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Atlanta church faces eviction
February 16th, 2011
05:06 PM ET

Atlanta church faces eviction

By John Murgatroyd, CNN

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) – Mark Anthony Mitchell is praying for a miracle.

Mitchell, pastor and founder of Atlanta’s Urban Foursquare Church, knows the day is coming soon when his congregation most likely will have to abandon its home in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Last week, officers from the county marshal’s department arrived at the church bearing an eviction notice. But because dozens of children were in the building as part of a preschool program, the church was spared being evicted on the spot.

“They wouldn’t evict us because of the children we have there,” Mitchell said. Instead, the church was told it needs to leave.

Mitchell’s congregation has been renting an abandoned church that has been for sale by the United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Conference.

The conference said Mitchell has not been able to pay rent for the last eight months.

The building houses a free, four-day-a-week preschool for about 55 3- to 5-year-old children from the Lakewood neighborhood, in addition to an after-school program.

“The day care and after-school programs that have operated from the Lakewood church facility are independent organizations that provide much needed services to the children and families of the community,” said Jamie Jenkins of the United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Conference. “Therefore we are working with them to find a way for them to continue their operation in this location.”

The programs have been a point of contention between the conference and Mitchell’s church. The conference says they are tenants brought in by Mitchell and therefore violate the terms of his lease.

Mitchell says he considers the day care to be part of his ministry. According to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitition, Mitchell said the day care program has never paid rent and the after-school program’s last rent payment was in August.

Mitchell has been advised that he and his church need to gather their belongings and vacate the premises. In addition to services, Bible studies and mentoring programs, Mitchell’s ministry feeds the neighborhood hungry twice a week.

“We have worked diligently for a mutually beneficial solution to this situation,” Jenkins said. “We regret that our relationship as landlord-tenant has ended in this manner.”

Mitchell said he hopes to find another location in Lakewood to continue to minister to the poor and plans to hold a fund-raiser in hopes of raising enough cash to relocate. Mitchell said the church was able to raise about $6,000 after CNN interviewed him in November, which helped him keep the lights and heat on through the winter.

“We’re still praying for a miracle,” he said. “This dramatizes the plight of the poor.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Courts • Faith Now • Georgia • United States

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soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. John

    I contacted the Bishop's office of the United Methodist North Georgia Conference, because the story was very concerning; however, their personal response which highlighted much of what Carla posted shows that this was a very one-sided report. I was pleased with the steps that they are taking to ensure that the services to this community continue. I suggest anyone concerned, as I was, that this was an inappropriate action on the part of building owners contact them directly, and I think it is clear that they are taking appropriate actions.

    March 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  2. Jimbob

    If its a black church,then yes it should go.

    February 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Carla

      Jimbob

      If its a black church,then yes it should go.

      Thats really ignorant, doncha think? I cannot believe the nerve of you. Your no JimBob...just another coward hiding behind his keyboard and monitor. Children are being fed, do you think thier color matters to anybody? Of course not!!
      I better go now, before you cause me to really sin..and tell you how I really feel about your bigoted ignorant self!

      February 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  3. robert b

    Hmm one less church is that supposed to be a bad thing

    February 19, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Read Carla's post. Looks like the church is going NO WHERE! Disappointed?

      February 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Carla

    Please see whole story posted

    February 18, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Thank you for the FULL story!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Carla

      Your most welcomed Steve.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  5. Carla

    Sorry for double post...was trying to get this one this page and the previous

    February 18, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  6. Carla

    Posting this to page one, as well as the next.

    Carla

    Ok People, there are two sides to every story. I am posting this email I got from this church (I donate there) , and it does say its a "public statement", so I assume its ok to post.

    This man has gone out of his way to help the pooor kids there that have nothing, including food. How anyone can put that down is beyond me! He is also trying to heloeple without jobs.

