By Victor Omondi
(Source: Your World Network)
The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), a predominantly Black church, is facing two lawsuits alleging that the global denomination’s retirement fund was mismanaged. According to the claims, the Nashville-based church misappropriated $90 million in retirement funds intended for thousands of pastors and other church retirees.
AME is the first African American Protestant denomination. The Rt. Rev. Richard Allen started the church in 1816. The church has 20 districts, 13 of which are in the United States and seven in Africa. According to church leaders, there are more than 500 AME congregations throughout Georgia. The AME has about 2.5 million members around the world.
The law firm Kantor & Kantor filed a case against the AME Church in Maryland on March 22 in the United States District Court, with AARP Foundation attorneys joining as co-counsels.
This is the denomination’s second offense.
The first was filed on behalf of Rev. Pearce Ewing of Jacksonville, Florida, on March 3 in Memphis, Tennessee. Both are attempting to establish class-action status, claiming that millions of dollars were squandered.
The funds came from AME clergy and other retirees’ retirement income. The former executive director of the AME’s Department of Retirement Services is one of the defendants.
According to the lawsuit, Ewing, who retired in September, tried to access his retirement savings but was “denied access to his money and has since learned that there may be nothing left.”
“This was his nest egg, and he had to go to work as a nighttime truck driver to support himself,” stated Fred Tromberg, one of Ewing’s attorneys. “He had over 30 years as a pulpit minister. He never, ever imagined that’s what he has to do to put food on the table and pay his bills.”
“People dedicated themselves for years working for the church and were promised that the savings were invested conservatively,” said William Alvarado Rivera, senior vice president of litigation at the AARP Foundation. “It turns out that was not true. It’s a real tragedy.”
The AME Church has halted pension payments to seniors after discovering possible financial problems in the denomination’s pension fund last month, The Wall Street Journal Reports.