Nonprofit accused of hostile takeover of Grover Beach Church

May 8, 2019

CM&A District Representative Ray Van Gilst and treasurer Valerie Wilson speaking at May 5 meeting

By KAREN VELIE

Members of Hillside Church of Grover Beach will be conducting services Sunday. But it won’t be in the 67-year-old church. The locks have been changed and signs taken down in a dispute between some church members and the Christian & Missionary Alliance. [Cal Coast Times]

After learning last fall that the Hillside Church of Grover Beach was being sold to build a homeless facility, John Fleming and the other congregants were dumbfounded. After all, the parish owned the property free and clear.

Then on May 5, representatives of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) asked parishioners to attend a meeting where they explained that the parish and all its assets now belonged to them. C&MA District Representative Ray Van Gilst and local treasurer Valerie Wilson, said they were shutting down the church because parish membership had fallen.

Wilson said 17 church members voted to transfer ownership in 2014 to the C&MA, a group know for closing churches and selling off the assets with none of the proceeds going to the parishioners who funded the churches. However, the independent Baptist church’s bylaws require a vote of the Board of Trustees to dispose of the property.

During the May 5 meeting, several attendees disagreed saying they were on the board at the time and unaware of the alleged meeting. They also challenged the process of allowing non-board members to vote to transfer ownership of the church to the C&MA in violation of the bylaws.

Wilson disagreed, saying none of the attendees at Sunday’s meeting had been on the board, nor were they members of the church. When asked who in attendance had voted, several people who attended the meeting with Wilson raised their hands.

The Grover Beach church after C&MA removed the Hillside Church signs

Three attendees at Sunday’s meeting, including John Fleming, said they were members of the board and were not informed of the alleged meeting.

About 10 years ago, Ron Kennedy became an assistant pastor of the church. A few years later, Kennedy moved into the primary pastor position and brought Valerie Wilson and her husband Ryan Wilson into the parish. Kennedy then assigned Valerie Wilson to handle the very limited accounting required at the small congregation, Fleming said.

On March, 22, 2016, Kennedy changed the name from the Hillside Church of Grover Beach to the Hillside Church of Grover Beach of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, according to a state filing. Originally, the church was called Bethel Baptist Church of Grover City. In 2012, the Board of Trustees changed the name to Hillside Church of Grover Beach.

In a July, 10, 2018, state filing, Kennedy lists himself as chief executive officer, Shani De Mille as secretary, and Valerie Wilson as chief financial officer.

Even though they changed the name, the Internal Revenue Service still knew the organization as Bethel Baptist Church. The church continued to use the original Hillside Church tax identification number rather than the C&MA’s tax identification number.

On May 6, Fleming filed a grant deed on the church property listing him as the president of the church and taking it back to its original name of Bethel Baptist Church, according to the deed.

In 2017, with Wilson and Di Mille already listed as signers, the church added Fleming as a signer on the checking account held at Bank of the Sierra, as a backup, using the tax identification originally assigned to Bethel Baptist Church in 1962. In addition, in a state filing regarding donations received in 2017, the church was still using the California tax identification number for Bethel Baptist Church and not C&MA’s tax identification.

In an attempt to save the church by showing a failure to abide by church bylaws, Fleming poured over banking records and found multiple checks for questionable payments to Kennedy after he was no longer the pastor, and large credit card payments to a card associated with a dress shop, all signed by either Wilson or De Mille.

“There is no valid reasons for many of these expenses,” Fleming said.

In October, after making a deal to sell the property to the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, Kennedy and Wilson unhooked and drove away with a sound system worth about $200,000, Fleming said. He has asked the Grover Beach Police Department to investigate the two for theft, but officers said it was a civil issue, Fleming said.

During the May 5 meeting, parishioners voiced concerns about Wilson benefiting personally for her vote to place the church in the hands of the C&MA. Wilson, a real estate agent, is representing the C&MA in the sale of the church property to the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition which is planning to transform the property into a homeless services office and transitional housing.

“You have a vested interest in the church going under,” Warren Ness, a parishioner at the church, told Wilson. “We should not be closing churches. Shame on you.”

Wilson said there is no conflict of interest because she had been transparent in her role as the seller’s agent.

At the end of the May 5 meeting, Van Gilst, the C&MA official, told the more than 100 attendees that they were no longer permitted to hold services in the Grover Beach church.

