Friendship’s factions — one led by the Rev. Clyde Carnegie and the other by the Rev. David Ford — split several years ago.
But the split wasn’t about matters of faith or worship. Rather, it’s a fight for control of the church’s governing body, once led by the late Rev. Lester Stone, who had served as the church’s pastor for 27 years. The split began under his tenure, coming to a head in 2010 when some members filed a lawsuit against Stone for trying to set up a separate church ban account. The suit was subsequently dismissed.
Bishop David Maxwell, a local pastor who leads Mayor Virg Bernero’s Office of Community and Faith Based Initiatives, is one of many area leaders who have attempted to mediate the fighting.
He said the divide goes deeper than what has been reported about disputes over church funds and time slots for services.
According to Maxwell, both sides are on the same page theologically. They just each claim governmental authority over the church and are unwilling to budge.
“One side felt that their constitution was adopted, the other felt it was not adopted,” Maxwell said. “Herein lies the problem. Who is the democratically elected governing body?”
Maxwell said that because it’s unclear who governs the church, it’s hard to get details of any given incident.
“It’s very difficult for us to ascertain who’s doing the disruption, because both have claims to authority over the building,” Maxwell said. “There’s been some damage, changing of locks, keys broken off in locks, missing property.”
Maxwell said he was hopeful when the mayor’s office brokered an agreement to keep peace two years ago and both sides agreed to share the facility. A couple months ago, he said, the warring started up again.
“This is a very, very deep divide,” he said. “It’s really territorial.”
Although he doesn’t have the answer, Maxwell said he will continue to attempt mediation alongside city officials.
The church deserves that much, he said. “A lot of people from Friendship have become a part of Lansing’s fabric,” he said.
“It is one of the most influential churches in the city.”