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Kansas Church Puts Faith in Stock Offering

September 07, 2000|Reuters

Praise the Lord, and pray for a big IPO debut?

That may be what some members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., will be doing: The church has filed to go public in what's believed to be the first stock offering from a religious organization.

Led by a dynamic 36-year-old pastor, the 10-year-old "mega-church" has attracted more than 8,000 members to become one of the fastest-growing congregations in the nation.

Now, the church is setting up a for-profit company and looking for $16 million to invest in real estate. The new company, COR Development, is aimed at church members but is open to any investor.

The COR Development stock offering, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and may occur later this month, would be used to fund the purchase of 47 acres of land adjacent to the church, on which offices and retail stores would be built and leased.

The church's pastor, Adam Hamilton, said the decision to do a stock offering came about after he realized the church needed more land to support its growth but could not afford to pay the $250,000-an-acre asking price for the available real estate.

"We said we want to be a 'whatever it takes' kind of church. The public offering is part of the 'whatever it takes,' " he said.

A host of risks awaits investors for the offering, the price range of which isn't set yet. There could be tax complications and artificially inflated costs related to the donation of part of the land.

Dr. Bill Crawford, an area optometrist who joined the church a year ago, said he plans to put money into the deal "not necessarily because it's a good investment. . . . but because I think it's good for the church."

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