Crowded Out

London megachurch loses land to Olympics.

A flourishing London megachurch has lost its fight to remain at its current location, which has been earmarked for the 2012 Olympics.

Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) proposed the novel idea of building one of the three arenas planned for the Hackney area, if the church could occupy it after the Olympics. KICC, which claims to be the largest church in Western Europe, believed that its multimillion-pound offer could compete with the winning bid.

But after several months of negotiating with the London Development Agency (LDA) and the newly formed Olympic Delivery Authority, KICC learned in late April that its proposal had been rejected.

KICC pastor Matthew Ashimolowo told CT, "They said our proposal was a lofty idea that could not work because the basketball stadium would belong to the government, and its ownership could not be shared with a church."

KICC's 9.5-acre property includes a 4,000-seat auditorium. More than 12,000 people attend the church's three services every Sunday. Ashimolowo, a Nigerian immigrant, founded the church in September 1992 with 200 adults and 100 children. The church says that 46 nations are represented in its congregation.

Even before London learned it would host the Olympics, KICC faced an uphill struggle to keep its land. In 2003, Hackney officials denied the church permission to continue using the site for religious purposes. The decision was reaffirmed in 2004, but the church was given until November 2006 to vacate the site.

"KICC's struggle over the issue of relocation has resulted in a very disappointing outcome," said Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance. "My prayer is that out of this deep disappointment, God will show up and do something that surprises all ...

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