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Temple 51 in Avondale settles property quarrel with denomination dubbed The Brotherhood

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-22 07:00:52-04

CINCINNATI -- An Avondale church and its denomination, which were at odds over the ownership of the church building and other property, have settled their differences.

As WCPO.com previously reported, the chief properties in the dispute were:

  • 430 Forest Ave., where the Church of the Living God CWFF (Christian Workers for Fellowship) National Brotherhood had its headquarters;
  • And an adjoining property it shares a parking lot with, 434 Forest Ave., which houses the Church of the Living God CWFF Temple 51.

A third party involved was the Church of the Living God CWFF National Headquarters, an Ohio corporation that held the title to the properties.

Whether Temple 51 or The Brotherhood controlled the National Headquarters -- and thus, owned the properties -- was one of the issues in competing lawsuits filed last year in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by both groups.

According to the lawsuit filed by Temple 51, the trouble between it and The Brotherhood began in summer 2014, when Elbert Jones Sr. was elected as The Brotherhood's chief bishop and began using the Forest Avenue property as his office.

According to court records, the dispute got ugly, with The Brotherhood voting in October 2016 to remove Ennis Tait as Temple 51's pastor, and three days later, Temple 51 leadership locking The Brotherhood's leadership out of the headquarters building.

After that, both sides used the property under the terms of a court order that allowed Jones and his wife to use their offices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The order also forbade them from disrupting Temple 51 or its congregation and vice versa.

But in March of this year, both cases were dismissed and the parties settled out of court. Trevor Pemberton, the Oklahoma City attorney representing The Brotherhood in the case, did not return messages left for comment on this story.

Tait told WCPO.com that The Brotherhood agreed to give up its claims to the properties in question, in exchange for Temple 51 paying $375,000 to The Brotherhood over the next seven years.

The Brotherhood has removed all its belongings from the administrative building, where its headquarters was housed, Tait said. Temple 51 has cut all ties with The Brotherhood and is in the process of reorganizing as an independent church.

Tait wants to keep the "Church of the Living God" in its name, he said, because locals know it by that name. But the church will drop the "CWFF" in its name, which was a Brotherhood motto.

Tait said he had mixed emotions about the settlement. Now 46, he was born into a Brotherhood church and has pastored the Avondale church for the past 14 years.

"I love the organization and the people in it," he said, adding that many had become his mentors. "I truly appreciate all they have given me to prepare me (for ministry)."

However, he's also relieved that it's over.

"If I'm going to do greater ministry, I should not have to be stifled or held back because my ideas don't line up with the organization," Tait said.

It's enough that they line up with the vision God has put before the church, he added.

As WCPO.com has previously reported, Tate works with Project Nehemiah, the church's nonprofit outreach, to operate CeaseFire, a program that pays cash for guns in an effort to reduce gun violence.

The Church of the Living God CWFF traces back to the 19th century. It was founded by William Christian in 1889 in Wrightsville, Arkansas. "Christian History" magazine called him a founder of the black Restorationist movement, which was a precursor of black Pentecostalism.

The first local church, Temple No. 50, was organized in 1914, but a schism resulted in some members leaving and forming Temple 51 in 1933.

Temple 51 had various locations in Cincinnati before finally settling on Forest Avenue in Avondale in 1958. Eleven years later, the church purchased an adjoining property, where The Brotherhood took up residence in 1991.

It had been a goal of The Brotherhood to have a centrally located headquarters, with housing for retired bishops, senior citizens and out-of-town visitors.

The Brotherhood is a hierarchical organization in which bishops govern various districts and oversee local temples. It has more than 80 temples in 26 states.