The Athens Banner-Herald reports…
“Genora Hamm Biggs, the 103-year-old woman ousted from Union Grove Baptist Church in Elberton, can return to church Sunday without the shadow of banishment that was cast over her in August.
In a surprise move Wednesday, an attorney representing the Rev. Tim Mattox and his flock, announced Mattox is leaving the church, the “active members” were withdrawing the letter revoking Biggs’ membership, and they have withdrawn restraining orders obtained in court against Biggs’ grandson and three others.
The church has been under constant attack and its members want to redirect their energies to positive action, Atlanta attorney Adrian Patrick said as a reason for the decisions.
The banishment of Biggs, a retired school teacher who was a Union Grove member for 92 years, caught national attention in the press and on social media. In the wake of the publicity, Patrick told a news conference outside the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse, that Mattox was unfairly criticized for the decision.
“Any blame for the decision should be placed on the members, not Pastor Mattox and his family,” Patrick said.
Mattox will start a new church in Elberton, which he said would be called Bethel Baptist Church.
“We are disassociating ourselves from Union Grove Baptist Church, officially closing this horrific chapter in these members’ church lives,” Patrick said.
Biggs, who objected to Mattox’s preaching style by saying it strayed from Baptist principles, received a letter in August telling her she could no longer attend the church “for any reason whatsoever.” Mattox, church deacon Glen Jackson and nine others signed the letter. When Biggs did show up for worship service, Elberton police were called, but they did not remove her.
Patrick also addressed a recent development when some former members returned to the church and voted Mattox out as pastor.
“It was an invalid vote,” Patrick said about the large group that included people from out of town.
Several “active members” attended the news conference, including an 84-year-old Elberton woman, who has attended the church for 70 years and wanted Biggs ousted from the church.
“This sweet innocent 103-year-old character that the media has portrayed as Mrs. Biggs is not the person we had to deal with each Sunday,” said Homer Heard, who served as church secretary.
Biggs was loud and disrespectful in church, Heard said.
“She has called some of our members fools and also called us stupid,” she said.
Patrick asked that Biggs, her grandson, and associates stay away from the new church property.
Mattox briefly addressed the media saying he received death threats and late night calls to his home.
“My family is very upset, angry, nervous, mad, but they are positive that we are choosing to move on,” he said.
The case was brewing for court action because Biggs and others also retained a lawyer to contest Mattox’s control of the church property.
“Its better this way than arguing before a court. It’s a good peaceful resolution. I’m very happy. I know Mrs. Biggs is gonna be delighted,” Athens attorney Ken Dious said.
As TV cameras zoomed in, Dious held up a gold-colored key to the church.
“I just told my clients and they are delighted about this,” he said. “And they will come and get this key tomorrow.”