Following the Money Trail
New Song-Salt Lake, Inc., is a Utah non-profit corporation, incorporated on August 29, 1997. It owns a 47' by 165' building, located at 57 East 700 South in downtown Salt Lake City.
This property was purchased on November 4, 1997, by Presbyterian Investors Fund, Inc. (PIF). PIF is the successor to the Investors Fund for Building and Development, which was owned by the Presbyterian Church in America. (The denomination divested itself of IFBD in 1994 in the midst of controversy regarding the denominational legal audit. Numerous profit and non-profit corporations, some of whose officers were denominational staffers, were domiciled at the denominational office building [1852 Century Place, Atlanta]).
The Salt Lake City property was bought from a Mr. Barry Owen Benedict. Immediately after purchasing the building, PIF conveyed it to New Song-Salt Lake, Inc. Two trust deeds (mortgages) were attached to the property, both with PIF as the holder of the mortgage. The first was for $471,500.00, and the second was for $50,500.00. Two people signed for New Song-Salt Lake: John P. Landry, President of the corporation, and Robert F. Aubrey, Secretary.
In mid-February of this year, the maturity date of the Promissory Note with Trust Deed was changed from December 1, 2000 to December 1, 1998.
At a called meeting of Northern California Presbytery in May 1997, the Presbytery approved the application of New Song-Salt Lake for an $80,000.00 loan from the Mission to North America Committee (MNA). Whenever a presbytery approves an application for a loan from MNA for a mission church, the presbytery assumes responsibility for repayment of the loan should the mission work be dissolved or the loan be defaulted on.
Complaint was lodged against Northern California's action by Ruling Elder Bob Vincent. TE Lewis Ruff, the Western Coordinator for MNA, vigorously defended the approval of the loan application. Presbytery denied the complaint, but it did ask MNA that the Presbytery be removed as guarantor of the loan. Stated Clerk Art Schick has tried several times to receive confirmation of Presbytery being relieved of responsibility in this matter. However, he stated that as of May 28, 1998, he still had not heard from the denominational committee.
Currently, New Song-Salt Lake, a mission church of Northern California Presbytery, has no church members. If the interest rate is 7% and the loans are for 30 years, the debt service on the $602,000.00 which has been loaned to the corporation would be about $50,000.00 annually.
A telephone call was placed to Mr. Russ Olmo, Chairman of Northern California's MNA Committee and member of the oversight commission for New Song-Salt Lake, seeking information on the status of the corporation and who owns it. Mr. Olmo declined comment.
On behalf of the MNA Committee, Mr. Fred Marsh responded to an inquiry about whether MNA loans money to mission churches which have no members. He wrote: "We supply loans to mission churches meeting the conditions of Item 1 of the [denominational] guidelines." Item 1 of the guidelines states that the church or mission church must be in good standing in a presbytery.
Mr. Marsh also wrote that with regard to information
about New Song-Salt Lake's budget or information on the application
form, "we will provide these materials only by formal request
of the church courts, or to such parties as have a direct interest
in the situation. In the latter case, we will provide this information
only with the permission of Northern California Presbytery or
the governing body for New Song Salt Lake." [Members of
a corporation presumably have a direct interest in determining
the fiscal responsibility of those who control the finances.
An unwillingness to release information unilaterally to members
of the corporation-in this case, Presbyterian Church in America
(A Corporation)-about loans made by the corporation, may constitute
a violation of corporate law.-Ed.]
Mr. Art Schick, Stated Clerk
1616 Glenfield Drive, San Jose, CA 95125