“The church is in escrow, we cannot change it,” Van Gilst said. “As a congregation, this is your last Sunday here.”

On the evening of May 5, the C&MA changed the locks and removed the Hillside Church signs from the front of the building.

Even so, Fleming and a group of parishioners continue to claim the church remains under the original nonprofit board and that they will mount a legal fight to protect their parish.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., Fleming plans to hold a service outside the church, located at 1935 Newport Avenue.

“We will hold services in other locations until we are successful in saving God’s house,” Fleming said.


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nazbol gang

Welcome to America. Money > God


Oooh woe is me we didn’t have a membership team… sooo we had to join a corrupt non profit corporation and sell off all the assets.


ActaNonVerba

I don’t know anything about the financial details or if the sanctuary space is suitable, but the Catholic Church has no church in Grover Beach. Those wanting the edifice to remain a Christian church should consider contacting the Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey to see if there is any interest? It worked in Orange County, CA…


AmericaTheFree

Thank your god that the catholic pedophilia church doesn’t have a “sanctuary” in Grover Beach, right?

What worked in Orange County? The 72 catholic priests accused of child sexual abuse? Yea, that’s working alright, working our young ones as far away from your god as possible, thank god! (a)

Yea, let’s get the Monterey diocese involved, they only have 30 or so priests accused of child sexual abuse (b).

I guess that’s just more “Yada, yada, yada…” , right? I’d rather be correctly characterized as a “warrior for social justice” then a defender of an institution that has been molesting our kids going back hundreds of years! (c)

Knowing this, as you do Acta’, and having the unmitigated gall to even suggest another community should invite them in and around their kids, is pure criminally negligent poppycock if not criminal conspiracy (IMHO)!


(a) https://www.ocregister.com/2018/12/06/72-archdiocese-of-orange-priests-accused-of-alleged-sexual-misconduct-in-new-report

(b) https://www.ksbw.com/article/diocese-of-monterey-names-30-clergymen-credibly-accused-of-sexual-misconduct/25728511

(c) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10538712.2018.1491916?journalCode=wcsa20


nazbol gang

The Church isn’t the source of pedophilia in this world. Also, you need to capitalize God. You’re welcome.


obispan

No different from the non-profit Tri-Counties Blood Bank selling to the for-profit Vitalent to enrich those in charge to the tune of $4,000,000 of blood money. Think about this the next time you hear their appeals for charitable blood contributions for the general benefit of the community. Vitalent is a 100% for-profit operation with ridiculously high-paid executives and staff yet they pretend to be a charity to which you should donate to for free.


kayaknut

One big difference is Vitalent has not tried to force their donation center into a residential neighborhood against complete opposition to those living around them. The last time I donated their office was in a commercial building, what an idea you think.


PaulJones

This church was paid for by its parishioners. This is not public property that anyone other than the parishioners should have a right to.


Also, the church members allowed the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition to use the church for a warming center. While the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition paid a small amount, it was not near enough to cover the increase in electric bills. That money came from Sunday tithing by members.


How does 5 Cities repay the parishioners for their kindness, by attempting to help the C&MA snatch their church. For those who have supported 5 Cities in the past, I think it is time to stop.


kayaknut

Agreed, I have stopped all financial or material support to 5CHC.


NorthCountyLady

The Christian and Missionary Alliance stole Templeton Community Church away from its congregation and founding Pastor John Kaiser seven years ago. Pastor Kaiser built a congregation from 5 family members to over 200 over the course of 20 years. During the ‘great recession’ many of the congregants lost their jobs or had their incomes vastly reduced. Giving dropped and the church fell behind on its mortgage payments. CMA held the mortgage on the loan and implemented a hostile take over by coercing board members and the church secretary to turn against their Pastor. It was a sad, misguided and evil use of financial power. The church is renamed Life Community Church and is still controlled by CMA. Two years ago, the church secretary Clair Easton was found to have embezzled tens of thousands of dollars over the course of many years including when it was still Templeton Community Church.The CMA and the same board members chose not to prosecute as it would ” hurt the churches image” but did report it to the IRS as a loss. It is indeed shameful that people in their misguided efforts to promote Christianity, instead turn against the very teachings that Jesus exemplifies. To the CMA, the board members and Ms. Easton, know that you were not successful if harming the lives of those you hurt. Instead Jesus showed up and blessed Pastor Kaiser, his family and the those who put their faith in Christ not men.


Haveaniceday

NorthCountyLady,

Please check your facts….

