Finances part of church arson investigation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Finances part of church arson investigation

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January 3, 2008

Albany -- The South Albany Church vandalized and set on fire Monday has been experiencing financial difficulty.

 Part of the church property was advertised to be auctioned Wednesday because of failure to pay its mortgages. But the church pastor says they have cleared up those financial problems, and the debt had nothing to do with what he continues to call a hate crime.

"This is the sanctuary, what's left of it." Metropolitan Baptist Church leaders look over the damages to their Church. The sanctuary is charred.  Metropolitan Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dr. Joseph Howard said "it's a disaster, tragic. But we look forward to putting it back together."

The investigation of the break in and arson has brought the Church's financial difficulties into question. Wednesday several parcels of land the Church owns were to be sold at public auction on the Courthouse steps by three lenders sharing two mortgages for $128,000.

The law firm representing the lenders say they stopped that sale because of title difficulties. The church pastor says they have cleared up those money problems, and that is all he will say about the church finances.  Howard said "there are no problems about that, and that's why I will not talk about that."

The church was ransacked by whoever broke in Monday morning. Windows and doors are broken throughout the offices and school classrooms. Tables overturned, computers and TV's smashed, but church leaders say nothing was stolen.  Howard said "we did not have anything missing. I think it's very unusual, and that should categorize it as a hate crime."

 For four years the church has been locked in legal battles with neighborhood groups over the church's construction of low cost housing on Willie Pitts Road. Howard admits the legal expenses caused them to fall behind in some payments, but says the church mortgages are now up to date.

 Friday they start the clean up.  Howard said "we are going to rebuild, maintain our mortgage, and maintain our ministry."

Church leaders are negotiating with other Albany churches to find a new home while they rebuild.

Investigators say they have talked with one of the people seen near the Church Monday morning, but he refused to cooperate.

The state is offering up a ten thousand dollar reward for information in this church arson.

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