JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A megachurch in the East Arlington area of Jacksonville has remained silent after the widow of its former pastor filed a lawsuit.
April Washington -- the widow of Rodney "R.J." Washington, the late pastor at Titus Harvest Dome Spectrum Church -- filed the lawsuit against the church’s board of directors.
Washington is accusing the board of trying to take the church and all of its holdings, which are estimated to be worth millions of dollars, from her family.
The lawsuit shows Titus Harvest is not like some Baptist churches that are owned by the congregation, or like some denominations that are part of a larger church. Instead, the lawsuit calls it a "'closely held' corporation directed by a pastor and members of his immediate family."
According to the lawsuit, the Board of Directors at Titus Harvest Dome has been illegally taking “unto themselves power, control and possession of and over the properties, real and personal, and other assets” belonging to the church. The lawsuit says the assets are worth millions and include the church, which is located in pricey East Arlington, and the hotel next door.
The board consists of three members, including Washington, who says she was voted out last year by the other two members.
"I just want to say to the public -- I just want the opportunity for myself and church family, mainly, to get back to what God has called us to and to continue this vision that was given over 30 years ago and that's what I need to see done," Washington said. "We need to see something move for us."
When the News4Jax I-TEAM went looking for a response from the board on Monday, all the doors were locked at the church. The board's attorney told us, "Not something I can comment on." A hotel worker said, "There will be no comment at this hotel."
On Monday, the I-TEAM went to the homes of board members Broderick Pettaway and Faye Refour. No one answered at either home. In fact, at Refour’s Westside home, two men quickly walked inside when we arrived, wouldn't answer questions and refused to open the door after we knocked.
That means, as of now, no one is refuting Washington and her lawyers.
"Unfortunately, this is a story of greed and deceit and breaches of trust," said attorney Bacardi Jackson, who's representing Washington. "It's a story of opportunists who have come in to take advantage of a grieving widow."
The lawsuit alleges a systematic power grab after R.J. Washington died, saying, “within days and weeks after my husband’s death, to grab control of properties or cash flow."
As for whether the allegations are true, for now, Titus Harvest is not saying a word.
The I-TEAM also reached out to R.J. Washington’s brother Abraham Lincoln Washington, who was temporary pastor at the church after his brother died. The suit shows the board removed him, as well.
As of early Monday evening, he had not responded to a request for comment.