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Pastors’ group seeks to raise $400 million to recoup losses

GILBERT, Ariz. (BP)–Urging Southern Baptists to “take care of their own,” a group of Arizona pastors has formed a coalition to raise more than $400 million, the probable loss by investors in the bankruptcy of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona.

Larry Deskins, pastor of Gateway Fellowship Church, SBC, said he is confident investors will get all their money back. “The basic premise of this incident is not about money,” he said. “It’s about integrity. It’s going to require Southern Baptists to pull together like nothing else before,” he noted.

Deskins is a founder of “Restoring Our Integrity,” a coalition of pastors working to raise funds to make the Baptist Foundation’s investors whole again. The troubled foundation is in bankruptcy reorganization and is seeking to form a new corporation to liquidate all of its assets.

Investors, some of whom entrusted their life savings to the foundation, had their funds frozen in August. A year-long investigation resulted in state regulators alleging securities fraud and calling the foundation “a highly complex Ponzi scheme” and a “shell game.”

Deskins’ plan calls for Arizona Southern Baptist congregations to pledge one percent of their operating budgets to form an entity to administer the payouts. He said any money collected in Arizona exceeding administrative costs, and 100 percent of money collected outside the state, will be used to repay investors and cover the Baptist Foundation’s apparent $400 million shortfall.

Deskins said his plan has the backing and support of the state convention as well as the Baptist Foundation. He noted that 60 pastors have already pledged their support to the plan.

The Restoring Our Integrity coalition will be formed as a 501 C3 entity. A group of auditors from Southern Baptist churches will oversee the financial aspects of the coalition.

While Deskins said he didn’t have a vested interest in the Baptist Foundation, many seniors adults did. “That’s the sad thing here,” he said. “Two thirds of the people who lost money are over the age of 55. We’ve got 75 year old widows having to find jobs. This should be unacceptable to Baptists.”

Deskins hopes Southern Baptists across the nation will step up to the cause. “If we have 8 million Southern Baptists give $5 a month, it would take just 10 months to pay off the debt,” he said.

The coalition hopes to have a web site soon that will feature additional information about the fund raising efforts.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes