Frequently Asked Questions
Q: WHAT CAUSED THIS SITUATION FOR THE CHURCH?
In 2019, the Federal Government through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against a local business claiming that business had defrauded numerous investors. As part of that lawsuit, the SEC had a Receiver (SEC Receiver) appointed to recoup monies the business had paid out to others. The SEC Receiver demanded $780,165 from Messiah that had been donated by this business over a 10-year period.
Q: IS MESSIAH ACCUSED OF WRONGDOING?
No. Messiah did not do anything wrong and is not accused of wrongdoing.
Q: SINCE MESSIAH IS A CHARITY, ISN’T IT PROTECTED FROM THIS TYPE OF CLAW BACK OF FUNDS?
No. The SEC Receiver’s lawsuit is under Illinois law which allows for the claw back of donations to charities based on the accused misdeeds of the donor. The same type of lawsuit can be brought against any non-profit organization in Illinois. Illinois law offers no protection and does not limit the number of years that can be included. The SEC, along with other Goliaths, could go after many others, now or in the future. No charity is safe!
Q: ARE ANY OTHER ILLINOIS NONPROFITS AFFECTED BY THIS LAWSUIT?
Yes, other Illinois nonprofits were named in the same civil lawsuit with Messiah. It is understood that all of them settled with the SEC Receiver. Messiah had the largest amount from among these other nonprofits and could not pay the amount requested without forcing the church to close.
Q: HAS THERE BEEN A DECISION IN THE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE FAMILY BUSINESS?
Yes. There has been a guilty decision in the criminal case which is being appealed by the family. There will also be a countersuit to recover damages caused by the SEC’s Receiver upon freezing, neglecting, and preventing investors from using the websites associated with the business.
Q: WOULD THE EVENTUAL OUTCOME OF THAT CRIMINAL CASE HAVE AFFECTED MESSIAH'S CIVIL CASE?
No. Messiah's civil case was separate and was not affected by the outcome of the criminal case. There is a lower burden of proof in a civil case which makes it difficult for a charity to fight the current laws for clawing back funds that have been given by a frozen business.
Q. WAS MESSIAH LUTHERAN CHURCH AN INSIDER AS INSINUATED BY THE SEC LAWYERS? SHOULD MESSIAH HAVE KNOWN WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS OR KNOWN BETTER THAN TO ACCEPT THE OFFERINGS?
No, the church was not an insider. Like most non-profits Messiah receives gifts in good faith, they take careful precautions that not even the pastors know who gives or how much they give. However, in the future, they will review and make a determination on whether to accept gifts wired from a business. They will also consult with any member family that gives more than 10% of an annual budget in any given year. If anyone had a due diligence to investigate the financial state of the business, it was the business's investors, not Messiah Lutheran Church or other charities.
Q. DOES THE LEADERSHIP AND MEMBERSHIP OF MESSIAH EMPATHIZE WITH THE INVESTORS WHO LOST MONEY?
Of course. Messiah actively sought to return funds but could not agree with the Receiver on an amount that would not euthanize the church and its ministry. It would be the hope of the church to give more than the legal fees absorbed by the Receiver and actually help ease the suffering of investors. The membership of the church understands and prays for the plight of the investors.
Q: SO, WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING FOR THESE LAST TWO YEARS? DID MESSIAH TRY TO SETTLE WITH THE SEC RECEIVER?
Yes, Messiah tried to reach a settlement that it could afford to pay. The SEC Receiver has rejected multiple settlement offers put forth by Messiah on the basis that, even if Messiah did not have the money to pay the judgment sought, a judgment could be enforced against Messiah’s real estate. You read that correctly, the SEC Receiver’s position was not to care if Messiah lost its home - if Messiah’s congregation was left without a place to worship.
Q: DID MESSIAH TRY TO GET A LOAN TO PAY THE SEC RECEIVER?
Yes, in the process of negotiations, Messiah demonstrated it had requested a loan from 17 different financial institutions without success. For various reasons, financial institutions do not look favorably on giving loans to churches, and Messiah was also burdened by seeking a loan when the impact of Covid had reduced donations made to Messiah. Again, the SEC Receiver did not care.
Q: DID MESSIAH TRY ANY OTHER OPTIONS?
Yes, Messiah asked for a long-term payment option. The SEC Receiver said no. The SEC Receiver rejected all offers.
Q: DID THE SEC RECEIVER DEMAND SETTLEMENT? WHAT ARE THE TERMS?
Yes, the SEC Receiver has demanded settlement on the following terms from Messiah:
- A judgment was entered against Messiah in the amount of $487,000.
- $187,000 of the amount is to be paid NOW, the remaining $300,00 is to be paid by November 15, 2023.
- If the $300,000 is not paid by November 15th judgment amount will be increased to $587,000 and the SEC’s
Receiver will be free to enforce the judgment.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF THE JUDGEMENT IS ENFORCED?
Enforcement of the judgment will likely lead to Messiah’s bank accounts being frozen thereby essentially putting Messiah out of business since it will be unable to pay its staff or bills.
Q: WILL MESSIAH’S BUILDING BE IMPACTED IF THE JUDGEMENT IS ENFORCED?
