The senior pastor of a roughly 2,500-person congregation in Orlando stepped down Sunday amid a lawsuit alleging that he and other church elders offered a woman money to conceal her extramarital affair with the clergyman.
Pastor David Janney’s exit from ministry at Orlando Baptist Church was not an admission that the accusations are true, a church elder stated. However, Janney, 61, “felt his resignation was in the best interest of the Church,” deacon Ray Elliott wrote in an email.
Arlene Miranda, the former church member who filed the lawsuit, claims that Orlando Baptist officials used coercion and the promise of a payout to cover up her sexual encounter with the married pastor.
At a Dec. 2 meeting, church leaders convinced Miranda to sign a non-disclosure agreement that offered her weekly payments of $375 across several months if she held her tongue about Janney and Orlando Baptist, according to her suit.
However, Miranda, 46, claims the payments never arrived.
Miranda’s attorney said her client, a single mother of three, didn’t even receive a copy of the agreement until she sued the Semoran Boulevard church.
“The whole thing is just so unseemly,” said Mayanne Downs, the lawyer representing Miranda. “To have been so humiliated and taken advantage of by a man who professed to be guiding her. … All of that is heartbreaking.”
The church’s attorneys have asked a judge to toss out the case and force Miranda to enter into arbitration, according to court records.
The church “disputes the vast majority of the allegations” Miranda makes in her lawsuit, lawyers for Orlando Baptist wrote. For one thing, the document signed by Miranda isn’t a non-disclosure agreement and was actually the church’s attempt “to provide aid, support and counseling” to her, wrote the church’s attorneys, who are with the Orlando firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed.
In the complaint filed Dec. 10, Miranda’s attorney argues the legal agreement is void because her client signed it under duress and never received money from the church.
The agreement stated that one of the church’s donors would pay $375 per week into Miranda’s trust fund until May 27 and $200 per week until July 29, according to a copy attached to the lawsuit. The identity of this donor is unclear, Downs said.
The contract also required Miranda to seek counseling, get a job and sever all ties with the church, according to the copy included in the case file. It does not mention a sexual relationship between Miranda and the pastor.
Janney served as pastor at Orlando Baptist from 1987 to 2003, when he left to start a missions organization, according to a church school handbook. He returned as senior pastor in 2007.
Miranda had been an involved member at Orlando Baptist since 2008 and worked for a time as a substitute teacher coordinator at the church’s school, Orlando Christian Prep. She was also a frequent volunteer with World Hope, Inc., a nonprofit operated by the church.
She was dealing with a broken-down car and financial troubles at the time of her romantic involvement with Janney, Downs said.
Her rendezvous with the pastor happened over Labor Day weekend at the nonprofit’s offices, the suit claims.
Moved by guilt, Miranda confessed the affair to church elders, who told her she had a religious duty to keep it under wraps, the suit stated. Janney also sent her “threatening text messages regarding her and her children,” the claim states.
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SOURCE: The Orlando Sentinel