A Louisiana pastor and his church are in the midst of a controversy involving finances and bylaws at First Baptist Church.
Church members at First Baptist Church in Bossier, Louisiana have filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging that Conservative Baptist Network Pastor Brad Jurkovich had diverted funds allotted for missions to a conservative Baptist group. Now, the church has been ordered to submit almost a decade's worth of financial records to its former members.
The Religion News Service reported that two court filings showed how members of First Baptist Church accused Pastor Brad Jurkovich of diverting funds meant for missionaries to the Conservative Baptist Network instead. The group also accused the pastor of preventing them from seeing church financial records, which is a violation of the Louisiana nonprofit law. The pastor is also accused of changing First Baptist Church's bylaws.
Judge Orders the Turnover of Financial Statements Following Long-standing Feud
Judge Charles Smith of the 26th Judicial Court in Bossier Parish, Louisiana in May ruled that First Baptist Church must turn over financial records beginning 2013 to present day. Such financial records include bank statements, W-2 statements, paid invoices, purchase orders and bank deposits and transfers. The judge also ordered the church to provide details on staff housing allowances, the names of church staff who held church credit cards and mobile hones, and other church-related loan documents or nondisclosure agreements.
In the May 27 ruling on a writ of mandamus, Judge Smith said that First Baptist Church may withhold information on donations and prevented former members from accessing the church's servers. The judge's decision is the latest development in a feud between church members and Pastor Jurkovich dating back to last summer over finances and bylaws in the church.
The complaint in May recounted how a group of First Baptist church goers sent a letter to Pastor Jurkovich, raising concerns over financial transparency and staff turnover. In response, the pastor sent an emotionally charged email ordering them to "either trust and follow the leadership or not." Pastor Jurkovich later agreed to allow the church members to see the financial records as long as they signed a nondisclosure agreement. After doing so, however, the two parties could not come to an agreement on which records should be available to review.
Complaint Accuses Pastor Brad Jurkovich of Misrepresentation and More
The complaint said that in October 2021, up to 161 members of First Baptist Church sent a letter to Pastor Jurkovich, calling for his resignation and accusing him of "misrepresentations, staffing turnover, personnel decisions, lack of accountability in FBB finances, and inability to lead," Ministry Watch reported. They also raised concerns over the changes in the church's bylaws that were made in 2014, which empowered the pastor to remove church members from the congregation, an authority that was previously limited to board members alone.
The Conservative Baptist Network, which was founded in 2020, describes itself on its website as "a partnership of Southern Baptists where all generations are encouraged, equipped, and empowered to bring positive, biblical solutions that strengthen the SBC in an effort to fulfill the Great Commission and influence culture." Pastor Jurkovich serves as a spokesman for the group and has been accused of diverting funds from the Southern Baptist Convention to "fund" the CBN's "operating expenses" and to "increase" the pastor's "standing therein."
Pastor Jurkovich fired back against the complainants on Sunday's worship service, calling the plaintiffs in the lawsuit "nonmembers" who he believed were merely causing trouble in the church for the last few months. He argued that the church is currently in a "spiritual battle" and that "Satan wants to absolutely destroy this ministry."