    Here it is: PUBLIC STATEMENT / CORRECTION TO ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST-I-TUTION FEBUARY 11, 2011 METRO SECTION NEWS ARTICLE: Atlanta Church Avoids Immediate Eviction by Shelia M. Poole

    For the record, I would like to respond to several items reported in the February 11, 2011; metro section of the Atlanta Journal Cons-t-itution en-ti-tled Atlanta church avoids immediate eviction by Shelia M. Poole. The specific quote in question contained in the article was, “In a statement, Jamie Jenkins, executive as-sistant to the bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC, said the church has not paid rent on the facility for the past eight month. Additionally, Rev. Mitchell and the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church have violated the terms of the lease by sub-leasing to other organizations and collecting rent from them.”

    Part I: The claims by James Jenkins, executive a=ssistant to the bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC that AUFC had not paid rent on the facility for the past 8 months were incorrect. Please print the corrections.

    Here are the facts:

    In July 2010, Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church (AUFC) located at 1766 Lakewood Ave began the process to formally buy the property at that location. During this approximate 3-month period no rent was paid.

    · On September 28, 2010, AUFC was notified by the UMC to vacate the building.

    · On October 7, 2010, AUFC received a dispossession notice from the Fulton County Marshalls giving AUFC until October 14, 2010 to answer why the church should not be evicted.

    · AUFC answer to the court as to why the church failed to pay past due rent and should not be evicted was: (1), AUFC were not given a 30-day notice and (2), according to our lease agreement the UMC had not kept the building in good repair.

    · During the Fulton County Magistrate Court, proceedings on October 14, 2010 the judge remanded the UMC and the AUFC / MARK ANTHONY MITCHELL to mediation to resolve their dispute.

    · Mediation failed and a formal counter-claim was filed by AUFC stating: “Plaintiff’s (UMC) Complaint or relief requested therein is barred because Plaintiff did not provide Defendant (AUFC) with a proper notice to vacate and/or notice of delinquency pursuant to the applicable lease and Georgia law.” In addition, “by failing to keep the Property in good repair pursuant to the express terms of the Lease, Plaintiff (UMC) has breached the terms of the lease.”

    · The officials of the UMC and Foursquare denominational officials held a discussion. My denomination advised me to drop the counter claim. I reluctantly agreed after initial talks with First United Methodist Church of Marietta began with the hope that a mission partnership could develop between us.

    · On February 10, 2011, I received a surprise final notice from the Fulton County Marshalls asking AUFC to vacate the building.

    · At the same time, we received the final notice to vacate the building we were in negotiations with the UMC to stay in the building.

    · Because of all the confusion, the UMC gave AUFC a key to remain in the building.

    Part II: As to the statement that ” Rev. Mitchell and the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church have violated the terms of the lease by sub-leasing to other organizations and collecting rent from them.” This statement is also false. Please print the corrections.

    Here are the facts.

    · We have resided as a Foursquare Church at 1766 for the past 3-years. The first year we subleased along with two additional churches. We split the lease and utility bills by thirds.

    · 14 months later the two churches left. Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church renegotiated a lease/ purchase contract with the UMC. The UMC changed the terms of the existing lease, raising the rate from $1,200 to $3,000 with a continuing option to buy the property.

    · We agreed to the new terms. Throughout May in anticipation of exercising the option to buy, we aggressively pursued potential tenets to primarily help us in our effort to buy the property.

    · After interviewing three potential tenets including, Cornerstone Academy Childcare Center, Albert T Mills Enrichment Center and the Busara Learning Center (after school program) we concluded that the viability and program focus of these tenants was a good fit for our acquisition plans.

    · We made every effort to acquire the property utilizing the record of accomplishments and financials of the potential tenants and the backing of the Foursquare Denomination, but were unable to close a deal.

    · At no time did the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church or I enter into a sub-lease relationship with any of these or any other tenants.

    Part III: Additional information is provided below for an accounting of the monies we have received:

