Without Walls Church Faces Foreclosure of Two Properties

randy-white-2.jpegThe future of Without Walls International Church, once one of the
fastest-growing congregations in the country, is in jeopardy as the
church faces foreclosure of its Tampa property.

The California-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union holds the
church’s mortgage, and filed foreclosure proceedings against Without
Walls Tuesday. Court records show the church defaulted on a loan that
was due in August. The credit union is demanding immediate repayment of
that loan and the $12-million mortgage on Without Walls’ Grady Avenue
property.

The Rev. Randy White, Without Walls’ pastor, said he is
shocked by the move. The pastor said church officials thought they were
actively negotiating with the credit union as late as Tuesday afternoon
when they received an e-mail from credit union executives.

Church
leaders have been in talks with the company for months, twice flying to
California to negotiate. He said the church leaders presented the
credit union with an agreement from a buyer who intends to purchase a
small piece of the church’s property for $1.4-million, more than enough
to cover repayment of the $1-million loan, a line of credit.

White
also said the church had been told the credit union would move the due
date on its $12-million mortgage from January to June. As proof of the
church’s ability to pay, he showed the credit union a signed contract
for a $33-million offer to purchase one of the church’s assets. Should
the sale go through, the proceeds will allow Without Walls to pay off
its debt, White said.

The pastor said he erred in showing the
credit union the sale contract and suspects the foreclosure proceedings
are motivated by greed.

“In my opinion, it’s nothing more than
greed from a Christian bank who’s supposed to be working with
Christians,” White said. “I don’t think Bank of America or SunTrust
would ever do what this bank’s done. I think it’s because they’re
drowning, they’re pulling so many people in with them. They’re
scrambling.”

Credit union spokesman Jac La Tour said the company does not call in loans cavalierly.

“We
worked with them for a number of months to reach an agreement,” La Tour
said. “When that process was unsuccessful, we had to file foreclosure.
It wasn’t a quick decision.”

La Tour denied the accusation that
the 44-year-old credit union is trying to foreclose on the church to
confiscate the property after learning there was a waiting buyer,
saying his company aims to help ministries, not sell real estate.

Word
of the possible foreclosure at Without Walls comes as the
internationally known megachurch and its celebrity pastors are
undergoing one of the ministry’s most difficult years.

In the last year, White has divorced, lost a daughter to brain cancer and seen attendance at his church decline sharply.

He
said in August that when he and his wife split up, 50 percent of the
22,000-member congregation left in the aftermath, but some have begun
to return.

A sagging economy and layoffs have also weighed on
church members and their ability to donate, dragging income down by 30
percent, White said.

Without Walls owes $13-million on its Tampa
property, and $12.5-million on the church’s Lakeland branch, the
church’s chief financial officer, Norva Carrington, said.

Negotiations
between the two parties seem to have stalled when the credit union
asked Without Walls to agree to several loan modifications in the fall.
The stipulations included provisions that the church would not file for
bankruptcy and would agree to relinquish ownership of intellectual
property, White said. Church leaders balked at the request.

The credit union has also initiated foreclosure proceedings on the church’s Lakeland branch.

Without
Walls’ board members, who include White’s ex-wife and church co-founder
Paula White and Carrington, are devastated, the pastor said.

“This
is just really shocking,” Carrington said through tears. “We’re not in
a major financial default on our loan. We’ve (been) 100 percent
compliant with that loan for over 7 1/2 years. This is just
unbelievable.”

Despite the church’s apparently gloomy financial
situation, White promises a fight. He has directed his lawyers to ask
federal regulators for an investigation of the California credit union.

“We
didn’t throw the first punch, but the fight is just starting,” White
said. “Because I think right is right, and wrong is wrong.”

Source: TampaBay.com

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