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California Baptist Foundation reaches out to Ariz. Baptists

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FRESNO, Calif. (BP)–Directors of the California Baptist Foundation agreed April 7 to assist the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention with some of the financial services formerly provided by the now-defunct Baptist Foundation of Arizona. The action came in response to a request from ASBC leaders, according to California foundation officials.

California foundation board members adopted a resolution during their regular spring meeting listing financial services the California Southern Baptist Convention agency will provide for Arizona Baptists. Services named in the resolution are estate planning, church financing and trust management. The resolution authorizes creation of a “task force of ASBC and CBF representatives … to coordinate a plan for informing Arizona Baptists about this cooperative effort.”

The California foundation’s role in Arizona will be one of ministry to individuals, not damage control, said Phil Kell, the agency’s executive vice president.

In a related action, the California foundation board authorized spending up to $45,000 from a foundation trust fund “to provide some of the funds needed for assistance to the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.” That money and funds from ASBC will be used to hire someone to represent California foundation services in Arizona, an official said.

Rob Zinn, California foundation executive committee chairman, explained Arizona Baptists “lack the money to do what they need to do in these areas and it’s up to us to do it for them.” Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, said the California board’s executive committee must ratify any agreement the foundation’s executives negotiate with Arizona Baptists.

K. Milton Higgins, California Baptist Foundation president, said he has received encouragement from various California Southern Baptist Convention leaders about plans to assist Arizona Baptists with financial services. Higgins reported that CSBC Executive Director Fermin A. Whittaker told him helping Arizona Baptists “would be the Christian thing to do.”

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Describing “where our heart is,” Higgins said, “Our desire is to talk to people who have a heart for the Lord and want to do something for the cause of Christ when they’re gone.”

Last August the BFA put a temporary freeze on the assets of its investors after state regulators ordered the foundation to cease “fraudulent security sales.” Currently the agency is in liquidation under a plan filed Feb. 18 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. One ASBC official has predicted the sale of foundation assets could bring between $215 million and $220 million.

However, that would be far short of the $590 million the foundation owes to about 11,000 investors. Arizona Baptist officials hope to recoup the difference through a $400 million lawsuit they filed in February.

Former BFA executives, lawyers and the Arizona foundation’s longtime accounting firm, Arthur Anderson, all are named as defendants in the civil action.

Elizabeth Young contributed to this article.