The former pastor of a Waco church is suing the church and seven of its members, alleging they fired him at an improper meeting, then called police when he arrived to deliver the sermon.

John Rector is seeking $100,000 in damages in his lawsuit against Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and seven church leaders, including four deacons. The suit was filed last week in Waco’s 170th State District Court on Rector’s behalf by Waco attorney Christopher D. Demerson.

Rector was hired in December 2016 as pastor at the century-old, predominantly black church at 2814 S. 12th St., which has about 125 members.

He alleges in the lawsuit that some members gathered May 15 in what Rector calls an “unauthorized meeting” that violated church bylaws requiring the presence of the presiding pastor, secretary and treasurer at meetings. Also, bylaws require the entire congregation be given notice and that a vote by held by secret ballot.

After that meeting, church members drafted a letter of termination and delivered it to Rector on Saturday, May 18, the suit alleges.

“The following day, May 19, 2019, when John Rector showed up to church to deliver his sermon, defendants called Waco Police Department, tendered the unauthorized termination letter to the officers and asked that John Rector be issued a ‘no trespassing’ warning,” according to the lawsuit. “Thereby, preventing John Rector from carrying out his duties as presiding pastor.”

Demerson said Rector left the church that morning because he “didn’t want to push the issue or cause any more trouble within the church.”

The suit alleges that church members tortiously interfered with Rector’s contract with the church and that their actions damaged his reputation, causing his inability “to continue his career as a pastor.”

Demerson said Rector has not sought another job because he “wants to work things out with the church.” Demerson said he is unaware of the issues that caused the rift between Rector and the members.

Winfred Watkins, a retired microbiology professor at McLennan Community College, is listed in the lawsuit as chairman of the deacons and the person to accept service of the lawsuit.

Watkins, a church deacon and a minister, said he attended the May 15 meeting and those in attendance “mostly just complained about church affairs.”

“There seemed to be something between Rector and some of the members. They just got cross-wise,” Watkins said. “I let some things just go in one ear and out the other. It was mostly people with accusations. Nothing that I know of was written and signed by anyone. There was nothing really normal about any of this. This is as mysterious to me as it is to you.”

Watkins said the seven church members named as defendants “are the ones who told him to leave.”

Members named as defendants include John Fulbright, Richard Evans, Larry Jackson, Robbie Brooks, Thomas Brooks, Charles Reed and Cora Bennett. None of the defendants responded to social media or phone messages left for them Monday.

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