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Group alleges improper distribution of donations to First Baptist Bossier City

Screen capture from CBN video

BOSSIER CITY, La. (BP) – A Louisiana court has awarded plaintiffs in a suit against First Baptist Church Bossier City the opportunity to view financial records going back to 2013 amid claims that the church’s constitution was amended improperly a year later. They allege that in recent years, those amendments have provided cover for funds intended for Southern Baptist missions to instead be channeled toward supporting the Conservative Baptist Network.

Access to those documents, a district court judge ruled May 27, is in accordance with Louisiana law. They include bank investment accounts and account statements, year-end W-2’s, annual housing allowances and lists of individuals issued church credit/purchasing cards. In addition, First Bossier must produce a list of all members by category such as active, inactive and removed as well as documentation regarding changing active members’ status to inactive or removal.

In a separate suit, plaintiffs accuse Pastor Brad Jurkovich of “improperly removing any who may disagree with him from the membership rolls of [First Baptist Bossier].” His ability to do so, they allege, is rooted in a June 15, 2014, church-wide voice vote called by Jurkovich.

Plaintiffs say that vote did not occur at a regularly called meeting with 30 days’ written notice for members nor did voters receive a copy of the proposed amendments, all of which was stipulated in the church’s charter at the time. Article VI of First Bossier’s current constitution says articles can be amended with a two-thirds vote by members at a regularly called meeting. Thirty days’ notice must also be provided.

The two cases refer to the plaintiffs as Members, though their membership is disputed by First Bossier and Jurkovich.

“These lawsuits represent an attempt by former members of First Baptist Bossier to inappropriately litigate an internal church dispute,” said a statement released today, June 8. The statement was issued by the church’s legal representation, Jurkovich and First Baptist’s leadership team.

Jurkovich is a steering council member and spokesman of the Conservative Baptist Network, a group primarily consisting of Southern Baptists who allege the SBC is “drifting” from its Baptist distinctives and conservative moorings. Plaintiffs charge that funding purposed for Southern Baptists missions efforts has instead been diverted by Jurkovich “to fund the [CBN’s] operating expenses and to increase Dr. Jurkovich’s standing therein.”

Plaintiffs also state that “various guest speakers and services paid for by [First Baptist] were for the direct benefit of the Conservative Baptist Network.”

First Bossier filed a motion May 13 to dismiss the suit that alleges an improper vote took place in 2014. It will go before the court on June 21.

Those articles of incorporation “were unanimously adopted during a properly noticed membership meeting,” said the church’s statement. It added that the plaintiffs’ claim should be dismissed due to its “untimeliness” as well as the group’s “lack of standing as non-members” and “a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”

“These individuals responded to this motion by recently amending the lawsuit to assert claims against me, my associate pastor, and my secretary,” Jurkovich said. “We believe these claims are entirely without merit and intend to vigorously defend the matter.”

The May 27 ruling stipulated that the plaintiffs would not receive access to items such as computer servers, lists of donations for designated/unrestricted purposes, personnel records detailing reasons for employee termination and salary history for current and former employees.

The dispute began last summer when a group of members sent a letter to Jurkovich with concerns over financial transparency and staff turnover. Plaintiffs say that brought a heated letter from Jurkovich and eventually a call from 161 members last October for Jurkovich’s resignation.

The church said it has granted access to more than 16,000 pages of financial records, membership records and meeting minutes. However, plaintiffs said that Jurkovich “threw up roadblocks at every turn” such as requiring the signing of nondisclosure agreements, not providing requested documents and if those documents were provided, not giving adequate time to view them.

Jurkovich classified the dispute as “a spiritual battle,” to church members on June. 5

“Satan wants to absolutely destroy this ministry,” he wrote. “And I’m going to tell you right now in the name of Jesus you cannot destroy His church. You can’t do it.”

The Conservative Baptist Network has released a recommended slate to SBC messengers of those seeking office next week in Anaheim, lending its endorsement to Tom Ascol for SBC president, Voddie Baucham for president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and Javier Chavez as SBC recording secretary.