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The goal has been to fire their pastor. If that could be handled quietly, within the privacy of the church, so much the better.

But for the 30-plus members of St. John's Baptist Church who have tried, and failed, to do just that, their next best option is a lawsuit.

Many readers will be familiar with this historic Baptist church on Prospect Street because of the Rev. Milton E. Proby, who pastored the church for nearly five decades. Under Proby's leadership, it was the largest African-American congregation in the Springs, and Proby was one of the most noted civil rights leaders in the state.

Now the future of the church is in question. Thirty-three members of the St. John's congregation have filed to sue Proby's successor, Willie J. Sutton Jr., over allegations of financial misconduct and fraudulent behavior. (See our cover story, starting here.)

They allege that they've fired Sutton, but he refuses to leave. They allege that he is a con man who is driving the church into bankruptcy.

It's a delicate situation, as the congregants' lawyer, Edward Hopkins, understands.

"St. John's is a very important institution, especially for the African-American community," he says. "As an African-American lawyer, I am concerned with the institution. So I want to do everything I can to help it remain a healthy institution and build itself back up to what it once was."

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