Pastor of historic church resigns to start new church

By Melanie Posey

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The pastor of one of Birmingham's largest historic black churches resigned from the pulpit Sunday.

The Reverend Al. B. Sutton, Jr. shocked his congregation when he stepped down as head of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church.  Sutton, who had pastored the church for 10 years, told members he wanted to move the church into the  21st century but that the structure would not allow for that. He resigned at the end of his 8:30 a.m. service and did not lead the 11:00 a.m. worship.

On Monday, congregation members were still in shock.  Sheila Mahand, who's been attending for more than 40 years, said she felt tensions between Sutton and the church's "internal structure" had been brewing for awhile.  "They felt he was not fulfilling his commitments...that he was late for weddings and funerals, out of town preaching somewhere else," Mahan said.

Mahan and lifelong member Kimberly Booker Graham questioned the way he stepped down.

"My opinion, I would not have handled it that way. Maybe it was correct for him," said Graham.

She was shocked to hear of Sutton's resignation and that he had already set up a new church named Living Stones Temple, but she says it is important that her fellow congregants move forward.

"The mission of the church is equipping people to serve. So people want to make it personal..it's not about him, it's about doing what's right...moving forward in Christ," Graham said. "Yeah, it's a little bump in the road.  But it's okay.  We've been here over 120 years.  We'll be fine. And I wish him and his ministry the best and those who follow him."

David Donnell, a spokesperson for the church, says the church is looking for an interim pastor and that they wish Dr. Sutton all the best.

FOX6 tried to speak with Pastor Sutton, but was told he was out of town. Services at his new church will begin at 8:00 Sunday morning at Temple Emanu-El on Highland Avenue.

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