Historic church burns after hot business meeting

JP: Tragic.

A Church Divided just Days Before the Church is left in Ashes


A church is left in ashes after a year of disagreements and a major disturbance during the pastor election on Wednesday night September 30.

Reverend Claiborne Gibbons was elected pastor of Edwards Community Missionary Baptist Church just over a year ago, which is when the disagreements began.

“Some of them tried to vote me out and they kept trying to vote again,” Reverend Gibbons said, “I don’t believe in fighting because it’s the Lord’s house so I had to get order in the church.”

During the pastor election Wednesday night, a man allegedly stood up behind the pulpit while Reverend Gibbons was preaching to the church and tried to start a disturbance.

A second man stood up, told him to calm down and said he was out of order.

At this point the dispute went from verbal to physical.

“One of the men grabbed him and said that he was out of order,” said Reverend Gibbons, “The other man said if you grab me again then I will shoot you.”

A woman in the congregation allegedly began having a seizure and paramedics were called to the scene along with law enforcement.

Reverend Gibbons said the man who allegedly made threats left the church before law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Three days later, the church burned to the ground.

An investigation has been launched into the Saturday morning fire.

Sanctuary burns days after church brawl


Investigators say disgruntled church members could be the cause of a fire that destroyed a historic rural Claiborne County church Friday night.

A history of threats, and even a fight last week have detectives investigating if something sinister set the Edwards Community Missionary Baptist Church on fire.

A pile of ashes shows more than earthly fire, according to Pastor Clayborn Gibbons.

“That’s not god. That’s the devil’s work,” Gibbons said as he looked at the burned sanctuary, “It hurts.”

Even more, Gibbons says, because he also fears an angry church member or members may have reduced the historic, rural church to rubble.

“I’ve been in 9 churches and never seen arguments like in this one,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons says trouble has been building since the church’s elections last month.

He says several church members had become disruptive— even making threats against other members.

“One of them said, if you touch me again, he said, I will shoot you,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons says the congregation met Wednesday night to exclude “the troublemakers.”

A fight severe enough to call the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office erupted. Gibbons says he even turned in his key.

“I was afraid someone would get hurt,” Gibbons said.

Just two nights later, the fire erupted.

“At this point we’ve not found any evidence that it was an electrical type origin,” Claiborne County Sheriff’s Captain David Honeycutt said.

Investigators also haven’t found any evidence of arson, according to Honeycutt. Still, even he’s suspicious.

“With the events that occurred, I would be neglectful in my duty if I didn’t look at this seriously being an arson,” Honeycutt said.

“I was the song leader That’s what breaks my heart,” church member Kathy Dyre said.

Dyre also blames fellow-members for charring church.

“Cause they couldn’t get their way about nothing,” Dyre said.

Gibbons hopes for justice here and in the here-after.

“I hope the law gets them and the Lord gets them. If we don’t get them on this side, he’ll get them and cast them into the lake of fire,” Gibbons said.


Christians and taxes

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:5-7)

Ben did a nice job explaining Romans 13:1-7 last night.

I mentioned in our discussion two famous tax cases of note. More information on each if you follow the links.

Indianapolis Baptist Temple


For 16 years the leaders of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple refused to withhold federal taxes from their employees’ paychecks or to pay federal taxes as an employer. The protest came to an end Feb. 13, 2001, when federal marshals seized the church building to pay taxes and fines totalling $6 million.

The church was ordered to be sold at auction by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in a Sept. 28, 2000, ruling, in which she gave the conservative evangelical congregation until Nov. 14 to vacate.

When that date arrived hundreds of church members and their supporters waited in the church for the marshals to come. But the U.S. Marshals Office took a cautious approach, seeking to ensure a peaceful end to the standoff that had been building for 16 years. And the church did have one last hope – an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But on Jan. 16, 2001, the Court refused to hear the case. Even after that ruling it would be nearly a month before the marshals came.

The eviction came after the church lost a series of court rulings over its refusal to withhold taxes or to pay any tax itself.

Although churches generally are tax exempt, if they have employees they are required by federal law to withhold federal income taxes from payroll checks, and to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for each employee.

But the Baptist Temple stopped doing that in 1983 when the church’s pastor, the Rev. Gregory J. Dixon, decided the church would break all ties with the government and no longer act as its agent in withholding taxes from its employees.

Dixon, along with his son and co-pastor, the Rev. Gregory A. Dixon, maintained that church workers are ministers, not employees, and that they paid their taxes as individuals. The Dixons based their legal defense on the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion, arguing that Jesus Christ is the only authority over the church and that withholding taxes would impose a secular authority over the church, thereby violating its core belief.

Kent Hovind – “Dr. Dino”


He was one of America’s favorite biblical creation teachers and lecturers – known for debating pro-evolution science professors in the nation’s most prestigious secular colleges and universities.

So successful was his ministry, he built a dinosaur theme park in Florida, his videos of his presentations were a delight to thousands, he hosted a radio program and was in demand as a speaker 52 weeks a year.

But now Kent Hovind, known affectionately as “Dr. Dino,” resides in a small federal prison cell in South Carolina – serving a 10-year sentence for failing to collect and pay withholding taxes, obstructing tax laws and other related charges. His diminutive wife, Jo, the bookkeeper for the Hovinds’ Creation Science Evangelism ministry in Pensacola, was convicted of evading bank-reporting requirements and began serving a one-year sentence in January at a minimum security prison camp in Florida.

Eric Hovind acknowledges his father has espoused principles and beliefs shared by leading tax resisters.

In 1996, Kent Hovind tried to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying federal income taxes. He told a judge at a hearing he did not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter.”

“I sincerely believe that I am not a person required to file a Federal Income Tax Return,” he said. “This belief is a result of extensive research that I have done.”

Asked by the judge where he lived, Hovind replied, “I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence.”

Kent Hovind has stated he believes the Bible “teaches us to obey the authority over us.”

But he contends the “IRS is not the authority over me any more than the government of Japan is.”

Editorial Comment: In my view both ministries failed to comply with relevant tax laws and experienced the consequences of disobedience.