As the pastor of the oldest black church in Los Angeles, the Rev. John J. Hunter earned a generous salary, lived in a $2-
million home and drove a Mercedes-Benz paid for by the church. His wife earned $147,000 a year running nonprofit organizations connected to the 19,000-member congregation.
But over the last few years, the hilltop church in the West Adams district has fallen into debt.
The First African Methodist Episcopal Church owes nearly $500,000 to creditors. Some vendors say they have not been paid in more than a year.
The financial woes have sparked an ugly battle for control of the church and its nonprofit corporations.
A civil lawsuit filed by the church this week accuses the former pastor, his wife and a small “cabal” of church leaders of “holding dictatorial control over [the church] … for their own personal gain — both financially and for self-aggrandizement.”
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