A historic Florida megachurch that experienced a large decline followed by a steady resurgence in membership over the past few years is considering selling off a portion of its property.
Calvary Assembly of Orlando was founded in the 1950s. Considered one of the first megachurches of the United States, at its peak it had around 7,000 members.
However, steep declines in membership have led Calvary Assembly to consider an offer to sell part of the church's property to a developer.
Ed Garvin, lead pastor of Calvary Assembly, told The Christian Post that since he accepted his position in January 2014, the congregation has been working on a "revitalization process."
"Part of the revitalization process has been to thoroughly evaluate all of our resources, including our facilities. Our worship center was built in 1987 and seats over 5,500," explained Garvin.
"With the trend among megachurches shifting to smaller auditoriums and multiple services and campuses, one of the options we considered was selling our campus and building a new facility that better reflects our ministry focus."
While Calvary Assembly rejected a "generous offer" to purchase their campus, Garvin told CP that they are presently considering an offer from a developer to buy some of their property.
"A developer has presented an offer to purchase the portion of our property that contains the extra parking area with the intention of building a hotel and a multi-family housing unit," continued Garvin.
"Calvary will not own the buildings, and will likely not own the land. The most likely scenario is the land will be sold to the developer once the approval process is complete."
Founded in April 1953 by Pastor John Hall and his wife, Carlie, Calvary Assembly began as a small congregation of about 35 at a facility originally known as Orlando Gospel Tabernacle.
Joining the Assemblies of God in 1954, Calvary Assembly changed its name to its present appellation and through the 1970s and 1980s experienced explosive growth.
The congregation, however, experienced severe decline during the 1990s and 2000s, losing their megachurch designation in the 2010s.
Bob Rhoden, former interim pastor for Calvary Assembly, told CP in an interview back in 2013 that the decline was due to multiple factors.
"The first impact was a moral indiscretion by a lead pastor. Next a building program was overspent, resulting in a mortgage that created financial stress on the church. Over the years a couple of lead pastors and staff pastors have left and started other churches in the Orlando area," said Rhoden.
"The changing music climate in the church world has been a challenging issue. While these factors are not the sum total of the reasons for the decline, they represent the lion share."
The revitalization plans being considered by Calvary Assembly have garnered attention from local media, with an article published Monday by the Orlando Sentinel claiming that the church is the one planning to build secular facilities.
"Calvary Assembly, has filed a big development plan that seeks permission for a hotel and assisted-living homes on its property," claimed the Sentinel.
"Plans filed with the city call for a full-service, 250-room hotel and 400 apartment units, with at least 200 of those being marked for assisted living."
Garvin took issue with the Sentinel piece, telling CP that the misconception arose from "Calvary still owning the property" and the fact that "our campus is a planned development in Orlando called 'Calvary Assembly Planned Development.'"
"Calvary is not building a hotel," stressed Garvin. "It is unfortunate the way some of the information regarding this project has been presented. It easily could give someone the wrong impression."
"The church is not in the development business. Our sole focus is to share the reality of Christ with Orlando, central Florida, and the world."