Family Church: Dispute settled, debt elimination campaign begins

Joe Taylor

Leaders of the Family Church of Marco Island told their congregation this week a lengthy dispute with a Marco lender has been settled.

The Family Church is at 1450 Winterberry Drive.

Under the agreement with former church member Mary Traudt, who loaned the church more than $7 million, “the church will pay the Marco lender $5.1 million over seven years, with no early payment penalty.”

“Because the Lord has moved in the hearts of all involved, an agreement has been reached for a legal and monetary settlement,” read the information booklet titled “Set Free” that was given to attenders on Sunday morning.

The settlement signed by all parties on Jan. 21, the booklet continued, “concludes all legal action, establishes a payment agreement and gives the church a clear path to debt freedom.”

The first payment, due Jan. 28, will be a promised $1 million donation from a Naples lender, plus the $250,000 proceeds for the sale of Naples property on State Highway 951, and a $13,000 interest payment. After this payment is complete, the church bulletin said, “God’s provision will have reduced the church’s debt from nearly $15 million to $3.85 million ... that’s more than $10 million in under three years.”

The church announced that “God has led some very generous donors to pledge up to half of the remaining principal as a matching donation — this is nearly $2 million and leaves an overall fundraising goal of only $1.925 million to completely pay off the debt.”

As 2013 began, the church faced what its leaders called “tremendous uncertainty” as five associate pastors and several staff members left for other organizations and the senior pastor resigned.

Prior to the leadership turnover, the church had amassed about $15 million in debt — more than $9 million in principal and interest plus about $5 million in a short-term mortgage on the Naples site. But in spring 2013, the church decided to stop services at the Naples site and put the property up for sale.

In April 2014, its local lender filed a foreclosure proceeding. The Naples campus was sold in 2014, but foreclosure continued and leaders decided to defend the church in court.

Donald R. Kirk, who represents Traudt, did not return a phone call.

“We want the Marco Community to know that the Family Church is alive and well,” said Nowlin in an email to the Sun Times. “Just recently our Men's Ministry hosted a free steak dinner for the men in our community which drew about 100 men. We are also excited about the launch of our new benevolence ministry and food pantry with the goal to impact Marco Island with the love of Christ!

“Our desire as a church community is to glorify and please God in everything we do,” said Nowlin. “We encourage everyone to come and see what God is doing here at the Family Church every Sunday at 10 a.m.. We know that ministries and individuals around the island have continued to pray for us, and are thankful for their prayer support, and we continue to praise God for His faithfulness to us.”

More information

The Family Church is at 1450 Winterberry Drive, phone 394-1646.