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Four years after sustaining injuries in an accident that killed her first husband, Kathy Woody-Deming of Clermont, Georgia, took early retirement due to physical problems.

However, she now plans to apply for substitute-teaching assignments to replace some of her income, lost when Cornerstone Ministries Investments (CMI) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

"It was the way I paid my bills," said Woody-Deming, who stopped receiving payments last January on the bond she purchased in 2005. "I am scratching out every kind of job I can get ahold of."

One of the 20 most invested of Cornerstone's more than 3,500 unsecured creditors, Woody-Deming isn't the only one suffering from the company's setback. The real estate downturn exposed how CMI adopted a riskier investment strategy, unbeknownst to some investors who thought the company's emphasis was church real estate, as it had been for many years.

Although Hays Financial Consulting, the firm overseeing CMI's communication, has posted a website for information, few people connected with the case are willing to comment. Interim president and CEO John Ottinger Jr. declined to speak with Christianity Today. The ministry's attorney and a trustee with Hays Financial did not return phone calls.

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) founded the Investors Fund for Building and Development in 1985, but divested itself in 1994. In 2000 the fund, renamed the Presbyterian Investors Fund, merged with then four-year-old Cornerstone, but retained many of its Presbyterian connections. Ottinger is a former PCA pastor, as is Cecil Brooks, who served as president until 2006.

Until 2001, most of Cornerstone's earnings came from financing church facilities, giving an appearance of safety to investors. ...

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August 2008

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