South Arlington church to give up property, move out

06/03/2014 10:24 AM

06/03/2014 10:41 AM

High Point Church in south Arlington will hold its last service at that location Sunday and walk away from its 107-acre campus rather than fight a foreclosure proceeding posted against the property.

“We have decided that it’s in our best interest to give them what they are demanding instead of engaging in some sort of ongoing battle for an unknown period of time, possibly years,” the Rev. Gary Simons, High Point’s pastor, said in a statement Tuesday. “On Sunday, June 8th, the church will completely vacate the Arlington campus, hosting its final service and closing its doors.”

The property, at the northwest corner of Interstate 20 and Texas 360 and including 423,000 square feet of building space, was scheduled to be sold Tuesday on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse in a foreclosure auction by the church’s lender, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union. The credit union posted the property for foreclosure, saying the church defaulted on a $31.5 million mortgage.

In the statement, Simons said the church’s attorney on Monday tried to give the property deed to ECCU’s Dallas lawyer in lieu of foreclosure, but the lawyer refused to accept it, saying the lender was going through with the foreclosure auction.

A deed in lieu of foreclosure conveys all interest in a property to the lender to satisfy a loan in default and avoid a foreclosure proceeding.

“It would be a tremendous waste of time and kingdom resources to fight, in the court system, this immorality,” Simons said in the statement. “It may be true that they have a legal right to do what they are doing. But it’s how they’ve done it, in our view, that’s immoral.”

On Tuesday, Sharon Sjostrom, an attorney with Blalock & Williams in Dallas who was scheduled to conduct the auction for ECCU, said it would not take place but declined to comment further.

Jac La Tour, a spokesman for ECCU in Brea, Calif., said he could not comment on the foreclosure proceeding.

“We just have no comment in a situation like this,” La Tour said.

Donnie Ives, an associate pastor, said the church will also shutter its day-care center, which is serving about 62 children, but will seek another location for its 200-student High Point Preparatory Academy.

At the time of the foreclosure posting last month, Simons said the church was current on its payments and was trying to work “in good faith” with ECCU to renegotiate the loans and “to meet every demand made upon it by the ECCU,” which included selling the mineral rights. The church said it was also willing to sell some land.

Instead, the credit union called the note, the church said. The money was borrowed in 2008 and due in 2013, deed records show. The church has not said why it borrowed the money.

Simons said at the time of the posting and again Tuesday that ECCU employees told church leaders that ECCU’s revenue was down 50 percent from last year and that the credit union had laid off close to half its staff.

But according to the National Credit Union Administration, a federal regulator, ECCU’s net income doubled in 2013, to $5.1 million from $2.4 million in 2012. It reported 231 full-time employees, down 14 percent from 268 in 2012, its filings show.

The credit union earned $2.3 million in the first quarter of this year, up from $399,200 a year earlier, according to its latest regulatory filing.

High Point, a nondenominational congregation, bought the former Johnson & Johnson Medical complex at 2500 Arbrook Blvd. in 2002, paying $9.6 million, according to deed records. The church borrowed the money for the sale from ECCU but was released from that note in 2007 when it was paid, the records say.

Simons and his wife, April, founded the church in their home 14 years ago with 16 people. The church had a membership of about 3,200 when it acquired the property but now has about 2,500.

After Sunday’s 10 a.m. service, the church will leave the property and all the fixtures, furniture and equipment for liquidation, Simons said. His statement was not clear on whether the church will continue elsewhere.

The church, Simons said, “intends to wire transfer its remaining monetary assets to ECCU upon vacating the premises. The Church is wherever God’s people are. It’s not a place or a building. It’s not a specific name or a corporate entity. We are the people of God. We are the church and God’s work will continue.”

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