DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A court battle is under way for control of the Danville-based Church of God of America.
The Advocate-Messenger (http://bit.ly/ZILFpw) reports a group of people claiming to be elders and members of the church filed suit in Boyle Circuit Court to wrest control of it from its bishop and president, Tim Napier.
The battle began in 2010 after the organization's main worship house and headquarters in Danville burned down and nearly $1 million was collected in insurance money.
The plaintiffs, Eric L. Barnes, his son Justin Barnes and William Fay, all of Somerset, say church funds have been misappropriated and are asking a judge to keep Napier and other defendants from making decisions about the organization's future.
Napier denied accusations that any funds have been misused. He said the plaintiffs have no authority within the church and are trying to sabotage his efforts to rebuild it.
"I think a lot of it is jealousy and envy," Napier said. "They do not want to see the vision I have for this community to come to fruition. This is an attack to destroy it. Some of them want to rebuild in Somerset, but this is the town for this church to grow."
The church was incorporated in Danville in 1919 and a new $1.5 million facility is under construction in the city.
Napier's attorney, Bill Irwin, said he is asking the court to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiffs have no legal standing.
According to the lawsuit, the three plaintiffs are ordained elders of the church. They claim church bylaws weren't followed when Napier was elected to the position of president; therefore, any actions taken by Napier should be void, including the purchase last year of 14 acres where the new church is being built.
The lawsuit says Napier was asked by elders twice to resign his position in 2012, but he "refused to relinquish his claimed position as bishop and president."
Napier said no one questioned his leadership "until all of a sudden the church burns and there is money."
Napier denied that any misuse of church funds has occurred.
Irwin said nothing irregular turned when Danville accounting firm Robinson, Hughes & Christopher reviewed the church's financial records.
"Every account is in good order and nothing is amiss related to the insurance money, the building account," Irwin said. "There may be arguments over where the money is being spent, but there is no question as to whether the money is being spent appropriately."
Napier said the division in the church has been painful. He grew up in the church, which had about 75 members when it burned. Since then, membership has declined to about 25 despite still meeting regularly at another location.
"I've been a member of this congregation for 46 years. My parents have been integral parts of the church. It makes me hurt to see this type of thing going on, with no merit at all," he said.
Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger, http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews