Pastor sued for trying to sell church; Congregants arrive for Sunday service to find church doors locked
A Palo Alto pastor is being sued by one of his members for allegedly trying to sell his church and home without his congregants' permission.
Pastor Andre Harris of Born Again Christian Center has already sold the home, and the doors to the church have been locked. The plaintiff is suing "on behalf of the church."
Former deacon Arthel Coleman retained attorney Stephen Pappas for the case. Their lawsuit stated that the church, located at 891 Weeks St., and home, located at 871 Weeks St., were donated by another former deacon in 1969. The church was then called Zion Mission Baptist Church, and the buildings were for church use.
Harris became pastor of the California church in 1999, and the church's name was changed in 2004. Harris lived in the 871 Weeks St. home with his wife, Gloria.
In April, Harris deeded the home to himself and his wife as a "gift," Coleman's lawsuit said. Harris' sister-in-law, Rhona Edgerton-Harris, notarized the deed, and his brother, Kenneth, was the broker of record for both the church and the house. Both Rhona and Kenneth are Century 21 real estate agents, and are named as defendants in the suit.
On June 12, the two-bedroom home was sold for $399,950 to Allan Arthur Johnson, who is also named as a defendant. On July 13, church members arrived to Sunday service to find the church doors locked. The church building has been put on the market with a listed price of $999,950.
The church's five-member board has four occupied seats, and they are all family members of Harris. Rhona's daughters, April Ingram-Black and Laesheia Turner, sit on the board, as do Kenneth and Gloria Harris. Harris, his nieces, and wife are also named as defendants.
The lawsuit alleged that the congregants never approved the sale of the properties, or the transference of the home as a gift to the pastor and his wife. Coleman seeks an injunction to block the sale of the church and the transfer of the $399,950 to the couple, and the removal of all of the family members from the board of trustees.
Kenneth Harris declined to comment on the case, and Andre Harris could not be reached for comment.