At divided Friendship Baptist Church, one congregation seeks to end other's right to convene

Sep 10, 2014

Credit Flickr - Steve Snodgrass

A long-standing dispute within a Lansing church has captured public attention for several months. Friendship Baptist Church on Pleasant Grove Road is a house divided. Two congregations, each with its own pastor and governance boards, are asserting their claim to the building. But the doors to the church have been barred since June, and neither side has since held services there.

The conflict can be traced back to 2007, when the church voted to enact a new constitution. That document included contract provisions for church employees, including the pastor. Supporters said the contracts were necessary to keep the church financially solvent. They say the schism erupted when the then-sitting pastor refused to sign his contract and urged others to do the same. That was seven years ago.

This summer, the Lansing fire marshal ordered the church closed because of continued vandalism from both factions.

The question before the community now is when and how will all this come to an end? Current State speaks with three members from one of the congregations. The  Reverend Dr. Clyde Carnegie is the current pastor, Donald Suttles is chairman of the board of trustees, and James Yarborough chairs the deacon board. Each of these men represents the 8:30 a.m. congregation at Friendship Baptist Church.

Current State has also invited members of the second congregation at Friendship Baptist Church to participate in the discussion this week. However, despite our repeated attempts, that group has failed to respond to our request.