Officers of the Church of the Open Door said Friday that they have received a quirky, mysterious offer for the "Jesus Saves" building on Hope Street totaling $16 million in cash. Or is it really $23 million?
Therein lies the quirk. As for mystery, the question is: Just exactly who is trying to buy the landmark church? Church of the Open Door officials--mindful of their bitter, long-running feud with flamboyant TV evangelist Gene Scott--say they are thus very skeptical of the offer.
The proposal, advanced by a holding company headed by A. Cal Rossi for buyers as yet unidentified, proposes an unusual three-way deal with $16 million for the Church of the Open Door and $7 million for Scott's Wescott Christian Center.
The deal is billed as a compromise to resolve litigation between the two churches. Scott has gone to court in trying to recoup $7 million he paid in 1986 toward a $23-million purchase of the the downtown church, an attempt that ended in default. But instead of resolving the dispute, the bid has already become yet another point of contention.
"Obviously, we have no interest because it is not even close to our price," Church of the Open Door Pastor Dale Wolery said. Furthermore, "We believe at this point it is a Scott-backed offer. . . . We would rather go down the tubes than deal with him."
Neither Wolery nor Mark Travis, an aide to Scott, said they know whom Rossi is representing. Efforts to contact Rossi, a San Francisco hotelier, were unsuccessful.
"They want to be greedy," Travis said of the Church of the Open Door. He noted that the church and its partner on the property, Biola Hotels, have already received $7 million in the abortive sale to Wescott.
Although Travis maintained that Scott is not a party to Rossi's offer, he said the preacher would use would use the $7 million to restore the "Jesus Saves" building as an "ecumenical center."
Wolery says his church has already run up $500,000 in legal bills fighting Scott, while suffering the TV preacher's continuing verbal abuse in national broadcasts. A campaign led by Scott prompted the City Council's recent decision to declare the church a historic monument, thus preventing demolition for up to a year and preempting a $23-million sale to a development firm.
The council's action, Wolery said, forced the church to lay off eight full-time employees and one part-time.
Wolery said he believes that the offer will be used by Scott's followers in an upcoming Cultural Heritage Commission meeting to demonstrate that there is a financially viable means of preserving the church.