On Sunday, September 14, when Reverend Juan McFarland stood behind the pulpit to deliver his sermon, rather than offering the members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, a word from the Lord, the minister dropped one hell of a bombshell on his congregants.
According to numerous accounts from Shiloh members in attendance that day, Pastor McFarland told his longtime church family that he had full-blown AIDS.
As if that news wasn’t shocking enough, McFarland, who’s served as Shiloh’s pastor for more than 20 years and allegedly learned of his HIV diagnosis in 2003, also admitted to having numerous sexual encounters with women—some of whom were members of his own church—all the while knowing he was infected with HIV. (A local NBC affiliate reported that, when reached by phone, McFarland had confirmed the details of his revelation.)
What prompted the longtime pastor’s sudden confession? Well, according to those who heard Pastor McFarland’s confessional sermon series, the preacher implied that it was God who told him it was time to confess his sins to his church.
According to Nathan Williams Jr., an 80-year-old member of Shiloh and onetime chairman of the church’s deacon board, some of McFarland’s sexual encounters happened on the church’s property but never in the sanctuary.
“Like that made any difference,” said Williams in an interview.
However, that wasn’t the end of Pastor McFarland’s revelations. On the following two Sundays—yes, he was allowed to remain the pastor for two more Sundays!—McFarland, while sermonizing, added to his initial confession. While it’s unclear what details were disclosed when, in addition to the long list sex-related sins, he also allegedly admitted to using illegal drugs and misappropriating church funds.
That the church didn’t fire McFarland after the first confession is downright unbelievable. Instead, according to one anonymous source who spoke to WSFA, “The church was very accepting of Reverend McFarland and was willing to help him in any way possible.” Deacon Williams seemed to confirm this sentiment, saying, “as Christian people, we wanted him to get well.” He added, “I thought of him as one of my sons.”
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