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Brawl breaks out at Macon church

Chairs were toppled in a brawl at Greater Bellevue Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, on May 1, 2017.
Chairs were toppled in a brawl at Greater Bellevue Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, on May 1, 2017. Screen shot from video

Punches were thrown and chairs toppled inside Greater Bellevue Baptist Church in Macon Monday night after a disagreement about the pastor’s future escalated into a full-on brawl.

Church trustees had hired three Bibb County sheriff’s deputies to attend the meeting, during which the congregation was set to vote on whether the Rev. David Stephens would remain as pastor.

Several members of the congregation took turns speaking, but it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand.

“I can’t handle this. This is church, though. They overdoing it, though,” one man said on a video he took with his phone.

A woman came on a microphone and said, “Us not having a pastor at all, is that going to make this a better church or worser?”

“Worser!” the man taking the video said. “We want Pastor Stephens. He a big help to the community, though. They trippin.’ ”

A woman can be overheard saying she told her son that, when it comes to church, “you don’t come for the people, baby, you come for the word.”

At one point, a deputy waved people away from the podium, saying, “One at a time!”

“If you keep talking, you won’t be able to vote,” a man at the podium told about 150 people in the church. “If y’all don’t vote, y’all just don’t vote.”

Deputies could see that some of the members were getting “irate” and that “this meeting was starting to take a turn for the worse,” a deputy noted in an incident report.

A little more than 20 minutes into the 35-minute video, church decorum decayed in a matter of seconds. The deputies called for backup.

Young men threw punches, and folks shoved each other among chairs that had been knocked over.

At the blow of a whistle, everyone left the church, and the fight dissipated about 8:40 p.m.

The deputy’s report mentions there was an altercation involving “a few different church members,” but deputies were “unable to determine the primary aggressor and also unable to re-contact parties involved once the crowd dispersed.”

No one was at the church Tuesday afternoon, and the doors were locked. Attempts to reach Stephens for comment were unsuccessful.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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