Amidst the tears and heartaches when the remaining congregants at Greenville Avenue Christian Church in Dallas closed the church’s doors for the last time in 1982, there was still a sense of hope:
A hope for the congregation’s legacy of outreach through student scholarships, new church starts and care for the elderly.
In the years since the congregation ceased its visible ministry, more than $1.4 million has been distributed for current ministries from the church’s permanent fund at the Christian Church Foundation.
And distributions are projected to continue growing, as the permanent fund – created by turning the assets over to the Foundation – now stands at just under $1 million.
“The vision those Greenville leaders had is truly amazing,” said Gary W. Kidwell, Foundation president. “They recognized the ministries of the church they were most passionate about, and took the right steps to perpetually support those ministries.”
Because the fund has surpassed the rate of inflation, the buying power of the original gift has been maintained. And as the fund has grown, so have distributions.
Janice Tatlock, wife of the congregation’s last minister, Lloyd, recalled a series of studies confirmed it was best to close the church while it was still financially solvent.
“The members knew they could continue holding services indefinitely, using up their resources until they were gone, but prayerful consideration led them to the decision not to spend all on a failing cause, but to find ways for the church’s mission to live on,” Mrs. Tatlock wrote.
Because of that congregation’s decision, Juliette Fowler Homes in Texas has a stream of income for capital needs; students at Brite Divinity School and Jarvis Christian College receive scholarships; and the North Texas Area of the Christian Church in the Southwest has additional resources for new churches and lay leadership training.
In addition to supporting the work of the Christian Church Foundation and the Pension Fund, Greenville Avenue also provides a tenth of its annual distribution to Disciples Mission Fund.
“Greenville Avenue is a good example that ministry can continue even when the congregation as we knew it no longer exists,” said the Rev. Bobby Hawley, vice president for the Foundation’s South Central Zone based in Fort Worth. “While we often think of individuals as philanthropists, this church has become a major philanthropist to the ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).