The historicSt. John’s Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, could lose several of its buildings to foreclosure in less than two weeks after a former pastor allegedly mishandled the finances of the 117-year-old church and left the congregation drowning in debt.
A GoFundMe campaign for the church launched in May has only raised $13,573 of a $3 million goal it is seeking to cover the debt racked up by former pastor Bishop James D. Adams, 62, before Sept. 11, when Taylor Made Lending in Fort Lauderdale could auction the church’s properties.
The fellowship hall, two other buildings the congregation owns and its parking lot could be auctioned to pay off debts amounting to about $2.5 million, according to a report by The Miami Herald. The church’s historic building at 1328 NW Third Ave. is not affected, but the congregation hopes to invoke a miracle to solve their money woes.
“Scripture reminds us that what was meant for evil, God can turn around for good — we humbly ask for your help,” the church states in the GoFundMe campaign.
“Parts of the historic church could close forever, unless we can raise enough money to pay off the mountain of debt incurred under our former pastor,” the church continued.
“Please consider making a donation to pay off this enormous loan and restore our historic sanctuary. We know that with your support, we can help save one of Miami’s oldest churches – and continue serving as a place of worship for future generations.”
The congregation alleges that when Adams was hired in 2010 to serve as senior pastor, they were debt-free and had a membership of about 400. Under his leadership, however, the congregation dwindled to about 70 people.
“From what I understand, the church was in a debt-free posture when James Adams became the pastor,” Marva Wiley, an attorney for St John’s, told The Herald.
Much of the church’s financial woes stem from two balloon mortgages Adams took out in the church’s name — one for $845,000 in 2017 and another for $1.6 million in 2018.
Adams contends through his attorney, Robert Harris, the church was aware that he had taken out the mortgages to pay for things like a new roof, new windows and to pay new staff and musicians for Sunday services.
“They didn’t have any money. The only thing that they had were assets,” Harris told the newspaper. “We took out a loan on the assets to pay the bill. Everyone agreed to it.”
Records cited by the publication show that the estimated repairs for the church amounted to less than $100,000 and much of the loan proceeds went toward the purchase of a luxury downtown Miami riverfront condo, which Adams used as a parsonage.
The church has since sold the condo to cover some of the debt incurred, but they still need to cover the $2.5 million bill.
“The population of the church was not sufficient to support this kind of debt,” Wiley explained. “Generally, the only money that can be called income is the tithe, and if the population of the church dies off, aged out, leaves the church, then the income goes down. But the expenses that he was generating did not go down. They went up.”
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