Evangelical Christian CU Forecloses On Another Troubled Church

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MECKLENBURG, N.C. – California’s Evangelical Christian CU, one of the biggest church lenders in the country, is expected to sell Greater Salem Church in another foreclosure, after the church’s pastor was convicted of siphoning millions of dollars in funds that were meant to pay the mortgage.

Unless an agreement is reached, the credit union that wrote the $5 million loan will sell the main church building, a second church building in Cornelius and a parcel of land in west Charlotte, at a public auction on Friday in the Mecklenburg courthouse.

The church pastors, Anthony Jinwright and his wife Harriet Jinwright, are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 8 after being convicted in May on numerous counts related to federal tax evasion. Prosecutors said the couple collected millions of dollars from the church between 1991 and 1997, even as it was spiraling toward financial trouble.

This week’s foreclosure comes a week after Evangelical Christian foreclosed on another financially troubled ministry, Greater Hope Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Officials with the Brea, Calif., credit union said the growing number of church foreclosures–26 now after none before 2007–is more indicative of the growing stress of the economy. “Even before (foreclosure), there’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into preventing it from going into foreclosure,” said Jac Latour, spokesman for the $1 billion credit union.

He noted that the 26 church loans in foreclosure since 2007 are out of almost 1,000 church loans made by Evangelical Christian.

The credit union’s main goal in foreclosures, he said, is to try to sell the property for use by another ministry. “That’s the best case scenario for us,” Latour, told the Credit Union Journal yesterday.

Greater Salem Church borrowed the money from the credit union in 2008 while it was facing mounting financial troubles, posting two buildings and a vacant lot as collateral. The loan carried a 6.625%  interest rate and a $32,014 monthly payment, according to court records.

The Church made its last full payment in September 2009, according to initial foreclosure documents.

Documents show an outstanding balance of $4,997,734. The note also allows a 15% penalty for attorney’s fees in the event of foreclosure.

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