Two church buildings that were once part of a legal property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio and two breakaway congregations now have new owners.
Grace Brethren Church of Norton recently purchased the property at 565 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road in Fairlawn that was the former home of St. Luke’s Anglican Church.
In September, Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church bought the property at 825 E. Buchtel Ave. in Akron, where Church of the Holy Spirit Anglican Church had been located.
The 12-year-old Baptist congregation moved from its Copley Road location in July and completed the purchase of its new property on Sept. 4. The Rev. Shawnte Davon Hardin, senior pastor at Greater Faith, said the congregation moved because it needed more space.
“Since we’ve been here on Buchtel, we have taken in about 40 new members. This area is pretty blighted and the neighbors have expressed that they are happy another church moved into this building,” Hardin said. “Our goal, in addition to reaching people for Jesus Christ, is to help people live better lives by supporting and loving them.”
Hardin said his church, which attracts about 130 people to its 10:45 a.m. Sunday service, plans to restart its food and clothing ministry; establish an education center, where people can learn a trade, earn their GED and connect with community resources; and expand its outreach to recovering addicts and single mothers.
The church hosts recovery support groups and operates two “Hope Houses,” which provide temporary housing for single mothers and recovering addicts. The apartment house for those recovering from alcohol and drug addictions is located next to the church on Buchtel. The house for single mothers is in West Akron.
“Our motto is ‘the church with clean hands and a pure heart.’ We have a passion for helping people,” Hardin said. “We want to encourage people through the word of God and we start by providing the things they need, whether it’s food, clothing, housing or counseling.”
Grace, one of the area’s megachurches, plans to renovate the church building on Cleveland-Massillon Road and launch a fourth campus there sometime within the next 18 months. The church, which attracts 4,000 worshippers to its weekend services at its Norton and Bath campuses, is currently putting about $2 million into an old factory off state Route 18 in Medina to house its third campus.
The Medina East location is slated to have a grand opening next spring. The Norton campus, located at 3970 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, offers services at 8, 9, 10:30 and 11:45 a.m. on Sundays. The Bath campus, at 754 Ghent Road, has services at 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 8:45, 10:15 and 11:45 a.m. on Sundays.
“Our strategy is to take Grace Church of Greater Akron into the community and stay grass roots in order to serve the people who live in the community, while having the resources and reach of a large church,” said Jeff Bogue, Grace’s senior pastor. “The plan is to never have more than 550 people at a time in a service and each of our campuses has a local pastor.”
Grace Church (www.graceohio.org) paid more than $1.5 million for the Fairlawn property and plans to invest another $1.5 million for renovations. According to Summit County Fiscal Officer’s records, the Fairlawn property is appraised at nearly $2.5 million.
Greater Faith paid $65,000 for the Buchtel Avenue property, which included the two-story frame house next to the church, which is now occupied by the Hope House for recovering addicts. The property is appraised at more than $190,000.
Both Holy Spirit and St. Luke’s were among five Northeast Ohio parishes that in 2003 began the process of disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church and realignment with the Anglican Communion. The split developed over disagreements involving biblical teaching on issues including homosexuality and salvation.
The chasm grew to include a court fight about property ownership in 2008, when the Ohio Diocese sued in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, asking a judge to declare that the property associated with the parishes belonged to the diocese and the Episcopal Church.
Last year, after the court ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and the diocese, the Holy Spirit and St. Luke’s congregations moved out of the buildings. The diocese then put the properties on the market.
“We are happy that both buildings will continue to be churches serving God and God’s people,” said Brad Purdom, canon of congregations for the diocese, who oversaw the sale of the properties.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.