BEAVERTON, ORE. – The founder of a financially troubled Beaverton megachurch plans to file for personal bankruptcy to handle at least $1 million in debts.
Mary Manin Morrissey resigned her position as lead pastor of the Living Enrichment Center earlier this week, saying she is unable to repay loans to church members. The church also plans to file for bankruptcy, officials told The Oregonian newspaper.
The announcement comes as state and federal agencies investigate what happened to more than $5 million Morrissey and the church borrowed from congregants over the years. Another $1 million to $2 million went to New Thought Broadcasting, a media and Internet startup formed by Mary Morrissey’s husband, Edward.
“I am deeply saddened and heartbroken by all of the hardship and hurt that the church community as a whole and many of you individually have experienced,” Morrissey said in a letter to the congregation. “It is obvious that I must do some deep reflection and grow in my own spiritual capacity.”
The Living Enrichment Center, which boasts 3,000 members, once occupied a 94,500-square-foot building in Wilsonville. But the owner, Hawaii-based Watamull Properties, repossessed the land and building in May.
The congregation moved last month to the Valley Theater in Beaverton to save money.
The church will cease to exist once it files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, said Charles Markley, a Portland attorney representing the organization. A group from the Living Enrichment Center is attempting to form a successor church.
Markley said the church’s debts will exceed $6 million, far more than its remaining assets.
Church official Marty McCall said several church members have filed lawsuits against the church, seeking repayments of their loans.
On Tuesday, a disabled woman identified as “Jane Doe” filed suit, claiming that Morrissey and other church officials had promised her 7 percent interest on a $246,650 loan – a statement she said later proved false.
The church has already been ordered to pay $46,000 to a congregant, $12,000 of which came from Morrissey personally, McCall said.
The Living Enrichment Center is aligned with the New Thought movement, stemming from mid-19th century U.S. philosophers who emphasized the power of thought.
The church uses the example of Jesus Christ as a central tenet, but also refers to religious figures such as Buddha and Krishna.