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 • Georgia • United States

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soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. gimmeabrekplez

    Seems like many of the folks who say have faith or waiting on a miracle are not building owners or landlords. How many of you can survive over 8 months of no rent. Do you just chalk up the non payment of rent as a donation. The bank will not be so generous to you in recalling the loan. No matter who they are, and no matter what type of service they provide, I'm sure the bible advocates paying your debts. Plain and simple...pay or leave. And to the parents of the 55 kids there...better start a fund raiser. How many of them have stepped up with money...or are they waiting on a miracle too.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  2. OneWhoLovesGod

    Wow Reality thats was intersting too bad you never once quoted from the actual Bible, might have carried more weight, you did however quote Professor Crossan, I assume you mean John Dominic Crossan, a guy who said "we know what Jesus said and we know what he meant to say so we are just gonna rewrite the Bible to reflect what we believe he meant to say" – It is absolutly imperritive that before you critize the Bible or God you read it and Know for sure what he said then you can can make a informed decision of will you accept him or not, it pains me to hear folks who have no idea what the Bible really says tell me whats wrong with it.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Steve (the real one)

    what breaks my heart is one church is doing this to another. Yes, They are enti-tled to the rent money yes, I get that. All of this is being played out in public and the cause of Christ is being made to look silly! That is my issue!

    To those (and you know who you are) who will say the cause of Christ is silly. Don't Bother!

    February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Anglican

      God have mercy. Christ have mercy. God have mercy.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Anglican,, but you know he wont. you will hear nothing from God...better get on with Plan D

      February 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  4. adfdf

    It's easy to help with others money. Pay the landlord.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Anglican

      adfdf. Who do you help, my brother? The poor need bread and blankets which cost money.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  5. pete

    Regarless if what you believe or don't believe, this church is offering a service to its community that is invaluable. It is from these lower socioeconomic areas where we have violence, broken families, drugs, etc. Some people need a little help to try and make things better for themselves and their children.

    Some on this blog have said, make them pay a little. I'm assuming you've never been on welfare or foodstamps. I'm assuming you've never been poor enough to have to decide if you want to eat or if you want lights on in the house. Its a very bad place to be in. I could almost guarantee that people would pay but it is so nice to know you don't have to. One less thing you have to worry about.

    February 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  6. JohnQuest

    This is so sad; another one bites the dust.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  7. adfdf

    Poor landlord. He/She must have huge headache and loss. What irresponsible bunch.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  8. Reality

    Saving Christians like Pastor Mitchell, HeavenSent, the "only" Steve, CW and Mark from "Muddy" River from the Big Resurrection Con:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    "Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  9. Bruce

    Too bad this minister doesn't have a junior college-aged son who plays quarterback he could sell to the highest bidder at some SEC school.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:30 am |
    • Carla

      This church recieves donations from me, and I got an email, which was issuesd as a public statement, stating the facts surroundinging this eviction.

      Seems not all of the facts were given on behalf of the church, so they did this to strighten things out. These writers at CNN need to check ALL the facts before presenting a story that is not giving all the facts.

      I would post it, but I am not sure if I can do that on this blog?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  10. doctore0

    So, per se the children were used as virtual hostages, sorta like that made up Je$u$ fella.
    Help the poor, shun the church

    February 17, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  11. roy d powers

    hope this masn finds the help he needs i will say a prayer for him and the children god bless.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  12. Reality

    Just another house of "worthless worship". Use the building for after-school care if needed but praying to god there is senseless and a waste of time and money.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality, tis better we build our houses upon His rock, then build a house like yours consisting of sand ...............

      February 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  13. God is BS!

    Wake up folks. God doesn't exist. You have to help yourselves - apply for welfare; get back on your feet; and get out of there!

    February 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      GiBS, oh yes, as if His truth doesn't apply to those that do not believe because they have no eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to feel. Therefore, because of you we should then throw out all His positive teachings, wisdom, compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness, power of All, Alpha, Omega, lessons learned by parents to parent and not only love and cherish their children but feed them, clothe them, school them, put a roof over their homes, not to mention keep fuel in the burner to ensure their homes are warm, etc., partners to love, cherish, honor, respect, co-workers to respect others, employers to do righteousness towards their employees and customers, partners, etc. I can go on and on how society was built so that folks like you GiBS can continue breathing free and fresh air as our men and women in uniform do everything to ensure you your freedom to even write what you blog.

      I'll just end this with clueless?


      SNAP OUT OF IT !

      February 17, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  14. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    One down.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      How do we spell E-V-I-L ?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Evolved DNA

      heaven sent.. G_O_D?

