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Ebenezer faithful waiting for the judge

Jessica Cuffman • May 21, 2013 at 11:39 AM

On either side of the church’s long-running divide: opponents and supporters of the Rev. Clayton Howard, the church’s leader since 2009.     

Dismayed at the direction Howard has taken the church, his opponents have called for his ouster. Their lawsuit seeks to have the court enforce a past vote to remove Howard.  

The pastor and his supporters, meanwhile, have asked visiting Judge Dale Crawford to wash his hands of the matter and leave the church leaders to resolve their own problems.

Four church members — perceived to be the leaders of the opposition in March 2012 — were kicked out of the church for their efforts to remove Howard. The fracturing has ultimately led dozens of church members to hold separate Sunday services, for as long as the two lawsuits play out in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

Both groups have filed court documents in the past few months, seeking final rulings on the matter.

If Crawford doesn’t buy into either side’s argument, the cases are destined for trial.

The “4” — Renee Brown, Josiah Brown, Nora Monegan and Daryl Murphy — have made their case on the legitimacy of votes they took on the church lawn last year. They sought to remove Howard and reinstate themselves as members at Ebenezer.

The votes, they say in court documents, were taken in accordance with church laws and Ohio nonprofit laws, and Howard and the current trustees are wrong not to recognize these changes.

Howard’s attorneys, however, say the courts have no authority in “ecclesiastical” matters, including, but not limited to, determining who stands at the pulpit every Sunday.

If Crawford declines arguments from both sides, they’re set to go to trial April 15.

To view copies of their arguments online, go to sanduskyregister.com.

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