The trustees of 92-year-old Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in South Dallas realized they'd made a mistake almost as soon as they'd hired Calvin Wayne Thomas to tend their flock. His first sin was a minor one, coming during an early meeting to discuss church business that Thomas presided over like a dictator, refusing to open the floor to discussion
Things went downhill from there.
Next, trustees say, came the nepotism, which was blatant and unapologetic. Soon after that meeting, Thomas installed his son-and-law and another family member as trustees; both had verbally committed to joining the church just days before. Then, he shut out the church's finance committee, eventually deposing its chairman. Then, trustees learned of his arrest for marijuana possession. This had happened during a traffic stop in August 2012, a month after trustees voted to hire him but two months before he was officially installed. (In the arrest report, police list his occupation as "bus driver.")
The case was dismissed after Thomas agreed to pay a fine and perform community service, but trustees were miffed that he neglected to mention it. Had they known, they probably would have chosen a different pastor since "this type of criminal offense presents a morality concern compounded with your failure to disclosure (sic) this information to the Board and the Church," the church's attorney would later write.
Worst of all, Thomas just wasn't a very good minister. Of the first dozen Sundays in 2013, he preached just six and never performed a baptism despite a long list of candidates. Meanwhile, attendance plummeted.
Trustees had reached their breaking point by March 30, when they drafted a letter describing their grievances. They quote at length from a handful of New Testament scriptures outlining proper conduct for church leaders before issuing their indictment: "Rev. Thomas we feel that you have failed to properly lead and represent Morning Star according to GOD'S WORD."
They called Thomas to a meeting on April 2 to discuss his future with the church. It didn't go well. "The meeting became unruly due to the conduct of Thomas and others that he brought to attend the meeting with him," trustees wrote in a resolution ending Thomas' tenure as Morning Star's pastor. "As a result, the Dallas police department called and several officers arrived at the church."
But that was far from the end of things. Thomas brushed off the attempts to fire him and instead, trustees say, went to the Bank of America in an attempt to gain exclusive control over the church's bank accounts. Then, when trustees beat him to the punch by withdrawing the money for storage in a safe deposit box, Thomas filed a police report saying they had stolen the money.
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Church leaders doubled down on their efforts to rid themselves of Thomas. First, they voted to change the locks on the church. (Thomas, it seems, beat them to this, changing the locks and the church's alarm code). Then, they hired an attorney to draw up a letter of termination. It was delivered by an off-duty Dallas police officer.
Thomas read the letter but ignored it, prompting a sternly worded followup three days later, complete with references to the Texas Penal Code. "There is no need to defame my client," he writes, before explaining that Thomas really is fired:
It was reported that you have stated that you are still the Pastor because you were not served a copy of the letter by a Constable. Please understand that you have been provided incorrect information regarding 'service' of the letter. The termination of your employment from Morning Star Baptist Church does not involve a court case, so therefore service by a Constable is not a relevant issue because it is not required as a matter of law in these circumstances.
Alas, the second try proved no more effective than the first, so Morning Star is now taking Thomas to court. They filed a lawsuit last week in Dallas County and won a restraining order preventing Thomas from stepping on church property or making himself out to be their pastor. They will ask a jury for unspecified damages.