Clair Eastin IS being prosecuted for embezzling thousands of dollars from Life Community Church, you can check the court calendar at the San Luis Obispo Courthouse to find out when her next court date is. She was in court this past week.


NorthCountyLady

Thank you for the update. I’m very glad to hear that someone along the way changed their minds and decided to prosecute . It is apparent to those who know her, have spoken to her and who heard her speak to the congregation confessing her sin, that there is little repentance, humility or remorse on her part. “I’m getting help for my problem” and “but others have done so much worse” are not the words of one who is truly contrite. She hurt so many people who trusted her. The justice of God always runs its course and now the justice of the land will too.


NorthCountyLady

P.S. I checked the SLO court calendar and could not find her next court date nor the disposition of her appearance last week. Also checked all local news media and could find no reports of her being charged. Do you have any other suggestions as to how I can check that she is being prosecuted? I will however take your word for it anyway, Thank you. :)


Haveaniceday

The court calendar is posted for 5 days at a time, so you need to check it often. There is no place to look and see what took place at her previous proceedings. You may be able to call the D.A’s office and get info, I am not sure, they may also tell you when she is due back in court.

I agree, she has hurt many people who trusted her, and I hope she is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I have been told that this can be a lengthy process.

This story has not been in the media, not sure why.


mark3_25

This article includes several inaccuracies. Let’s list them:


1) The Christian & Missionary Alliance (CM&A) is a well-respected evangelical denomination that has existed for over 130 years. Current members include world renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias. They are known for being good stewards of their resources. Regrettably, church buildings attended by people that can no longer financially support the staff, utility and maintenance costs are sometimes sold. By California law, all proceeds from church sales are put into planting new churches or in supporting missionary work elsewhere. They cannot “pocket” the money and they are not lawfully allowed to give the proceeds to the original donors…most of whom are deceased in this situation. It makes sense to me to plant churches where attendees are supporting the church costs financially.

2) People who attend board meetings are not necessarily board members. They must be elected by church members. Not all who attend a church have gone through the process of formally accepting the beliefs, precepts and bylaws of the church to become voting members.

3) The votes of all 17 members of Bethel Baptist in 2014 included the “Board of Trustees” and the vote was 17-0 in favor of the transfer to CM&A. So, logically, all Board members supported the transfer.

4) About 10 years ago, Ron Kennedy became the Senior Pastor (i.e., primary pastor) of Bethel Baptist at the request of the church members. Ron Kennedy never served as an assistant pastor of the church.

5) Ron Kennedy continued as Senior Pastor responsible for the church, utilities, security, etc. until it became a “church in transition” on January 1st of this year. As such, he was due a salary.

6) The church failed only because attendees failed to support the costs of the church.

7) The property of the church (i.e., the building, the sound system, chairs, tables, etc.) are the property of the church denomination. As such, any transfer of the property is the privilege of the denomination. If a denomination determines that a sound system would be better used to support a growing congregation elsewhere, that seems to me their prerogative.


Casting shame on Ron Kennedy, an honest man of God, and Valerie Wilson a longtime member, worship leader and financial supporter of this church is shameful in itself. Valerie (nor Ron) were part of the denomination’s decision in whether the property would be sold. She is a licensed real estate professional who often volunteered her work for the church when church finances were too low to support the costs. It seems only appropriate that she, rather than some stranger to the church, should represent the sellers.


I also suggest John review the laudable giving records of these folks he is accusing of financial improprieties.


Shame on those who could not and did not support the finances of this church and now want to cast aspersions upon the good people who tried to help it thrive for over nine years. Those who claim the name of God while whining about house values and casting out the weakest among us (the homeless) should remember that taking the name of God in vain is a serious sin.


Stunned

So the same people who helped run it into the ground by getting rid of viable ministries (thus showing declining ministry) aren’t benefitting by the sale? Did your Senior Pastor not get handed a new ministry just for making it happen? None of them even attended when they helped say “it’s just not working out”.


Not THAT is shameful!


Stunned

mark3_25- “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” Mark 3:25.


Great way to hide your intentions behind your user name. They certainly divided the house.


nazbol gang

Being a Church has nothing to do with the “law”. We’re talking about Churches, gatherings of Christian Men, not simple legal documents.


