John Lancaster, rector of Saint George's Anglican Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, had started to lay the groundwork for a $250,000 capital campaign to construct a sanctuary. Instead, his congregation received an entire church—and parsonage—for free.
Saint George's formed in April 1997 with 64 members after splitting from the mainline Episcopal Church over issues of women's ordination and use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It is now part of the Anglican Church in America.
Initially congregants met in an orthodontist's office. The congregation started sharing space with Sunset Hills Christian Church last December.
Sunset Hills built the church that seats 160 in 1956, a result of a church split. The congregation at first had 120 attendees, but the number had dwindled to 13 by the time Randal Klocke became pastor in 1990. Although attendance grew to 45 at one point, it fell to 16 last November when the congregation withdrew from the Disciples of Christ because members felt the denomination had become too liberal in areas such as homosexuality.
Nevertheless, the church retained the title to the property. Klocke, who supplemented his pastor's salary as a pizza-delivery driver, felt the Lord telling him to give the facilities to Saint George's outright. The remaining attendees concurred, and the transfer took place in June at a joint service.
"It's a mindboggling act of generosity that really caught us dumbfounded," Lancaster says. "The most amazing thing is this happened between two divergent traditions."
"This was God's plan to bless them," Klocke says. "Sunset Hills Christian Church was not faithful with what the Lord had given."
The three acres are situated on prime real estate and valued at $750,000. Klocke earlier had been ordained a Southern Baptist and he is now director of counseling and outreach at Main Street Baptist Church in China Grove, North Carolina.
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