The Orlando Sentinel reports…
“One of Central Florida’s best-known religious properties, the former forum for televangelist Benny Hinn’s sermons, will hit the auction block Tuesday.
It’s the result of a multimillion-dollar foreclosure that displaced the property’s most recent congregation, that of pastor Clint Brown’s Faith World Center, records show.
Since last month, Brown, a flamboyant Pentecostal preacher and noted Christian recording artist, has been holding Sunday services at Wekiva High School’s auditorium. He also left behind the church’s name; his new endeavor is called Judah Church.
The foreclosure of the Faith World property on Forest City Road, which Brown purchased from Hinn in 2000, was set in motion by a lawsuit filed in September by Evangelical Christian Credit Union of California, one of several companies owed money by the church.
The suit alleged that Faith World had defaulted on its mortgage, on which it owed about $9.7 million. Orange Circuit Judge Lisa Munyon entered a final judgment June 2, setting the church and other Faith World properties for online auction next week.
“On behalf of the church, we’re not going to comment at this time,” Michele Diglio-Benkiran, an attorney who represented Faith World in the foreclosure case, said Thursday.
Brown did not return a reporter’s call to Judah Church. However, he has made reference to the situation during sermons at Wekiva High, several of which are available online.
“Can I tell you this morning? We’ve been through some pain,” Brown thundered in his first sermon at the high school June 8. “We’ve been abused. … We have been lied to. We have been taken advantage of.”
In a second sermon later that morning, he framed the unplanned relocation as the work of the devil.
“The enemy, the enemy tried to stop us, tried to hurt us,” he said.
The property was long the site of Hinn’s World Outreach Center. At the time, Hinn was one of the best-known television evangelists and faith healers, with sermons airing on stations affiliated with the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Originally from Iota, La., Brown came to Central Florida in 1993. He preached at the Orlando Garden Club in Loch Haven Park before being asked to leave during a dispute about rent payments, then moved from one rented location to another.
In 1999, Hinn announced he was moving World Outreach Center to Texas, and that Brown would take over the complex and merge with Hinn’s local congregation. Faith World bought the property the next year. By 2005, the church had a $11.25 million mortgage with Evangelical Christian Credit.
Brown’s personal finances were the subject of much discussion by that time, after a divorce and a lawsuit revealed details of his lifestyle, which included Rolex watches, Las Vegas shopping sprees and a 4,455-square-foot home in Alaqua Lakes, with a $7,000 monthly mortgage paid by Faith World.
As he did in sermons at Wekiva High last month, Brown suggested in 2005 that the scrutiny was based on persecution: “If they crucified Jesus, they’re going to talk about me.”
Much of Brown’s financial success was attributable to his music career; at the time, the preacher was an emerging Christian recording artist. His music-infused sermons had also attracted a 6,000-member congregation.
Brown was known for preaching prosperity gospel, a controversial doctrine that maintains God grants financial blessings, particularly to those who give generously to their church and Christian ministries.
In his first sermon at Wekiva High, Brown asked those in attendance for $50 “seed” donations: “You can sow a $100 seed for double, if you want.”
According to Evangelical Christian Credit’s lawsuit, filed in September, Faith World went into default “due to, among other things, its failure to timely make the scheduled monthly payments due on May 1, 2013, and each month thereafter.
The church had failed to meet a required $700,000 in cash liquidity by Dec. 31, 2011, and had taken on substantial additional debt, including more than $89,000 in automobile loans, the paperwork states.
Faith World also at times failed to pay its payroll taxes, according to court filings. Records show it was the subject of Internal Revenue Service liens for several tax periods from mid-2010 to the first quarter of 2012, totaling more than $200,000.
The property set for sale next week includes the church, a recording studio and a bookstore, according to the suit. Property-appraiser records identify five buildings on the property, also including a warehouse, a school and a multistory office. In a recent order, Munyon indicated the real estate was valued at about $6 million, and the county Property Appraiser’s Office puts the site at 27 acres.
Faith World’s closing appears to have been abrupt. One churchgoer commented in mid-June on the pastor’s online video-streaming site, “I went this morning to church and gates were closed. Why?”
Rafael Padilla, who had scheduled a June 28 celebration for his 40th anniversary at the church, said he was forced to find a new location when, “a couple weeks prior,” he was told Faith World was closed.
“We spoke to the event coordinator, and she said they had things come up, and they had to shut down the church, and they were moving,” Padilla said.
Members of Brown’s congregation were outspoken in their support for him during the 2005 controversy surrounding his finances, and it appears his flock has followed him to his new location. Videos of the Wekiva High sermons show few empty seats.
In his first sermon at the high school, Brown told his congregation they “won’t stay in this building forever.”
“I thank God for it, but this ain’t where we’re staying,” he said.”