    •The Busara Learning Center began their summer program in the month of June under the new terms of the existing lease with an informal agreement to pay $400 a month for June and July toward a potential sub-lease. Once public schools started in August the Busara after school program would begin paying Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church $700 a month.
    •A sub-lease was never provided because AUFC was not able to acquire the property or gain site control after July.
    •In anticipation of a sub- lease, the Busara Learning Center paid rent under their June informal agreement until September 2010. The total amount paid was $2,050. The money was used to pay utility bills.
    •The Albert T Mills Enrichment Center came to AUFC urgently seeking a home to reopen their enrichment center and church. They agreed to pay $1,300 a month if a sub-lease could be secured.
    •When negotiations to buy the property fell through, AUFC was not able to reestablish the ability to lease the property to anyone.
    •AUFC did accept a provision deposit from Albert T. Mills of $800 in anticipation of regaining site control.
    •Later, that deposit was used with Ms. Rosa Arnold, (Founder and Executive Director of Albert T. Mills’s Enrichment Center) approval, to help fund a Foursquare summer camp experience for 36 Lakewood youth.
    •Other funds paid by the Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center were expended in an effort to support operational activities for the enrichment center and to share utility costs of all “Holdover” tenants.
    •Under AUFC's informal agreement, the Busara Learning Center paid rent from June – September 2010. The Albert T Mills Enrichment Center has not paid any rent to Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church since their arrival in August of 2010.

    Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church has shared a video with you on YouTube:
    Jesus 4 Justice A program of AUFC designed to get people off the street into jobs and transform lives.
    Breaking News Jesus 4 Justice
    Justice is feeding the hungry, jobs and giving back
    Mark Anthony Mitchell Sr.
    Senior Pastor/ Executive Director

    Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church

    Jesus 4 Justice Poor People's Campaign 501©3

    1766 Lakewood Ave

    Atlanta, Georgia 30315

    Phone 770 256 3899

    Fax 678 324 0478

    http://www.foursquare.org

    http://www.saveurbanchurch.com

    February 18, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  7. Carla

    Ok People, there are two sides to every story. I am posting this email I got from this church (I donate there) , and it does say its a "public statement", so I assume its ok to post.

    This man has gone out of his way to help the pooor kids there that have nothing, including food. How anyone can put that down is beyond me! He is also trying to heloeple without jobs.

    Here it is: PUBLIC STATEMENT / CORRECTION TO ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST-I-TUTION FEBUARY 11, 2011 METRO SECTION NEWS ARTICLE: Atlanta Church Avoids Immediate Eviction by Shelia M. Poole

    For the record, I would like to respond to several items reported in the February 11, 2011; metro section of the Atlanta Journal Cons-t-itution en-ti-tled Atlanta church avoids immediate eviction by Shelia M. Poole. The specific quote in question contained in the article was, “In a statement, Jamie Jenkins, executive as-sistant to the bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC, said the church has not paid rent on the facility for the past eight month. Additionally, Rev. Mitchell and the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church have violated the terms of the lease by sub-leasing to other organizations and collecting rent from them.”

    Part I: The claims by James Jenkins, executive a=ssistant to the bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC that AUFC had not paid rent on the facility for the past 8 months were incorrect. Please print the corrections.

    Here are the facts:

    In July 2010, Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church (AUFC) located at 1766 Lakewood Ave began the process to formally buy the property at that location. During this approximate 3-month period no rent was paid.

    · On September 28, 2010, AUFC was notified by the UMC to vacate the building.

    · On October 7, 2010, AUFC received a dispossession notice from the Fulton County Marshalls giving AUFC until October 14, 2010 to answer why the church should not be evicted.

    · AUFC answer to the court as to why the church failed to pay past due rent and should not be evicted was: (1), AUFC were not given a 30-day notice and (2), according to our lease agreement the UMC had not kept the building in good repair.

    · During the Fulton County Magistrate Court, proceedings on October 14, 2010 the judge remanded the UMC and the AUFC / MARK ANTHONY MITCHELL to mediation to resolve their dispute.

    · Mediation failed and a formal counter-claim was filed by AUFC stating: “Plaintiff’s (UMC) Complaint or relief requested therein is barred because Plaintiff did not provide Defendant (AUFC) with a proper notice to vacate and/or notice of delinquency pursuant to the applicable lease and Georgia law.” In addition, “by failing to keep the Property in good repair pursuant to the express terms of the Lease, Plaintiff (UMC) has breached the terms of the lease.”

    · The officials of the UMC and Foursquare denominational officials held a discussion. My denomination advised me to drop the counter claim. I reluctantly agreed after initial talks with First United Methodist Church of Marietta began with the hope that a mission partnership could develop between us.

