. He also insisted that the group outside of the church
was not made up of members.
"Who are your members? That's what I'm trying to understand." asked Stockman.
"It doesn't matter. This is something for the courts to decide. Not the news media," Hambrick said.
Parishioners said they hope to have the situation resolved soon so they can have a place to worship.
"It is just terrible how he is acting. He is not acting like a pastor. He is not even acting like a good person," said member Sally Goff.
"He needs to just let go of all this and give us our church," added member Eva Henderson.
The parties have a court date scheduled this week.