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140-year-old church on brink of foreclosure with $1.4 million debt seeks help to stay open

140-year-old church on brink of foreclosure with $1.4 million debt seeks help to stay open

The RockHill AME Zion Church in Concord, N.C. | Facebook/ RockHill AME Zion Church

A 140-year-old North Carolina church on the brink of foreclosure due to their inability to repay a $1.4 million debt after poor financial management by church leaders is seeking to raise $1.5 million to stay open.

“Financial decisions made by leadership in 2006 have impacted the congregation the past several years. We filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and have been trying to work out a deal for years with our mortgage holder, American First Federal dba First Commerce, LLC. The mortgage holder, located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, is unwilling to negotiate any deal, short of foreclosure and selling the church,” said Lisa Grier Lea, in a GoFundMe campaign she organized to help save the Rock Hill AME Zion Church in Concord.

The campaign, which was launched on Dec. 27, has a goal of $1.5 million but has only raised just over $600 as of Saturday morning.

“It is our most sincere desire to remain in our church, on our land, to perform the works of God for generations to come. In order to do that, we need monetary donations. Our debt is great but no amount is too small! Please donate whatever you can to help us keep our church! We bless you and pray that God will sustain you during this season and beyond,” Lea further stated in the campaign.

Church trustee Robert Scott told WBTV that if the church is unable to come up with the funds they need it's likely that it will be put up for sale in a matter of months.

“We’re looking at anywhere from three to four months. They’ll put the sign up, they’ll foreclose on the church, they’ll put a bid out, we could match the bid they give us in so many days. And once everything is finalized and they haven’t sold the church, they give us 10 to 15 days and the church is padlocked and we’re out of here," Scott told the network.

“We got a great opportunity to raise some money, put X amount of money on the table to see [if] we can get the church back," Scott added.

In a 2019 report, Garnet Capital Advisors, a loan sales firm, noted that church foreclosures are on the rise.

“America's churches seem to be on shaky ground with foreclosures on the rise. Lenders are having a difficult time dealing with struggling places of worship that seem to represent a growing source of distress. And that includes churches that have been around for over a century,” the firm noted.

In the wake of the U.S. housing crisis, many churches that had mortgages faced foreclosure Reuters reported in 2012.

Some 270 churches were sold in 2011 after defaulting on their loans, said CoStar Group, a real estate information service. About 131 were sold by banks. A majority of the foreclosed churches were “small to medium size houses of worship,” located primarily in California, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan where the foreclosure crisis hit hardest.


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