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Church alleges tuition unpaid

A Rockville, Md., church is trying to recover at least $500,000 - about the same amount an organization tied to its former pasto

A Rockville, Md., church is trying to recover at least $500,000 - about the same amount an organization tied to its former pasto

December 19, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A Rockville, Md., church is trying to recover at least $500,000 it says it is owed in unpaid tuition - about the same amount an organization tied to its former pastor spent, in cash, to buy the old Hagerstown YMCA a year ago.

Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown Inc. purchased the former YMCA building at 149 N. Potomac St. in January. The $500,000 transaction was made in cash, according to the deed on file at the Washington County Courthouse.

The Rev. Ray Hope - who is with Shiloh Ministries, a religious nonprofit group - said at the time of the purchase that the building would become a school, church, day-care and retreat and conference center.

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Hope resigned Sept. 24 after six years as pastor at Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville amid questions about hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition for Montrose Christian School, according to Associate Pastor Sandy Adams Jr.

The school is affiliated with the church.

Adams said there were questions about Hope's involvement in a company called MISA, which brought foreign students to Montrose Christian School.

About a year and a half ago, MISA, or Maryland International Students Association, started to recruit Korean children for the school's English as a Second Language program. MISA collected tuition money from students' families and paid the school on their behalf, Adams said.

MISA has not paid $83,000 in tuition from the 2001-02 school year and an undetermined amount from the current school year, Adams alleged.

Using an estimate of $13,000 per student for the ESL program and 43 Korean students, Adams said the unpaid tuition for this year appears to be more than $500,000.

Using Adams' figures, the two-year sum alleged to be unpaid could be as high as $640,000.

Adams said Hope appeared to have played a role in MISA, which would violate a conflict of interest clause in the church's bylaws.

Hope did not respond to three phone messages left for him Wednesday. A woman who identified herself as being with an answering service for Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center said Wednesday evening she left Hope a message on his cell phone and faxed the message to his office.

Adams said the church has communicated with Hope through e-mail and is still trying to negotiate with him, but he has refused face-to-face meetings and FedEx packages.

Montrose Baptist Church had no connection to Shiloh Ministries when it purchased the former YMCA, Adams said.

About a month after the purchase was finalized, a group of about 100 people - mostly from Montrose Baptist Church - paid to use the retreat for a program on leadership, he said.

Adams said Wednesday he was unaware that Shiloh Ministries paid for the YMCA building with cash.

In January, after the sale of the former YMCA, Shiloh representative Kevin Harmon said the building might be used to board up to 50 high school students taking English as a Second Language classes.

The YMCA moved into its current home on Eastern Boulevard on Dec. 3, 2001.

Four days later, YMCA officials announced they were selling the old building, which was built in 1920.

In 1999, Hope and his brother, Richard W. Hope, settled a 1991 Securities and Exchange Commission complaint "without admitting or denying" allegations that they had defrauded investors, The Associated Press reported.

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