Georgia churches forced into foreclosure
As homeowners throughout Georgia and across the country struggle with unemployment, debt, bankruptcy and foreclosure, the effects of their financial difficulties often have a lesser-seen ripple effect on their communities. One growing example of this is the increase in church foreclosures that has taken place in recent years. When church members can no longer afford to tithe to their church, or are forced to move out of their homes and away from their congregation, the church also has a loss of income. And with the high occurrence of financial difficulties among churchgoers, church foreclosures are becoming more and more common.
Prior to the recession, church foreclosures were almost unheard-of. However, from 2006 to 2010, upwards of 90 metro Atlanta churches were placed into foreclosure by mortgage lenders. Of those 90 churches, approximately 50 were repossessed and placed for sale. The fact that 40 churches avoided foreclosure shows that many lenders are willing to work with church leaders, not wanting to ‘foreclose on God’. However, when multi-million dollar debts are owed to lenders, they often do not have a choice but to foreclose.
A common reason for church foreclosure is ambition combined with a lack of foresight. With booming membership, many churches began expansions and additions in recognition of their growing congregation. Unfortunately, the recession halted that membership boom, and left church leaders with a big church and an even bigger mortgage. Axel Adams of the Rainbow PUSH coalition says that churches can’t really be blamed for this, as economics are not their area of expertise. “I think a lot of churches were not really prepared,” he said. “We have pastors who read the Bible and interpret Scripture, but a lot were really not paying attention to what was going on economically.”
Community leaders lament the loss of churches, saying that they also represent a loss of outreach, service, and support to the local community. “You’re not just losing property,” said the Rev. Michael Wright of Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta. “Back in the day, a lot of communities were built around the church. We’re losing an information center, a community center, and a centerpiece of the community.”
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Foreclosure crisis hitting some metro churches”, Shelia M. Poole and Craig Schneider, 2 February 2011