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Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church v. Pearson

Court of Appeals of Michigan

April 23, 2015

PILGRIM'S REST BAPTIST CHURCH, also known as PILGRIM REST MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, NATHAN MAYFIELD, and STEPHON BLACKWELL, Plaintiffs/Counterdefendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
v.
ARTHUR PEARSON, SR., Defendant/Counterplaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee. PILGRIM REST MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, JESSIE OSBY, ARTIS OSBY, JENNIFER CUMMINGS, JEFFREY CUMMINGS, SCOTTY PEARSON, JR., LAFOYA PEARSON, MARY WILLIAMS, ANDREW WILLIAMS, HAYWOOD WARE, CHRISTINA DEAN, SHARON ASHFORD, GLORIA SALLIE, JESSIE SALLIE, WAYNE PEARSON, and KEON PEARSON, Plaintiffs/Counterdefendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees, and FELISHA TODD, ALEONE SIMMS, LORENZO PEARSON, KEAYSHA McDONALD, SANDRA BENTLEY, MAMIE RAYBON, JUSTIN CUMMINGS, EDNA WILLIAMS, DEENA KING, FLORIDA PARNELL, KENDRA THOMAS, BONNIE SMITH, SEAF SMITH, ALVIS HOLSEY, ANDREA HOLSEY, MARQUITER RANDLE, GEORGE WEAVER, JR., LOUISE MILLER, APRIL JACKSON, BESSIE CARTER, RHONDA LEE, BRENDA LAIRD, IVY WINBRUSH, JUNIOUS JOSEPH, ELLA JOSEPH, EARLY JOHNSON, OLIVER JOHNSON, JOYCE GUEST, ALSIE WILKINS, MILDRED BURRIS, BRENDA DOBBS, DORIS BECK, ANTHONY COLEMAN, YVONNE COLEMAN, EVELYN WALKER, TOY McNEAL, LATASHA RANDLE, ZELDA FORD, JOHARI GUEST, JACKIE SMITH, CHARLOTTE BECKFORD, DEUARDO BECKFORD, MABLE WILLIAMS, KISHA WINTERS, KAQUISHA WINTERS, SHANIQUA WINTERS, KENWIN WINTERS, JR., and ARSENIO THOMAS, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
v.
NATHAN MAYFIELD, MARY ANNE BEATTIE, LYDIA LEE, CURTIS McGHEE, and DOT McMILLIAN, Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, and STEPHON BLACKWELL, WILLIAM BLUNT, JOE DAVIS, REGIS FISHER, MANUEL MARTIN, DONALD MOSLEY, and MARY STATEN, Defendants/Counterplaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants

Page 17

Kent Circuit Court. LC No. 11-012242-CZ. Kent Circuit Court. LC No. 12-005176-CZ.

For PILGRIM'S REST BAPTIST CHURCH, PLAINTIFF-COUNTER DEFENDANT-APPELLEE-CROSS APPELLANT: BERNARD SCHAEFER, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

For ARTHUR PEARSON SR, DEFENDANT-COUNTER PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT-CROSS APPELLEE: JERRY L ASHFORD, DETROIT, MI.

Before: METER, P.J., and SAWYER and BOONSTRA, JJ.

OPINION

Page 18

[310 Mich.App. 321] Per Curiam.

In Docket No. 318797, defendant/counterplaintiff-appellant/cross-appellee Arthur Pearson, Sr. (defendant Pearson) appeals the trial court's October 7, 2013 order dismissing his counterclaims under MCR 2.116(C)(8) for being nonjusticiable. Plaintiffs/counterdefendants-appellees/cross-appellants Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church, Nathan Mayfield, and Stephon Blackfield (plaintiffs) cross-appeal the same order, which also dismissed their claims under MCR 2.116(C)(8) for being nonjusticiable. In consolidated case Docket No. 319571, plaintiffs/counterdefendants-appellants/cross-appellees and plaintiffs-appellants/cross-appellees (collectively referred to as " pastor's supporters" ) appeal the trial court's November 21, 2013 order that dismissed their claims under MCR 2.116(C)(8). The defendants-appellees/cross-appellants and defendants/counterplaintiffs-appellees/cross-appellants in the consolidated case (collectively referred to as " pastor's opponents" ) cross-appeal the same order. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Plaintiff Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church is an ecclesiastical corporation. In 2011, defendant Pearson was the pastor and president of Pilgrim's Rest. In April 2011, the board of trustees and board of deacons became aware of defendant Pearson's authorizing a raise for himself. Between July 6, 2011, and October 13, 2011, defendant Pearson admitted that on numerous occasions he gave himself raises, used church credit cards for nonchurch purposes, and paid himself monetary honorariums, all without either board's approval or authorization.

After the October 13, 2011 meeting, plaintiffs Blackwell and Mayfield hired Plante Moran to analyze the [310 Mich.App. 322] church finances. On Sunday October 31, 2011, the board of trustees and the board of deacons gave public notice to the congregation of Pilgrim's Rest of the status of the investigation of defendant Pearson and of a November 13, 2011 vote to terminate his employment. At this vote, members had voted to retain defendant Pearson as pastor. When the accusations against defendant Pearson arose, the church members

Page 19

began to take sides and formed a pro-defendant Pearson faction and an anti-defendant Pearson faction.

On December 23, 2011, Plante Moran issued a preliminary finding report that demonstrated that, between 2008 and 2010, more than $237,000 had been removed from Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church's bank accounts through questionable transactions. The majority of these transactions were for the benefit of defendant Pearson, his wife, and a former church secretary. On December 27, 2011, the board of trustees, allegedly exercising its right as board of directors, voted to suspend defendant Pearson with pay. On December 30, 2011, the Kent County Prosecutor's office authorized an arrest warrant for defendant Pearson on one count of embezzlement. Defendant Pearson later pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of embezzling more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 and was ordered to pay restitution.

On January 1, 2012, the pastor's supporters held a board of directors meeting, at which they claim the pastor's opponents maliciously tried to break up the vote for a board of directors. The pastor's opponents question the legitimacy of the board of directors that was voted in by the pastor's supporters. After this meeting, two ...


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