New United Church members will take a final vote Sept. 6 to determine if the Rev. William McKinley Holloway will remain pastor of the church.
The reverend, the only pastor at the church since its opening in 1985, is accused by church members of mishandling church property, spending too much money on such things as clothing and not paying church bills.
“He’s compassionate enough about New United Church to say, ‘I’m going to do what the people want,’” said Sherrie Gilchrist, chairman of the church’s board of trustees. “If it’s God’s will for him to continue at New United in spite of these allegations, then he’ll be there.”
Ms. Gilchrist is one of several supporters for Mr. Holloway who plan to attend a church meeting at 2 p.m. Sept. 6 that will determine his fate at the church. In a meeting earlier this month, New United members voted 102 to 7 that Mr. Holloway should leave.
“We’re not accusing him of stealing anything, but we’re still asking for an account of where the money went,” said Andre Gordon, former board member. “The church still does not have access to the money from the sale of the land.”
“He misused the money,” said Pauline Robinson, a founding member of the church. “We can’t trust him anymore.”
Mr. Holloway, who has not preached at the church in the past few weeks, could not be reached for comment.
In one deal, Mr. Holloway sold 173 acres of church land earlier this month for $655,000, according to Hamilton County court records. The land was up for sale for more than a year with an asking price of $4.8 million before being sold.
A letter was written Aug. 19 to inform Mr. Holloway of his termination, but the letter was not mailed after church leaders learned he had retained a lawyer in the matter, said Jimmy Anderson, the church’s former business manager and still a member of New United.
Instead, a group of elders met Aug. 22 concerning Mr. Holloway’s termination but could not come to an agreement and set Sept. 6 for a final vote. Mr. Anderson said.
Ms. Gilchrist said Mr. Holloway sold two pieces of church property — one of 173 acres, another of 40 acres — to stave off foreclosure.
Church members agreed to purchase the 173 acres in hopes of building a new sanctuary and other church facilities. They later learned that the property was in a flight path to Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and would need to be significantly graded before it could be developed, Ms. Gilchrist said.
The church at first tried unsuccessfully to sell the dirt, then tried to give the dirt away to anyone who could level the land, but that didn’t work either, she said.
Mr. Holloway also ran up a $49,000 bill at Yacoubian Tailors, bought expensive meals and was lax in paying bills, church officials said.
Instead of firing Mr. Holloway, Ms. Gilchrist recommends that better financial checks and balance be put in place.
According to a church bulletin written by Ms. Gilchrist, copies of all checks and deposit slips should be given to the church finance officer. Although the finance officer will write checks for the church, all checks will require the signatures of two elders, not the pastor or the finance officer, Ms. Gilchrist said.
Church board member Barbara Howell said she is confident that Mr. Holloway has been acting in the church’s best interests.
“Notice that he has not come back arguing back and forth with people,” she said. “He does not do that. He preaches a lot about love.”
But church member Carla Harris said she can no longer trust the pastor.
“I looked him in the eye and told him, ‘It’s kind of like a spouse who has committed adultery.’ While I may forgive, in the back of my mind there is that trust thing. That’s where I struggle with you. It’s about the trust.”
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...