Harvest backtracks on inaccurate news report claims regarding church’s legal issues

Harvest Church Dothan briefly addressed its ongoing dispute with the United Methodist Church during Sunday services but provided no information beyond that contained in a news report that it criticized.
Harvest Church filed that suit against United Methodist Church leadership on November 10 in fear the denomination will take over its Fortner Street campus.
Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 11:57 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Harvest Church Dothan briefly addressed its ongoing dispute with the United Methodist Church during Sunday services but provided no information beyond that contained in a news report last week that it has criticized.

While calling that WTVY News 4 report “dramatic”, the church’s founder and senior pastor backed off his initial claims that it had been fabricated and, on Sunday, did not question the report’s authenticity.

Pastor Ralph Sigler admitted to congregants that there is a legal issue regarding ownership of Harvest’s sprawling and impressive Fortner Street campus.

Harvest sued the United Methodist Church on November 10 expressing concerns that, unless a judge intervenes, the UMC could yank that property, including a 1200-seat sanctuary, and evict members because of a stake—referred to as a “trust” ---that UMC may have in the church property.

“There is accordingly a significant risk that the UMC will improperly confiscate or interfere with Harvest Church’s property,” the lawsuit states. “With nowhere to go, Harvest’s congregation and the heart of its ministry could be scattered for months.”

Harvest, in its own words, claims that Methodist leadership could seize and sell church land and possibly its facilities.

But when News 4 published a story on Thursday about the legal confrontation, Sigler posted on Facebook there was almost “zero reality” in what was said. “(The reporter) apparently made most of it up. It’s almost comical, so don’t be concerned.”

But by the next morning, he had amended his criticism to say the story was “generally misleading,” and on Sunday referred to it as “dramatic” but no longer questioned the report’s accuracy.

Sigler said the church had not been contacted before the report was published, though News4 sent multiple comment requests to Harvest legal representatives that went unanswered.

The United Methodist Church initially declined comment but later said the report was based on inaccurate statements and allegations.

A message seeking clarification about whether the UMC believed inaccurate statements came from Harvest’s lawsuit or the News 4 report was not answered.

Sigler said on Sunday that he realizes members had generally been unaware of the Harvest’s Methodist connection because the church has rarely identified with that denomination.

Like others, Harvest which ministers to about 3,000, is at odds with Methodist doctrine, Sigler confirmed.

The lawsuit has been paused until Harvest’s congregation votes on whether to separate from the Methodist denomination.

UMC claims both sides are working toward a resolution.

The lawsuit was filed in Houston County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Larry Anderson who retires in January.

Subscribe to our News 4 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning. Get instant notifications on top stories from News 4 by downloading our mobile apps.