Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Zion, ousted minister reach a deal

Lawyers confirm that an iconic North Philadelphia church and its ousted minister have reached a settlement in the minister's wrongful termination lawsuit.

For the last two years, the Rev. Adolphus C. Prince has been embroiled in a bitter fight to return as pastor to historic Zion Baptist Church. after  three different votes that forced his ouster.

But earlier this month, Prince abandoned any efforts at reinstatement -- after reaching a six-figure settlement with the church that bars him from trying to return.

"As far as Rev. Prince is concerned,"  his attorney Andrew J. Levin said last week,  "when Zion offers him a six-figure settlement, it validates his contention that they breached his employment contract.  "His  number one goal was to remain as pastor of Zion. But the judge precluded him from doing that."

Ronald Harper, the chair of Zion's board of trustees, said the March 6 settlement -- for an undisclosed amount --  does not represent an admission of wrongdoing.

"It was a settlement, so neither party was found right or wrong," Harper said. "We're not supposed to be talking about a settled case.  But on behalf of the board of trustees, we are very happy to move on so that the church can begin to seek a new pastor."

Prince, 58, joined Zion in January 2012. When he arrived, he was known as Rev. A. Carl Prince. He began calling himself Adolphus C. Prince after news of his dismissal from Zion made headlines across the country.

Prince arrived in Philadelphia  after a stormy relationship with his former church in Virginia. Not long after his arrival at the North Philadelphia church - made famous by the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan,  the iconic civil rights and international human rights leader who led Zion for 38 years - Prince had a falling out with members of his new church, who voted to terminate him first in March 2014, and again in July 2014 and January 2016 .

Prior to  the second vote to dismiss Prince, a deacons' letter recommending his firing included allegations that the pastor had behaved like a "dictator,"  closed off three church offices for his exclusive use, and had spent large sums to renovate his main office.

The critics also said he engineered changing the name of the Zion Community Center, an annex of the church, to the Leon Sullivan Center. He then  began to use a United Way logo on the center's web site to appeal for donations. A United Way spokeswoman said  the church did not have permission to use the logo.

But what upset most people were the events  of Saturday, June 21, 2014, when Prince brought two armed guards with him to a special meeting called to discuss his future. The following month, the church voted 221-166 to oust him.

A majority of the members voted to oust him each time a vote was taken. However,  after each vote,  either Prince or his supporters challenged the legality of the process.  After the March 22, 2014 vote, Prince and his supporters claimed the vote was illegal  because the proper church officials had not called the meeting.

After the July 2014 vote, Prince and his supporters argued that the church bylaws required  90-days' notice to the membership before a vote to fire a pastor.

Prince's supporters agreed to the third vote on Jan. 9, 2016 and he was ousted by a vote of 298-54.   Howver after that  last vote  in 2016,  Prince filed a wrongful termination suit against Zion. The settlement was reached March 6, 2017 before Common Pleas Judge Gene D. Cohen.

Kathleen M. Thomas, who was Zion's  lawyer, said of the settlement:  "Each side believes they are right and each believes the other side is wrong.  But we wish each other well."