By Greg Grisolano
After a deal with a local homeless shelter to purchase its sanctuary fell through earlier this summer, the pastor of a downtown church said the building is back on the market.
“We will not be listed with a Realtor,” said Robert Morgan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Joplin. “We are simply going to let it be known that our parking lots and our building are for sale again.”
Members of First Baptist Church at 633 S. Pearl Ave. thought they had a deal in place when they voted in May to sell their 100-year-old sanctuary to Dan Anderson, the pastor of City of Refuge, for $600,000.
Morgan said at the time that funds from the sale would be used to construct a new sanctuary at 4128 S. Connecticut Ave. in Joplin. The building has been for sale since May 2003.
But the deal fell through when Anderson was unable to raise the necessary funds by the Aug. 1 deadline, and Morgan said the congregation’s plans for a new home are on hold until the building is sold.
“We don’t think we can build the other building without selling this one first, due to the financial needs of the other building,” he said.
Morgan said the church has had some inquiries, but “nothing firm right now.” He has previously declined to say what the asking price for the church building is, but also has said that the congregation would be willing to sell the building for less than market value to another church or faith-based organization, rather than a commercial interest.
Anderson in August asked the Joplin City Council to reconsider a rezoning request that would allow City of Refuge to provide sleeping quarters again at its leased building on East Seventh Street.
Anderson’s ministry provides housing, food and church services to the homeless from a former cold-storage warehouse at 502 E. Seventh St.
Six months ago, the ministry asked to rezone the property from heavy industrial to commercial so it could be used as a shelter. But that request was denied after city officials said the building was not up to code and was deemed unsafe. That decision prompted Anderson to look at First Baptist Church as a new home for his ministry.
The ministry is not prohibited from providing church or food services at the building.
Morgan said his church doesn’t harbor any hard feelings toward Anderson and his ministry, and that members of City of Refuge were recently invited to attend a Sunday worship service.
“We love Pastor Dan and pray for him,” he said. “We still believe they’re a vital ministry in our community, no doubt about it. ”
Globe staff writer Debby Woodin contributed to this report.
Support for sale
When the potential sale to City of Refuge was made public in May, a group of downtown residents and business owners started a petition drive, citing concerns about public safety and a potential threat to economic-revitalization efforts downtown. Those efforts did not seem to impact the church members, who voted 132-18 in favor of the sale.
By Greg Grisolano
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