Church feud spills over into Lumberton political campaigns
A church feud in Lumberton which found its way into court more than once, is now spilling over into city political campaigns. A life-long member of Sweet Beulah Missionary Baptist Church is outraged she is no longer able to attend church and is fighting trespassing charges for entering the church to pray.
Voncille Richardson says, "He hurt me. He hurt me to my heart, especially when he told me I couldn't go out there."
The feud between the families of the pastor and a life-long member of Sweet Beulah Church started over a year ago after Voncille Richardson's daughter was let go as church financial secretary resulting in an altercation at the church.
Pastor Ben Winston says, "The next day she tried to file charges on my daughter saying my daughter tried to attack her which we had several members inside the sanctuary."
Voncilles's daughter Cora Rogers says that's when the phone calls began, "She had been receiving these phone calls that were threatening her and that particular morning she had received a phone call that said I'll kill you, I'll kill, I'll kill ya, I'll kill ya."
Voncille's daughter Pamela Fairley says, "So my mother made a conscious decision to go press charges against the first lady."
However, Pastor Ben Winston says Voncille made the threats. "They found my wife not guilty, but they found her guilty of threatening my wife because of what she said that was recorded on the tape."
According to the City Prosecutor's Office, Winston's wife was found innocent. However, a comment made by the judge stating, "Ya'll just need to stay away from one another", has further fueled the feud.
Pamela Fairley says, "Because the previous judge did not have an order saying she could not come back into that church."
Sweet Buelah Church sits just 100 feet from Voncille Richardson's front steps and after months of being away she went in to pray and signed the prayer log. "He made charges on me when he saw my name on the book", says Richardson.
The pastor says, "Wednesday morning she signed the book and wrote a note down there that Voncille never stops and I took the book home to the house to verify that she had done this."
Court was scheduled for Monday in the trespassing case, but the prosecutors' office says they will not hear the case because a formal order was never made barring Voncille from the church. However, political agendas could be to blame.
Winston says, "I am running for mayor and a best friend of mine is running for alderman at large which her daughter is running for alderman at large"
Rogers says, "I'm running for alderwoman at large and my desire and hope is that if we both get in office the personal stuff can be put to the side."
Voncille says she just wants to go back to her lifelong church, "I'm trusting and hoping in the almighty God that he will let me go back to Sweet Buelah."
Pastor Ben Winston says he will take the matter to the congregation of Sweet Buelah Missionary Baptist Church, allowing the members to decide if Voncille Richardson can come back to the church.