Orlando’s Oldest Black Church Marks 100-Year-Anniversary, Files For Bankruptcy

Carter Tabernacle (Carter Tabernacle)
Carter Tabernacle (Carter Tabernacle)

Orlando’s oldest black church has filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy even as it marks its 100th anniversary.

The bankruptcy is partly prompted by a $5.5 million foreclosure on the property and building for Carter Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 1 South Cottage Hill Road, on Orlando’s west side.

Update: The church is not closing and remains “strong and vibrant,” according to its bankruptcy attorney, Ryan Davis. “Carter Tabernacle remains optimistic that a consensual resolution may be reached with its lender and anticipates a swift exit from Chapter 11,” Davis said in an email.

According to court records, the church’s financial issues are tied to a 2001 mortgage for a $3.5 million loan, originally from Wachovia Bank. The church has paid over $3 million on the loan, but interest and penalties have also added up.

Attempts to reach Pastor James Morris were not successful.

When Wachovia failed, the loan was eventually picked up by American First Federal, which foreclosed on the church in 2014. The church building was built in 1976, with a sanctuary capacity of 1,500.

The church traces its origins to the Callahan area near the historic Parramore neighborhood. A group of black families from other parts of Florida, the South and the Caribbean, who made up Orlando’s first black community, were the founders.

While defending the foreclosure case, the church’s attorneys alleged that the lenders had attempted to jack up the interest and fees on the loan – amounting to criminal usury. But Orange County Circuit Court judge Lisa T. Munyon eventually ruled that AFF had only charged usurious rates on the loan for 72 days, due to an accounting error, and that the lender had corrected the mistake.

The judge entered a final judgment in favor of AFF on August 23. A foreclosure sale of the church was set for Wednesday (Sept. 28), but the bankruptcy filing late Monday automatically halts the sale.

SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel – Paul Brinkmann