      February 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Andy

    It's a shame that a church, working to be a loving part of its community, is facing such hardship. I hope that they can find a way to continue to serve their community.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Andy.. I know.. lets get the RCC to donate money they have lots, if not maybe their bank can lend them money at a good rate. With so many religions and each one believes they have the truth,, someone has to be wrong.. maybe this is one and god is sending a message.. how would you know other wise?

      February 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • HeavenSent


      February 17, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  16. TheRationale

    Well prayer certainly won't bring about a miracle...

    While I would love to see churches keep vanishing, the child care they provide definitely outweighs the religion.

    February 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Ceri

      You sound more than just a little arrogant.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Andy

      If more churches served their communities as God instructs them to, the world would be a much better place. We don't need less churches, we need more active churches that follow what the word of God says.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • HeavenSent



      February 17, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • PeterVN

      Andy, if more people did explicitly what the "word of god" per that wicked, evil book, the Christian bible, says, we'd have even more violent crime problems. For example, guidances to do assault, murder, human and animal sacrifices all appear in the bible. Amazing that anyone still puts any stock in that book of horrors.

      Pasta be upon you.

      Carbo Diem.

      February 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  17. David Johnson


    I suggest they send one of the televangelists some seed faith money! Yes sir, plant a seed. That's what I did. I sent Benny Hinn $100.00., 6 months ago. So far, I haven't received anything for this donation, but I have faith that I will soon.

    These are men of god! Would they lie to us?


    February 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      David Johnson, you just answered what your seed money did for you ... that you now have faith.

      February 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • hilltop

      Thanks for helping out Benny. This ministry is going to be just fine. Their hearts are in the right place. However, the pastor should hold the beneficiaries more accountable for the success of the work.

      February 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • McDD_Driver

      I used to get excited seeing the TV Guide listed "Benny Hinn", but I was mistaking it for "Benny Hill".

      February 17, 2011 at 6:33 am |
    • NoGodHere

      HA HA HA HA Benny Hinn? Are you kidding me? That con-artist? You just wasted $100.00 my friend.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  18. hilltop

    A philosophy of ministry revamping is in order, and ownership of responsibility needs to be shared by the parents of the children who are benefitting from the daycare and afterschool program. Poverty does not absolve us from common courtesy.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      hilltop, you probably missed the first sentence in the article above. I'm copying it for your review ...especially the last two words that complete the sentence.

      "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."

      February 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • hilltop

      My heart goes out to the ministry, but 55 children in the daycare, an afterschool program, and a congregation does not sound like a lack of interest or participation, but of ownership. It is a mistake to assume the poor are incapable of honor.

      February 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  19. HotAirAce

    Gotta love it, one christian cult evicting another christian cult, fighting over money and terms of a lease...

    I really do feel for the children as they don't deserve the upheaval.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Andy

      It seems unfair to call a group of people trying to help and serve their community a 'cult' if you have never attended their church or spoken to their members. If you have personally met them, spoken with them and understood what they believe and share and you still feel that they are a 'cult' then you have earned the right to speak freely your opinion of them.

      (seemingly) uninformed slander is not nice.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Ken

      Someone calling a group a cult, especially one he knows nothing about, usually says more about that person than the group that is being described.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      All religions are cults:

      cult (klt)
      1. a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
      b. The followers of such a religion or sect.
      2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
      3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
      4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
      5. a. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
      b. The object of such devotion.
      6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

      February 17, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • BuddyKowalsk

      @Andy by definition religion is a cult.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:17 am |
    • djblackice


      ummm.....by the definition you listed all religions are not cults, all cults are religious or part of a religion

      Reread this: A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
      b. The followers of such a religion or sect."

      The definition specifically states that the religion or sect GENERALLY considered to be extremist or false...followers living in an unconventional manner. The people or general public would decide if the religion is extremist. Since most people would not consider what this church does as extremist it wouldn't be considered a cult. Would the parents in this poor neighborhood willingly expose their children and care to those who live in an unconventional manner....I don't think so.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      Why did you stop reading after 1a? Several of the other definitions support my assertion that all religions are cults.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  20. David Johnson

    This is sad. I hope a miracle occurs.


    February 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • God is BS!

      There is no miracle. Must help yourselves – apply for welfare; get back on your feet; and get out of there!

      February 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • CW

      @ David Johnson,

      Glad to see you "hope for a miracle"....prayers do work for all non-believers.

      God Bless.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Anglican

      He is, and his work is as noble as I have seen. He is a good man. Peace.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • PeterVN

      No miracle has ever been proven to have occurred. No prayer has ever been proven to have been answered. Don't expect money to fall from the sky this time either.

      Religion has long exploited the poor and the ignorant. If things go well, the preacher-screacher tenant will be evicted and the building will be put to better use than spreading religious propaganda.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.