Crime & Courts

Wichita church's debts too much after foreclosure

A church filing for bankruptcy is almost unheard of, but it happened in Wichita last week.

The Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church filed for Chapter 11 reorganization Thursday in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court.

Clerks at the bankruptcy office in Wichita said they rarely, if ever, see a church file for bankruptcy.

Ed Nazar, who has practiced bankruptcy law for three decades, said Mount Zion's case is the first church he has handled. Nazar said the bankruptcy was prompted by a foreclosure filed against the church in state court.

Greater Mount Zion, 1201 S. Market, reported assets of $1.3 million and liabilities of $322,728, according to court records.

Most of the money Mount Zion says it owes is for its church building and land, which it says it owes $292,768 of its $1.1 million value. The church also reported owing $27,160 for vehicles, including two buses and a van.

The church listed a bank balance of $1,672 cash on hand and a credit card debt of $2,800 for Sam's Club.

George Johnson, the church's pastor who signed the filings, reported that Mount Zion's contributions had declined since 2008. The church received contributions of nearly $82,000 in 2008, then little more than $78,000 the following year.

The church received donations and tithes from members of about $19,000 in the first four months of this year.

Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment.

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