MI Supreme Court to hear arguments on ousted pastor

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments about a dispute between a Grand Rapids church and former pastor charged with embezzlement.

Pilgrim’s Rest Missionary Baptist Church saw its congregation split after allegations and charges of embezzlement against former Pastor Arthur Pearson surfaced in late 2011 and early 2012.

Supporters of Pastor Pearson voted to form a new church board, while the original board wanted to keep control of the church.

Both sides filed lawsuits against the other, and a Kent County judge declined to hear them, citing higher court rulings that prevent courts from delving into internal church debates of religion and church policy.

However in April, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the judge should look at the case again. If he is able to rule without straying into “questions of religious doctrine or ecclesiastical polity” the judge can decide which faction controls the church.

In an order released Thursday, the Supreme Court says it will hear arguments to determine if they should consider the case involving the church and Pearson and decide whether to accept an appeal or take other action.

The Kent County Circuit Court is still hearing motions and determining if it can decide the case. A hearing is scheduled for next week; however, it’s unclear if the Supreme Court order will delay these proceedings.

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