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Deliver us from evil

Intense battle underway to remove defiant pastor

Erick Johnson | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.

An intense battle to remove a defiant pastor from Northside Church of God in Miami will intensify Wednesday evening when members and church leaders seeking to oust Mark Gardner, will vote to revoke his license from the organization amid numerous complaints and unanswered questions surrounding hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans taken out against the church.

“We want him out,” said Paul Nicholson, a church member for 12 years. “Enough is enough.”

The meeting will take place tonight at 7pm at the church, located at 2590 NW 103rd street.

Executives and fellow pastors of the Florida Association of God, an organization that includes Northside, are expected to strip Gardner from his duties from the pulpit and terminate his relationship with the church. Leaders of the organization and members hope the move will finally put away the controversial pastor, who recently dis-fellowed many longtime, loyal church members, including staff after they began questioning the financial affairs of Gardner and the church.

“In all my years, I never seen anything like before” said James Eubanks, pastor of another church under the organization, Community Church of God in Ft. Lauderdale.

Leaders are taking precautions to ensure the safety and sanctity of the meeting following a similar one held two weeks ago, when police were called to the church. At that meeting, Gardner was suspended from preaching following closed-door meetings with organization leaders where he failed to give account to thousands of dollars he allegedly borrowed from church members and against the church building.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The meeting was the result of 16 loyal church members who signed a petition asking organization leaders to investigate Gardner, whom they say held “unscheduled meetings" and failed to return phone calls and emails from members asking about money they allegedly loaned to Gardner and the church's financial records.

“Basically there were some serious accountability issues on matters of integrity,” said Dr. Thomas Scott, the President of the Florida State Association of the Church of God.

So Scott called an emergency meeting that evening, March 4, and took action, suspending Gardner from preaching. Numerous eyewitnesses, including Scott told The Miami Times that Gardner was not present at the meeting inside the church but instead sat in a car outside.

After voting to suspend the pastor, organization leaders ordered the locks on the doors changed to keep Gardner out. Suddenly, five Miami-Dade police officers showed up. Eyewitness said they believed one of Gardner supporters at the meeting called the police.

“That’s when things were about to get ugly,” said Nicholson. “The police at that point told everyone to leave the old locks on.”

MOUNTING DEBT

As relations escalated, Nicholson dug deeper and uncovered information that shocked and devastated him and church members. Four loans against the church totaling $520,246.73 were taken out without many knowing about it. The Miami Times obtained copies of the loans through public records.

Documents show Third World Missions, a bank in Merritt Island, FL as the bank that holds loans, which were taken out between 2009 and 2011. Gardner’s signature was on all the documents as well as other church members who were unable to be contacted for this story.