- (Photo: Diocese of Nashville)
A former Southern Baptist megachurch in Tennessee once rocked by scandal has sold one of its campuses to a Roman Catholic diocese for $12.5 million.
The Fellowship at Two Rivers, formerly known as Two Rivers Baptist Church, has sold the campus near the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to the Catholic Diocese of Nashville.
Rick Musacchio, director of Communications for the Diocese of Nashville, directed The Christian Post to a statement by Bishop David Choby on the matter.
"We have been considering options and preparing a sound financial plan to address the growing needs of the people of Middle Tennessee," said Choby.
"This exciting opportunity will meet our immediate needs and allow us better integrate and enhance the Church's work in Middle Tennessee. It also enables us to prudently allocate our resources to accommodate the tremendous growth that we anticipate will continue in the years to come."
The diocese reported immense growth in the Catholic population of the area and hopes to use the campus to serve the needs of that increasing community.
"I am particularly pleased that both the priests of the diocese and experienced business professionals have expressed such strong support of this undertaking," stated Choby.
A member of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Fellowship had announced their plan to sell the property back in 2012.
"The Fellowship at Two Rivers will sell its huge facility near Opryland along Briley Parkway," reported WSMV Nashville, noting that the church had experienced its share of scandal in recent years.
"Many people may know the church by its former name, Two Rivers Baptist Church. Under that name, it grew to a huge congregation then faced controversy and scandal."
According to ABP News, Two Rivers' decline came sharply between 2007, when the congregation boasted 6,900 members, to the present day, where they average about 570 weekly worshippers. Problems with the church came in 2006 when assorted members charged then pastor Jerry Sutton with financial corruption, arguing that he had spent church money for questionable purposes.
"The disgruntled members filed a lawsuit in September 2007 asking a judge to open records they claimed Sutton illegally concealed," reported ABP News.
"After Sutton survived an ouster vote and the lawsuit was dismissed, the pastor asked the church to expel 71 members for refusing to repent of causing strife. A May 6, 2008, vote for their dismissal fell four votes short of a needed super-majority, but a second vote the following week removed them from the membership rolls."
Earlier this week, The Fellowship released a statement announcing a majority vote of the multisite congregation to sell the Two Rivers property to the diocese.
Len Taylor, senior pastor of The Fellowship, said in a statement released Sunday that he and his congregation felt the Lord calling them to sell the campus.
"Our church has been convinced that it was the Lord's will for us to sell the property so that we might minister more effectively," said Taylor. "We see this opportunity as a direct answer to prayer and are excited to move forward in ministry as a church family."
According to a diocese press release, the sale should close in 90 days, with them taking possession of the property sometime next year.