The Alabama minister who confessed to his congregation that he has AIDS and knew of his status as he slept with married church members on Thursday was temporarily banned by a judge from acting as a pastor, the Associated Press reports.
Deacons and trustees of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church earlier this week sought an injunction, which was granted by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price after the Rev. Juan McFarland refused to step down from the church he had led for 24 years.
Earlier this month, the pastor told his congregation that he has AIDS, that he had mismanaged church funds and that he had slept with several members of the church without informing them of his diagnosis. Church leaders pushed for McFarland's immediate removal, but he refused, preaching to an almost empty house the Sunday after his confession.
Price told the packed courtroom that courts have no role in religious matters, but during select times the courts must step in, adding, "If it could be resolved in the church, it would have been already," AP reports.
The judge also ruled that McFarland, 47, must hand over the keys to the church and his "church-provided Mercedes," AP notes.
"Now we've got the church back, and the healing can begin," Lois Caffey, a church member for 21 years, told the news service.
According to AP, an hour after the court ruling, McFarland met with church leaders, turned in his keys and left.
McFarland, who appeared in the courtroom Thursday during two hearings, was without an attorney, and AP notes that he did not speak in court and "said nothing as he left the church carrying only a ball cap containing a few personal items."
Lee Sanford, a board member of the church, told AP that the challenge now is to help the 170 active members of the congregation heal from the news. "I'm confident with God's help we will be able to do that," Sanford told AP.
Read more at the Associated Press.