Shuttered Washington church gives $8 million legacy gift to numerous charities

Grace Lutheran Church of Bellevue, Washington, which held its final worship service on Sunday, March 3, 2019.
Grace Lutheran Church of Bellevue, Washington, which held its final worship service on Sunday, March 3, 2019. | Screengrab/

A church in Washington state that closed its doors due to falling membership is in the process of donating $8 million from the sale of its property to various charities.

Grace Lutheran Church of Bellevue, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation, held its final worship service in March, but its donations to various nonprofits is still ongoing.

Eva Mader, the president of the Grace Lutheran Congregation Council, told The Christian Post that 40 percent of the money was designated for the ELCA, namely the Northwest Lutheran Synod, about another 40 percent was designated to aid organizations that help the homeless, and 20 percent for other nonprofits.

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“The remaining 20 percent went to other charities: PLU scholarships, Hopelink, Lifewire, Grace sister congregation in St. Petersburg, Russia, UW campus ministry, Congregations for Kids, Bridge Disability Ministries, Camp Lutherwood, Backpack Weekend Meals, Eastside Legal Aide, Matthew House, Lutheran Counseling Network, and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians,” Mader said. 

“Forty percent was designated for homeless services, organizations Grace had worked with for many years, with $1 million each to Congregations for the Homeless, Sophia Way, and Imagine Housing, with the rest to Friends of Youth, Lutheran Community Services, and Compass Housing Alliance.”

Mader told CP that Grace Lutheran gave a large portion to homeless services due to the church having long focused their work on that social concern.

Charities centered on combating domestic violence, providing school supplies and meals for children, and others were selected. Members of the congregation suggested projects, with the ones receiving the highest votes getting chosen.

About two-thirds of the money has been distributed, with the rest scheduled to follow in about a year once the purchaser of the church property sends the final payment.

Founded in 1948, Grace Lutheran gradually declined to an average worship attendance of about 25 people, with many either leaving the area or deciding to worship elsewhere.

Mader told CP that she hopes the church’s giving away of millions of dollars following its closing shows that new beginnings can come out of an ending.

“I hope that not only the members of Grace, but all those who read and hear about our closing will come to the realization that nothing lasts forever. That this ending will represent many new beginnings, that nothing really belongs to us, but is given to us for a time to be used wisely. And that we should all care about others, especially those in need, following the example of Jesus,” Mader added.  

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