Enforcement of the judgement will also likely lead to a forced sale of Messiah’s real estate. Again, the ability to enforce a judgment against the real estate has been the SEC Receiver’s reason for rejecting prior settlement offers – the SEC Receiver does not care if Messiah is left without a home in which to worship.
Q: DID MESSIAH HAVE ANY OTHER OPTIONS?
No. Messiah was out of options. As outlined, this is a modern-day battle of David versus Goliath. Messiah has accepted the settlement demanded by the SEC Receiver because to do otherwise could lead to a greater judgment and take up more resources to get there.
Q: DOES MESSIAH NEED TO RAISE THE ENTIRE JUDGEMENT AMOUNT OF $487,000?
No. Messiah has the ability to pay $187,000 now but needs to raise the remaining $300,000 by November 15th. Messiah is taking the leap of faith in believing the additional $300,000 can be raised by November 15, 2023.
Q: WHAT IS THE PLAN TO RAISE THE BALANCE OF $300,000 BY NOVEMBER 15TH?
Messiah is fundraising, and we are helping them through this nonprofit website. They believe having this judgement against the church gives them an impactful story to tell – David vs. Goliath. They are telling their story to the community and beyond through media, radio, and social media and by involving local leaders. They will be sharing their story with local churches and through Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and as far as they can to request prayers and potentially obtain funds. Most importantly, they are relying on God and asking Him to move mightily to save their church.
Q. HOW MUCH OF THE MONEY GIVEN BY THE FAMILY BUSINESS WENT TOWARDS THE NEW FAMILY LIFE CENTER THAT MESSIAH RECENTLY BUILT?
None of the monies given by the family business were used to build the new building. The building fund still had over $177,300 remaining, which happened to be the amount the family business donated to the building fund. It is this money, along with a small amount of additional funds that will make up the initial payment of $187,000 that is to be paid immediately to the SEC Receiver.
Q: WHY DOES MESSIAH THINK THE COMMUNITY WILL HELP IT RAISE THE FUNDS?
Messiah relied on local churches when they first built their building on the corner of Houbolt and Jefferson many years ago when area churches donated to help build the sanctuary. Since then, God has been faithful to Messiah through its community to allow it to expand and grow. Messiah has been able to share its blessings by partnering with many community organizations such as the YMCA, Morning Star Mission, and Daybreak Shelter to name a few.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CHURCH IF THEY CANNOT RAISE $300,000 BY NOVEMBER 15TH?
Per the agreement with the SEC Receiver, if the remaining $300,000 is not paid by November 15th the judgment amount will be increased to $587,000 and the SEC’s Receiver will be free to enforce the judgment, as described above.
Q: HOW IS MONEY DONATED THROUGH THIS WEBSITE GOING TO BE USED TO SUPPORT MESSIAH?
Monies raised through SAVEMESSIAH.org plan to be used as such:
1. Satisfy Messiah’s judgment
2. Reimburse Messiah for legal fees and other expenses incurred due to the civil lawsuit
3. If funds fall short to satisfy the judgment, support Messiah as needed during a very difficult time
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF MONIES ARE RAISED ABOVE THE JUDGMENT AND LAWSUIT EXPENSES INCURRED BY MESSIAH?
Monies raised over and above the judgment and lawsuit expenses of Messiah will be used to support the community for the Glory of God.
Q: HOW IS FUNDRAISING HAPPENING? WILL CHURCH MEMBERS AND THE COMMUNITY RECEIVE UPDATES?
Yes, updates will be provided frequently. Follow this website and the Facebook page to find tools such as proforma emails, FAQs and other materials that can be shared with friends, acquaintances and loved ones to share the story. This website contains links to how the church arrived at this point, what the community can do to help and why it should matter to the community that Messiah Lutheran Church remains on the corner of Houbolt and Jefferson Streets.
Q: WHEN I GIVE ON THIS WEBSITE, IS THE MONEY GOING DIRECTLY TO THE CHURCH?
No. This website, SaveMessiah.org is a separate nonprofit that is helping Messiah raise funds in the community to help satisfy the judgment and support Messiah Lutheran Church.
Q: IS MY DONATION TAX DEDUCTIBLE?
Yes, Save Messiah is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MONEY I DONATE IF THE CHURCH DOES NOT RAISE THE $300,000 NEEDED? WILL IT GET REFUNDED?
In the event that the $300,000 is not raised by November 15th, all the money that has been raised will be used to support Messiah Lutheran Church during a period of what will no doubt be a very challenging time. At that point, it is believed that the funds of Messiah will likely be frozen leaving the Church with the inability to pay any of its staff or its regular bills. The money raised can then be used for payment of the bills that would normally be paid by funds in the Church’s bank accounts. It is also possible that, if the total $300,000 is not raised, the Church will be able to use amounts from other funds to bridge what would hopefully be a narrow gap. If short, funds donated would not be refundable because they will be used for the charitable purpose of supporting Messiah Lutheran Church.
Q. WHAT ARE THE CHURCH’S PRIORITIES AS THEY FACE THIS SITUATION?
To Glorify God throughout the process and --
Keep their congregation together as one church family;
Keep their church building, if possible;
Continue to do ministry with their current staff and community benevolence partners.