Agape Fellowship may sell land to pay sexual misconduct claims

ARLINGTON — Agape Christian Fellowship, faced with lawsuits and owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors and women who sued the church and its pastor for sexual misconduct, could satisfy its creditors by selling land for $1 million.

The once-thriving church and ministry has struggled to regain its footing since former pastor Terry Hornbuckle was convicted of raping a woman who attended services there. Church leaders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

“We’ve worked diligently to the best of our knowledge to work to rapidly exit bankruptcy,” said Davor Rukavina, a Dallas bankruptcy lawyer hired by the church.

A hearing to discuss the sale is scheduled in U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn’s court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. If the court approves the sale, Rukavina will file a reorganization plan for the creditors’ attorneys to approve.

The sale of the 16 acres, which also includes oil and gas leases from Chesapeake Energy, should give the church enough cash to satisfy settlements from three lawsuits brought by the rape victims, Rukavina said. He declined to discuss the sale in detail but said he or church officials would be willing to talk after Wednesday’s hearing.

The church’s finances appear to be improving as members continue to pay their tithes, according to a financial sheet filed with the bankruptcy court.

During a recent Sunday, about 300 church members, mostly women, jumped, danced and shouted praises as gospel music was piped through the large speakers above the stage inside the sanctuary of the 42,000-square-foot facility.

The church at 2350 E. Mayfield Road is tax-exempt. In the filing, the church says it owes the city of Arlington, the Arlington school district and Tarrant County more than $47,000 in back taxes and penalties for 16 undeveloped acres next to the church that is valued at about $1 million.

The church fired Hornbuckle in September 2006. Renee Hornbuckle was installed as the church’s new pastor this past weekend.

Renee Hornbuckle, who holds a business degree and a master’s degree in biblical studies, is paid $15,000 a month according to court documents. Offerings from July and August are more than $60,000 a month.

Agape Christian Fellowship was originally started as Victory Temple Bible Church in a former Dairy Queen building in Irving in the mid-1980s. The church was renamed Agape Christian Fellowship in 1992. The church once had 2,500 members but dropped to about 300 before the trial.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday October 2, 2007.
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