Besting a local developer, a Midlothian church is now the frontrunner to score a portfolio of Manchester real estate, including the 44,000-square-foot sanctuary of Richmond Christian Center, a congregation that’s been in bankruptcy limbo for nearly four years.
The trustee overseeing Richmond Christian Center’s Chapter 11 case on Friday filed a motion to sell the church’s Manchester real estate holdings to Midlothian-based United Nations Church International for $2.9 million.
UNCI, according to bankruptcy filings, would sell off its current home 3 miles west at 5200 Midlothian Turnpike and move its 700-member congregation to RCC’s main building at 214 Cowardin Ave.
UNCI has until Dec. 15 to close on both deals and must submit a $200,000 deposit on the RCC properties this week.
The buyer has been holding services in the RCC building since September and the two congregations have been in talks of a merger, according to filings.
Should the deal close, UNCI will have outbid Genesis Properties, a local developer that was the other buyer in talks with the bankruptcy trustee in recent weeks.
Converted from a car dealership, the Cowardin sanctuary is the centerpiece of RCC’s surrounding real estate holdings – mostly empty commercial and residential lots and small commercial buildings, all totaling about 5 acres with a combined assessed value of $4 million.
Those properties serve as collateral on a loan from Foundation Capital Resources, the lender and main creditor whose renewed efforts to foreclose on the RCC holdings were prompted by the congregation missing revenue marks and falling out of compliance with its court-approved bankruptcy reorganization plan.
A sale and merger of the churches likely would be the final chapter in RCC’s nearly four-year trudge through bankruptcy.
A congregation that once boasted mega-church status, RCC’s troubles date back to at least 2013, when FCR first threatened to foreclose after the loan went into default. Then-pastor Stephen Parson Sr., who founded the church out of his home in the 1980s, put the church into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 22, 2013.
Parson has since become a controversial figure within the church and throughout its bankruptcy proceedings.
He was exiled as a leader of the church as a condition of the bankruptcy plan, a condition FCR was adamant about. According to the agreed-upon terms of the plan, as long as FCR remains the holder of the loan to RCC, Parson cannot be involved in the church.
He has since fought to regain control, arguing that the church’s original articles of incorporation name him as lifetime pastor. He’s filed arguments in bankruptcy court to have his claims formally considered.
In a last-ditch effort at a bankruptcy court hearing last week, Parson argued he is still the rightful owner of RCC’s real estate. Judge Keith Phillips advised Parson to seek legal counsel on the matter.
A hearing is set for Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. for Judge Phillips to approve the sale motion.