The state's largest religious denomination will begin offering low-interest loans to member churches for construction, acquisition or expansion of properties as early as spring.
The “church loan program” of the N.C. Baptist Foundation, an agency of the 1.2 million- member Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, would give churches another option in a tight credit market.
The plan will be unveiled today at the convention's annual meeting, which opened Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“The timing could not have been better,” said Monica Vaughan of Greensboro, a member of the foundation's board of directors. “We know there are churches out there who will benefit from this.”
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The foundation, which financially supports Baptist churches, institutions, and missions, has been working on the proposal for several years. The loans are patterned after offerings by Baptist agencies in Florida, Oklahoma and California, and would require a credit application.
“For years now we've been getting lots of calls from churches asking if we had a church loan program, so the need is out there,” said Clay Warf, the foundation's executive director. “There are also some really good reasons for churches to borrow from us – we're a nonprofit and not looking to make a profit, though we do expect the loan program to pay for itself.”
The majority of the more than 4,000 eligible churches have been vested members of the association for decades, and each year collectively contribute millions toward its mission programs and projects, including college scholarships and money for disaster relief.
“I hope that we set it up so all loans will be secured by whatever property is involved – that is the ‘good steward' part of my mind,” said Hal Koger, a foundation member from McLeansville who is also on the steering committee that will come up with actual policies.
“The faith part of my mind says that these are good people and we don't have to worry about it. However, there are always unfortunate circumstances, so we would secure all the loans.”
These loans also would not be packaged and resold, Koger said.
“You can cut through the red tape and give loans to churches efficiently and simply without all of that,” Koger said.
But the program will be as much about sowing as reaping. Churches can invest money in the loan fund by buying “certificates of participation.”