Former members of an Antioch church were asked to continue giving to try and get their church out of debt without ever being told the building had been in bankruptcy for a year, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.
On July 15, the congregation of Abundant Life Christian Church in Antioch got an unwelcome surprise.
The doors were locked.
A sign on the door read the church was temporarily closed due to unpreventable measures and the members were invited to another location.
But a Channel 4 I-Team investigation revealed the church isn't temporarily closed. The bank has seized the building.
And the man whose pictures and paintings of himself and his wife adorn the front lobby of the church, Pastor Mike Whitsey, knew the bankruptcy was coming for some time.
"He didn't make anyone aware that the church was being shut down," said a former church member who asked for anonymity.
Former members told the Channel 4 I-Team that up until the church closed, they were told to open their wallets to get the church out of debt.
"He (Whitsey) was asking people to give more, he wanted everybody to give $1,000 before June."
The members now want to know what happened to the money they gave.
"A lot of people, including myself, gave that thousand dollars," the former member said.
Court filings obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show the church filed for bankruptcy in June 2011. Whitsey is named as president of the debtor.
In August 2011, court records show repeated cases of checks being written to Whitsey and his wife.
Lawyers for Pinnacle Bank, which gave Whitsey the loan, wrote there was gross mismanagement of the estate.
Still, former members said they were asked to keep giving.
"He's (Whitsey's) lying. That's all he's been doing is lying. Constantly. And he needs to be exposed," the former member said.
Whitsey denied our repeated requests for an interview.
Whitsey did send out an email after the church was closed and blamed a decline in offering for the financial woes.
A statement from the deacons of the church, sent to the Channel 4 I-Team, stated in part, "He (Whitsey), neither us, will engage in any on or off camera interviews pertaining to this or any other matter... the church took on several financial shortfalls due to a decline in membership and other business endeavors."
There was no mention in the statement about what happened to the money given by the congregation.
The bankruptcy filings show the attorney for the church recently asked to no longer represent them and said he could not control his client.
Whitsey had a Bible study Tuesday at Meharry Medical College and we attempted to speak to him. Once campus security realized why we were there, they asked us to leave campus.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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