Ricky2

Scamming in the name of the Lord. How divine!


mark3_25

No scamming. State law prevents profiting from church sales. It seems appropriate to transfer the resources from a congregation who has been unable to financially support this location to seeding new churches and missionary work elsewhere. Hoarding a large facility for a small number of attendees is wasteful.


nazbol gang

What does state law have to do with morality? You make it sound like if something is legal it is ok to do


shishkabob141

The church is a one of the neighbors in this neighborhood. Good neighbors watch out for their fellow neighbors, it’s the neighborly thing to do. The focus should be to help the congregation of this church re-establish itself, spruce it up and return it to the proud and thriving place of worship it once was.

The church gobbling vultures known as CMA must be stopped, and the individuals responsible for crimes against congregations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.


mark3_25

Surprisingly, none of these “good neighbors” showed up to support the church in the nine years it was struggling to pay the bills. No one offered to paint the building. No one offered to pave the parking lot.


1) The Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) is a well-respected evangelical denomination that has existed for over 130 years. Current members include world renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias. They are known for being good stewards of their resources. Regrettably, church buildings attended by people that can no longer financially support the staff, utility and maintenance costs are sometimes sold. By California law, all proceeds from church sales are put into planting new churches or in supporting missionary work elsewhere. They cannot “pocket” the money and they are not lawfully allowed to give the proceeds to the original donors…most of whom are deceased in this situation. It makes sense to me to plant churches where attendees are supporting the church costs financially.


AmericaTheFree

Hey, “House Divided” (Mark 3:25)!

Did you, or CMA, offer financial support or alternatives to support this church before buying it out from underneath them? Probably not…

Also, do you “plant churches” in your mission fields (most of which are in third world poor as hell countries) that the attendees are supporting financially? Again, probably not…

Hypocrisy is what divides any house, but especially those houses that espouse to be a “light unto the world” and instead spread their darkness through fear mongering and chit just like this!


AmericaTheFree

Just one more observation “House Divided”…


Your “World Famous” Ravi Zacharias has a net worth of almost $8 million dollars, CMA has assets totaling almost $280 million dollars; between the two of them don’t you think they, Mr. Zacharias and CMA, could have propped up that church until your self described “financially secure attendees” could be persuaded to fill their pews? They, Mr. Zacharias and CMA, could also bestow all of their considerable knowledge on how to attract those type of parishioners, as it appears they have the expertise, right?


Better yet, and more importantly, why don’t you just follow your god’s word and ask him for the money and financially correct parishioners (Matt. 7:7) so your brother church could go on preaching his word? That surely couldn’t fail, right?


Nope! Better yet, have no faith in your god, or his word, ignore the fact the means to help them is in the bank accounts of Mr. Zacharias and CMA, and just buy them out!


Yea, you bet, it’s a “House Divided”, especially in those houses you so strongly defend and hold on high.


JordanJ

Look online, they are not respected, they are vultures. They get a church in their name and then sell it with the money going to their group. I bet the heads of this group’s salaries are insane.


ActaNonVerba

Those Grover and AG residents that oppose the conversion of this church to a homeless center should strongly get behind those trying to reclaim Bethel Baptist Church! Sounds like a lawsuit is in order!


mark3_25

Yes, because that’s what good Christians do. They shun the weakest among us to keep a large facility for a small group of people that could easily attend one of the other 150+ churches in Five Cities.

(That’s sarcasm, by the way)


“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” -Ps82:4


AmericaTheFree

“Those Grover and AG residents that oppose the conversion of this church to a homeless center…”

If you’re a christian opposing a homeless shelter you’re in direct conflict with what your supposed maker commands you to do (Leviticus 25:35-36, Isaiah 58:6-8 & Matthew 25:34-40), which of course puts the vast majority of churches, and their congregations, out there on the wrong side of their god, right?

While I don’t approve of what happened here, if in fact it happened as reported, churches aren’t doing their fare share in addressing the houseless; their worship centers should be full of those that the above verses define every frickin’ night, but instead they sit empty every frickin’ night!

Talking the talk without walking the walk is why the christian religion is as hollow and worthless as the book they follow.


ActaNonVerba

Poppycock…


Like it or not, a church is every bit as worthy as a homeless shelter — more so in all actuality. Spiritual nourishment is every bit as important as filling one’s stomach. In today’s social justice/non-faith world, that’s difficult for some to comprehend.


Control of the property should remain in the hands of those who sacrificed to create it for the greater glory of God and for their own spiritual nourishment and that of others.


