Raleigh church files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Abundant Life Church of God in Christ grapples with more than $4 million in debts

jsmialek@newsobserver.comDecember 7, 2012 

An East Raleigh church with a congregation of more than a thousand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday with the goal of restructuring more than $4 million in debts.

Abundant Life Church of God in Christ, which consists of a sanctuary and a Family Life Center, has a $3.8 million balance on its mortgage with Foundation Capital Resources of Springfield, Mo., according to the filing. In all, it owes $4.1 million in liabilities, the filing states.

Pastor Stenneth E. Powell, who organized Abundant Life in May 1990, said the church’s family center – which offers aerobics, basketball and weight training equipment, a technology center and a professional recording studio, and hosts services including a day care – has been a major expense since it opened about a decade ago.

The church managed to support the center for a time, and in 2007 it took out a $3.4 million loan with Foundation Capital Resources that Powell said was meant to help “take care of responsibilities” related to the complex. But the recession drove church income down, and Abundant Life could pay only the interest on its loans, Powell said. The organization’s seven-member Board of Trustees decided to file bankruptcy in an effort to restructure its debt, he said.

“The church has been carrying it all of these years, and we had to make a drastic decision,” Powell said.

The property is being contracted out to Diversified Resources for Better Living, he said. The nonprofit was incorporated in 1997 and has revenues and expenses of just over $300,000, according to its most recent federal filings. Powell is described as the church’s chief executive officer in the filings.

Powell said he expects congregation members to donate enough to cover the entire $3.8 million loan balance within the next month. He said the organization is just buying time with the bankruptcy filing.

The church’s income, which includes donations, is down 31 percent this year compared to 2010, when it raised $1.54 million, according to its bankruptcy filing. In 2011, the church had income of $1.36 million.

Powell makes $161,438 a year from the church, and his wife, Beverly Powell, makes $32,445, according to the bankruptcy filing. The couple’s sons, Joshua Powell and Stenneth Powell Jr., make $6,783 and $26,050, plus $1,560 in monthly rent since April, respectively.

Powell said his salary is set where it is because he must cover health insurance and work-related expenses, including airfare. He also said that when the church was starting, he sold off his car and donated much of his own money to fund the organization.

Abundant Life’s buildings and property are valued at $7 million, according to the filing. Abundant Life’s 5.15-acre property at 4400 Old Poole Road was used to secure the 2007 loan, according to Wake County property records.

Smialek: 919-829-4954

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