FORECLOSED: Not Just a problem for Homeowners, Churches now at alarming rates

church foreclosures rising at Alarming Rate

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Higher Ground Empowerment Center is a small church in the heart of Atlanta’s Vine City, the neighborhood Martin Luther King, Jr. once called home from 1965 to 1968.

Dexter Johnson grew up in the historic church on Spencer Street. It is the only church he has ever regularly attended, He became its pastor in 1994.

“God has blessed me with a wonderful group of people who love God, love ministry, and love their pastor,” Johnson recently told CBN News.

Weathering The Storms
Higher Ground actually began in 1903 as Mount Gilead Baptist Church. But in 2009, the pastor said God moved him and his congregation to change the name to Higher Ground.

The new name marked the church’s rise from ruin after a 2008 tornado knocked down its steeple, ripped off its roof, and left the congregation without a sanctuary for more than a year.

“It shook the foundation of our church,” Johnson recalled.

But now, a legal storm is threatening to take away that renovated building.

Higher Ground saw its membership decline in the 20 months it was displaced. Giving also decreased as some congregants lost their jobs in the economic downturn. The property value of the church building also dropped, leaving members with a $1 million mortgage for a building valued at much less.

“Originally, we had a $1.1 million loan. We have negotiated down to $600,000. They want their property,” Johnson explained. “They want us out. And there is no more negotiating with the bank. They want us out now.”

Higher Ground still occupies the building as its lawyers appeal the church’s case in Fulton County Superior Court.

Johnson continues to pray for a future for the 108-year-old church.

“One hundred and eight years of history. We don’t want to just see it disappear, be lost in foreclosure. We’ve been standing on God’s Word. We are not going anywhere. We are planted on higher ground,” he said.

The matter will play out in court in the next 60 to 90 days. It will take a $600,000 miracle to keep the building open.

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Efrem Graham

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