AmericaTheFree

How the hell can you feed the sprit of someone when their belly is empty and you ignore the fact that your book demands that you feed them physically? One coincides with the other, one is no more important than the other, and that’s where your “body”, the church, fails miserably and why christianity is pure poppycock…

One other thing, the “church” (ekklesiaas), as you call it, has nothing to do with a building, it has to do with the body of christ, or “the called out ones” or “assembly” which in turn means those who call themselves christians, not some damn inanimate building that only glorifies itself (and those who attend it once a week while leaving it empty the rest of the time), and is as far from the glory of the god you speak of.

No, todays “churches” aren’t as worthy as a homeless shelter, not even close! As todays christians would rather leave those structures empty then follow the commandment of it’s supposed savior and take care of those who are physically hungry.


ActaNonVerba

You clearly don’t get it. Spiritual nourishment is extremely important. The social justice warriors of today focus on material needs to the exclusion of God.


Just look what that has done to this world… SHAME on people like you!


AmericaTheFree

Ahh, when all else fails and you can’t address the issue attack the messenger…

Shame on me? That’s the best you got? Pretty weak a$$ chit there Acta’…

The shame you want to dole out to those like me surely resides with those just like you, and all other religious immoralists out there, as it’s your religious intolerance that has led to more wars, deaths, famines, pestilence, genocides and the like, than any other single source in man’s 200,000 year history.

Don’t you mean “christian spirituality” is very important? You don’t recognize any other type of religious spirituality, right? So it must! That’s called religious bigotry, something far more efferous and dangerous than all other types of bigotry combined.

By the way, isn’t it a material thing that CMA coveted, the building and the land that once was a church? Just askin’….


ActaNonVerba

Yada, yada, yada… Sorry social justice warrior, but filling one’s belly is not the end-all to a happy,well-lived life.


To completely discount the importance of spiritual nourishment is ignorant at best, malicious and bigoted at worst.


People like you in today’s world seem to believe that you have special license to attack and denigrate both faith,and people of faith. You do not. You are wrong, and your views are rejected.


AmericaTheFree

You mean Catholic nourishment, don’t you? As Catholics don’t believe in Christianity as it is, right?

Nope, no special license, just the common sense and intellect to know what you spew is so much bullchit and doesn’t live up to “ActaNonVerba” let alone the “loving” god you espouse to represent.


ActaNonVerba

Are you truly that obtuse? Catholic Christians are the Proto-Christians. The Catholic Church was created by Jesus Christ at Pentecost.


AmericaTheFree

So much, how did you say it? Yada, yada, yada…

Proto-christians? Really? Then why are your proto-christians leaving the church of pedophilia priests in droves? More than any other religion in the country.(a)

Surely your god would have protected this rock of sexual abuse from itself, right? He would have kept more of it’s brainwashed cult members in the flock, or at least out of the hands of those perverted “fathers”, right?

Your bible based dogma is obtuse, but mixed with denial it becomes dangerous; especially so for children and women.

So, please take your yada, yada, yada someplace else and stop bothering me with your cult based bullchit!


(a)https://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/catholic-church-lost-members-religion-u-s


bischbubba

You’re wrong there, buddy. According to the Encyclopedia of Wars, religion has been the cause of only 6.7% of wars in history. Remove Islam and its even less. Try again.


AmericaTheFree

I ain’t your buddy, got that…

You’re right though, I misspoke; what I should have said is Christianity , and it’s god, have caused more deaths including those of wars that any other single source in recorded history.

You could start off with your god committing all of us to death through the act of two people, Adam and Eve, right?

Then he goes on to committing genocide and massacres starting with the Canaanites, and continuing with the Amalekites, the Midianites the Moabites , the people of Sihon, the entire population of Jericho, the people in Ai, the Gibeonites, the people of Makkedah, the Libnahites, the people of Lachish, the Eglonites, the Hebronites, and the Debirites , and the Anakim and dozens more. And how ’bout what he did to the Egyptians when they wouldn’t release his people? I guess killing women, children and first born sons like so much fodder is just fine too? Just as long as your god does it, right?

I could on with the Spanish (Catholic’s) colonization of the Americas (+/-20 million),The Thirty Years War (+/- 7.5 million), The Crusades (+/- 3 million) and the Catholic extermination of Cathars (+/- 1 million), and many others that would take pages to list and would probably fall on deaf ears anyway…


nazbol gang

Agreed. Today people are spiritually starving.