Grace Community United Church of Christ will close its doors this weekend, but the pastor who says his decision to publicly support gay-marriage rights unwittingly thrust it on a path toward financial ruin plans to find a new home for his small congregation.
He has faith that his flock will follow.
The Rev. Oliver White, 69, had hoped fundraising would keep the predominantly African-American church on St. Paul’s East Side open after a Seattle investor demanded full payment on a high-interest loan.
But after a well-publicized Internet campaign raised only about $56,000 of the $200,000 the church needs to pay off its debt, White has decided to call it quits. He will close Grace Community United and look for a new home elsewhere for what remains of his once-bountiful congregation.
“Mentally, we’re gone already,” White said Friday, June 29. “Physically, the building is just now holding our goods until we can pack them up. Our goal is to find a new home within 30 days.”
Negotiations with attorneys for real-estate investor Fenn Shrader and MS Properties of Seattle resulted in the offer of a possible deadline extension in recent weeks, allowing the church six more months to try to refinance the loan.
White considered the offer, then rejected it.
The church has spent too much time and money without making a dent in the principal of what’s become a never-ending treadmill of financial debt, he said.
“In so many words, I told the investor to take a hike,”
White said. “I don’t feel bad. I feel free.”
But Shrader, who told the Pioneer Press in recent weeks that he had a possible new tenant, gets the church. A receptionist at MS Properties in Seattle said Shrader was not available for comment Friday.
Church council President Frances Goodlow said she’s been a member of Grace Community United since it opened 22 years ago, and she feels White’s decision is probably for the best.
“I’m just stepping out on faith and hoping we’re doing the right thing,” she said.
The church has about
This article originally appeared on: http://www.twincities.com/stpaul/ci_20975779/pastor-whose-congregation-dwindled-after-supporting-gay-marriage