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First AME Church faces financial crisis, $300,000 in debt

The Rev. J. Edgar Boyd  First A.M.E. church
The First African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest black congregations in Los Angeles, faces a financial crisis, owing roughly $300,000 to a long list of debtors, church officials said.

Revelations of the money problems come amid declining membership and tithing under the leadership of a controversial former pastor, the Rev. John J. Hunter, who was reassigned following a criminal tax investigation, a sexual harassment lawsuit and questionable use of the church credit cards.

The new pastor, the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, vowed to restore the image and glory of the church and investigate wrongdoing that might have occurred under Hunter. He said he would take legal action if necessary.

"This local congregation will undergo a thorough and comprehensive reorganization to protect the precious resources which have been and will be entrusted to its care," he said. "We are preparing and re-tooling. And still, FAME rises."

Boyd spoke to reporters Wednesday morning outside the storied church that became the pulse of the black community after the 1992 L.A. Riots. He was flanked by about 50 worshippers, many of whom were shocked by news of the church's dire financial state.

"I didn't know it was this bad," said longtime member Julie Jackson, 65. "This is devastating."

But church members said they remain hopeful that Boyd, who arrived earlier this month, will help turn things around.


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Photo:  The Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, the new pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A., speaks outside the church Wednesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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