Court documents involving First Family Church have been sealed

Court documents involving First Family Church have been sealed
By JUDY L. THOMAS - Kansas City Star - 4/2/2011
A judge last week sealed the court documents involving a bank’s request that he appoint a receiver to take over operations of First Family Church.

Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty said in his order that he sealed the proceedings to protect both the Overland Park megachurch and the bank.

The order, filed Tuesday, said the documents were sealed because information contained in the case could “adversely affect” the financial positions of both parties.

The action means that the judge’s decision on whether to appoint a receiver and any related proceedings are closed to the public.

Moriarty ruled on the bank’s request for a receiver on Tuesday, court records show, contrary to a statement issued by First Family Church on its website in February that the judge had denied the bank’s request at a Feb. 23 hearing.

The decision on whether to appoint a receiver was sealed, however.

An attorney for Regions Bank declined comment on the action. First Family Church board chairman Robert Ulrich referred questions to the church’s attorney, who did not respond.

First Family Church filed a motion last month requesting that the proceedings be sealed. Moriarty told The Kansas City Star that “there was no objection by either party to seal it.”

Regions Bank had filed a foreclosure petition against First Family Church in January and in February asked the judge to appoint a receiver to manage church operations until the case is completed. The Alabama bank’s court filings say that the church owes about $14.4 million on two loans, with an additional $82,000 of interest accruing monthly.

The church’s board of elders issued a statement at the time saying that Regions Bank had “unexpectedly” called the church’s mortgage last year, demanding full payment within 30 days.

Among the reasons the bank cited for putting the church under a receiver, according to court documents filed before the case was sealed, were what it called “excessive” salaries of the Rev. Jerry Johnston — the church’s senior pastor — and several of his family members.

The Overland Park church said the salary figures cited by the bank were inaccurate. Ulrich has said pastors took a reduction in salaries because of the economic downturn.

The bank’s court filing said the receiver, if appointed by the court, would take possession of all church property and accounts. The bank also wanted the receiver to file monthly reports with the court “setting forth all receipts and disbursements” of the church.

First Family Church responded that the action “will cause catastrophic and irreparable injury to the church.”

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to

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