    · On February 10, 2011, I received a surprise final notice from the Fulton County Marshalls asking AUFC to vacate the building.

    · At the same time, we received the final notice to vacate the building we were in negotiations with the UMC to stay in the building.

    · Because of all the confusion, the UMC gave AUFC a key to remain in the building.

    Part II: As to the statement that ” Rev. Mitchell and the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church have violated the terms of the lease by sub-leasing to other organizations and collecting rent from them.” This statement is also false. Please print the corrections.

    Here are the facts.

    · We have resided as a Foursquare Church at 1766 for the past 3-years. The first year we subleased along with two additional churches. We split the lease and utility bills by thirds.

    · 14 months later the two churches left. Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church renegotiated a lease/ purchase contract with the UMC. The UMC changed the terms of the existing lease, raising the rate from $1,200 to $3,000 with a continuing option to buy the property.

    · We agreed to the new terms. Throughout May in anticipation of exercising the option to buy, we aggressively pursued potential tenets to primarily help us in our effort to buy the property.

    · After interviewing three potential tenets including, Cornerstone Academy Childcare Center, Albert T Mills Enrichment Center and the Busara Learning Center (after school program) we concluded that the viability and program focus of these tenants was a good fit for our acquisition plans.

    · We made every effort to acquire the property utilizing the record of accomplishments and financials of the potential tenants and the backing of the Foursquare Denomination, but were unable to close a deal.

    · At no time did the Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church or I enter into a sub-lease relationship with any of these or any other tenants.

    Part III: Additional information is provided below for an accounting of the monies we have received:

    •The Busara Learning Center began their summer program in the month of June under the new terms of the existing lease with an informal agreement to pay $400 a month for June and July toward a potential sub-lease. Once public schools started in August the Busara after school program would begin paying Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church $700 a month.
    •A sub-lease was never provided because AUFC was not able to acquire the property or gain site control after July.
    •In anticipation of a sub- lease, the Busara Learning Center paid rent under their June informal agreement until September 2010. The total amount paid was $2,050. The money was used to pay utility bills.
    •The Albert T Mills Enrichment Center came to AUFC urgently seeking a home to reopen their enrichment center and church. They agreed to pay $1,300 a month if a sub-lease could be secured.
    •When negotiations to buy the property fell through, AUFC was not able to reestablish the ability to lease the property to anyone.
    •AUFC did accept a provision deposit from Albert T. Mills of $800 in anticipation of regaining site control.
    •Later, that deposit was used with Ms. Rosa Arnold, (Founder and Executive Director of Albert T. Mills’s Enrichment Center) approval, to help fund a Foursquare summer camp experience for 36 Lakewood youth.
    •Other funds paid by the Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center were expended in an effort to support operational activities for the enrichment center and to share utility costs of all “Holdover” tenants.
    •Under AUFC's informal agreement, the Busara Learning Center paid rent from June – September 2010. The Albert T Mills Enrichment Center has not paid any rent to Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church since their arrival in August of 2010.

    Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church has shared a video with you on YouTube:
    Jesus 4 Justice A program of AUFC designed to get people off the street into jobs and transform lives.
    Breaking News Jesus 4 Justice
    Justice is feeding the hungry, jobs and giving back
    Mark Anthony Mitchell Sr.
    Senior Pastor/ Executive Director

    Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church

    Jesus 4 Justice Poor People's Campaign 501©3

    1766 Lakewood Ave

    Atlanta, Georgia 30315

    Phone 770 256 3899

    Fax 678 324 0478

    http://www.foursquare.org

    http://www.saveurbanchurch.com

    http://tinyurl.com/TheAtlantaUrbanChurch

    February 18, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  8. Learn Math - Bad Business!

    If you give everything away for free, you will not be able to pay rent. Simple. What he is doing is forcing his realty company to subsidize do his charity work...essentially saying, "Well, I'm giving away my services, so you should cover the mortgage and just let me stay here for free." That's NOT right. What this pastor should do immediately is collect a nominal fee..say, $5 a week from each child in the daycare program, which would be $1,100 a month – and $2 to $3 for the afterschool program. Then he should learn how to run a charity and solicit donations. Problem solved. Honor your contract, sir.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:04 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.