Legal battle over Bethel Baptist Church draining church coffers

February 20, 2020


Parishioners at Bethel Baptist Church in Grover Beach have won the right to hold services at the church while they continue the expensive legal battle over ownership of the Newport Avenue property.

Members of the Bethel Baptist Church have been battling the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) over ownership of the property since early 2019, when they were told by CMA that the church was being shuttered and sold because membership had fallen. If CMA wins ownership rights, it plans to sell the 57-year-old church and 3.1-acre lot valued at between $2.4 million to $2.9 million, and pocket the money.

In an attempt to raise funds for their legal case, Bethel Baptist Church is holding a rummage sale on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church at 1935 Newport Avenue. On March 21, the church plans to hold a save-the-church drive-thru BBQ from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The court case has dragged on for almost a year, partially because of CMA’s failure to provide court-ordered records. Earlier this month, CMA  released another trove of documents leading Bethel Baptist Church board members to believe they will prevail in the case.

“I am very confident we are going to win,” said Board Member Tom Girard. “We have the evidence.”

On Oct. 17, 2018, then-pastor Ronald Kennedy, a long-time employee of CMA,  filed a grant deed transferring the property from Bethel Baptist Church to the CMA, according to the deed. At that time, Kennedy was in negotiations to sell the debt-free building to the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition.

In early May 2019, Bethel Baptist Church’s current pastor John Fleming filed a grant deed transferring the property back into the ownership of Bethel Baptist Church.

On May 17, 2019, an attorney for the CMA, Michael Pick, filed a lawsuit against Fleming and the Bethel Baptist Church congregation seeking quiet title. The suit also alleged wrongful possession of property, trespass and intentional interference with a contract.

Since then, the parties have primarily battled over control of the property, which the Bethel Baptist Church congregation won, and for access to documents.

In April, both parties are scheduled to attend court-ordered mediation.

Last Individual

I very much hope the parishioners prevail in their effort to keep their church. However, in SLO County (as in most of the rest of the country), they may find there is little justice in the judicial…, opps I mean legal system. It is completely a matter of who knows whom and which attorney last played golf with the judge. The battle cry “We have the evidence.” means little. Just ask those associated with CCN how much justice they got when they also had the evidence. I wish you much good fortune in your endeavor.


I heard John Fowler is retiring from PSHH, is Janna Nichols retirement from 5CHC not far behind? Before their involvement in any crimes is uncovered? Hey Mayor Lee maybe you should apply for John’s job we already know you do work for them, just because it is not always on the up and up that’s no reason not to apply. You certainly would be doing the residents of Grover Beach a favor by stepping down as mayor.


Nothing I’ve read up to this point makes CMA appear to have clean hands, indeed, it looks like a tortious property conversion is their goal. May the courts find the just solution for this matter, followed one can only hope for a deserved rain of fire and sulfur onto any thieves involved. We’re going to skip a couple fancy meals on the Embarcadero and hand it all in cash to fund raisers at the BBQ.