Tenn. Church Burns After Members Throw Punches

There was a fist fight at a Claiborne County church and now the building has burned to the ground. Detective Capt. David Honeycutt with the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office said the fire was being investigated and a look at the fight is a strong element of it. The cause of the fire late Friday or early Saturday hasn't been determined. Honeycutt said there was no indication of an electrical malfunction.

Edwards Community Missionary Baptist Church was in rural part of the county, near the Union County line.

"That's God's house. It's no place to throw fists, or shoot people, or talk about shooting people, it's for blessing the Lord," the church's pastor, Rev. Clayborn Gibbons, told WBIR-TV in Knoxville.

The station reported the building had stood for nearly 70 years, but a recent division over who should lead the congregation erupted into fisticuffs on Sept. 30.

Church member David Lovin told the station "it just all broke loose."

Honeycutt said Thursday morning there had been no arrests in the fire. He said investigators were still taking statements from church members.

Honeycutt said the church has 30-50 members and "there has been a division of the church."

"When I heard that the church burned, it just broke my heart, cause you know that's where my heart was," Lovin said.

On Wednesday night, the congregation met in a church member's garage.


Information from: WBIR-TV,