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Reverend fired from SF's oldest black church

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A reverend transferred to the oldest black church in San Francisco last fall from the oldest black church in Los Angeles during a controversy involving a federal tax investigation and other issues has been fired, the Los Angeles Times reported http://lat.ms/V939Mm on its website Saturday.

The Rev. John Hunter was fired from San Francisco's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in a letter dated Friday from Bishop Larry Kirkland, the newspaper said.

“I hereby immediately relieve you of the pastoral charge of Bethel AME Church,” Kirkland wrote. “You will have no further contact with that congregation in an official capacity.”

The firing of Hunter, 55, comes after he had been transferred in October to San Francisco after eight years at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 2008, Hunter acknowledged using First AME's credit cards for $122,000 in personal expenditures on items including suits, jewelry, vacations and auto supplies.

A year later, the Internal Revenue Service said he owed more than $300,000 in back taxes. Hunter has said he repaid both debts.

Hunter _ who has maintained that his rights as a minister were violated when he was moved to a smaller San Francisco church without a 90-day notice and without reason _ had appealed to the denomination's equivalent of the Supreme Court, but his appeal was denied on Feb. 1.

Hunter has also filed a civil lawsuit against church leaders in San Francisco for physically barring him from taking the pulpit.

Attempts to reach Hunter for comment were unsuccessful, and a call to Bethel AME was not immediately returned.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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