Feud grows over potential sale of DeKalb County church, adjacent cemetery

The oldest visible headstone at Anderson Cemetery dates to 1921.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) - Members and people living near Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, near Decatur, are divided over the potential sale of the church.

Joyce Peacock said she started going to Greater Friendship when she was six years old. Now 73, she and ten other members, who admittedly have not attended recently, are worried about the church’s future and the overgrown cemetery adjacent to it.

“Do not tear down a place of worship,” Peacock said. “This church means a lot to me. My aunt is buried in the cemetery.”

The oldest visible headstone at Anderson Cemetery dates to 1921, according to a report by historian Laurel Wilson. County records show the land was sold to Greater Friendship in the 90s. However, the church’s pastor, Reverend Dr. Louis Ferguson, and the family of the former owner both deny ownership.

“It’s something we never imagined,” said Tiffany Edwards, a member of the church. “It’s something that’s just happening, and we’re not even being consulted about it.”

The fear is if Ferguson sells the church, developers will change the landscape of the small community, while also desecrating the burial sites of the group’s ancestors.

“It’s called a silent sale of a community,” Peacock said. “That’s what it is, a silent sale of a community.”

Ferguson said he’s not trying to “steal a legacy” and that the potential sale of the church was not a secret. He claims a majority of his 40 active parishioners support a sell, adding that they can no longer afford the current space. He said those complaining are not active members.

“They don’t understand the financial aspects,” Ferguson said. “Many times, I make the ultimate sacrifice to pay bills for this church body. We’re not going to survive back here. No way we’re going to survive.”

The church has already sold two separate lots. Ferguson said the church wants to use the money from all three properties to move to another location. While he’s toured one potential location, nothing has been finalized, including the sale of the current church.

“We’re looking to find another place that’s viable, that that we know we can be more useful within the community,” Ferguson said. “That’s not the case here at all.”

Without concrete plans in place, those opposing the looming sale remain skeptical about the future of the church and its finances.

“I think we all would be okay with this if we had grown the church, and we had just outgrown the church,” said Annie Whitlock, a former member. “But that’s not what happened.”

“We don’t want this to happen, and we want the public be aware, so it won’t ever happen again,” added Peacock.