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Mounting Mortgage Cases Could Force One of U.S.'s Largest Megachurches into Foreclosure

Investigation finds Indiana's Family Christian Center spent lavishly on ministry while falling behind on mortgages, taxes, and bills.

One of America's largest megachurches brings in millions of dollars per year but is facing multiple foreclosure cases.

First National Bank of Illinois's recent foreclosure case against Family Christian Center, whose 15,000 weekly attendees make it the largest church in Indiana and ranked No. 15 in the nation by Outreach Magazine in 2011, over condos used to house visiting pastors is just the latest of the church's ongoing financial struggles.

"While the Family Christian Center was spending millions of dollars annually on leadership compensation, travel, meals and jet fuel, it was falling behind on its mortgage payments and racking up a list of past-due bills," concluded a lengthy investigation last week by the Northwest Indiana Times. It cited comments by Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider made during a Dec. 4 hearing: "When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded."

The church, which used to bring in $10 million per year but currently brings in only $7.3 million (according to a court transcript seen by the Times), defaulted on its loan from First National in September 2012, and faces another foreclosure case from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU) after it defaulted on the mortgage for its sanctuary in 2011.

As a result of that case, Family Christian Center turned over control of its finances to an outside administrator last year. Last Friday, a Lake Superior Court judge ruled that the financial administrator will continue to handle the church's finances until at least September.

Church pastors report having taken "significant salary reductions" in order to cut costs, and the church touts its "lengthy list of charitable endeavors," according to the Times. MortgageOrb.com notes the case in its thorough article on when churches face foreclosure.

CT recently reported on the significant rise in church foreclosures, and noted the bankruptcy filed by one Las Vegas church after it stopped paying its mortgage. Recently, CT also noted how tough economic conditions are forcing one black-owned bank to foreclose on African-American churches.

CT has also reported on the ECCU, noting how the institution grew amid the economic recession.

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Posted:February 27, 2013 at 11:48AM
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