Without Walls: Former Church of Randy and Paula White Is Up for Auction After Bankruptcy Filing

Without Walls Central Church  sits vacant in North Lakeland in December 2012. The building, once the Carpenter's Home Church, is set to be auctioned on July 8 as the result of a bankruptcy filing by the Tampa church that owns it. CALVIN KNIGHT | THE LEDGER (2012)
Without Walls Central Church sits vacant in North Lakeland in December 2012. The building, once the Carpenter’s Home Church, is set to be auctioned on July 8 as the result of a bankruptcy filing by the Tampa church that owns it.
CALVIN KNIGHT | THE LEDGER (2012)

Polk County’s largest church building may soon have a new owner.

Without Walls Central, a dormant church in North Lakeland with a 9,600-seat sanctuary, is up for auction as the result of a bankruptcy filing by the Tampa church that owns it. Sealed bids on the 63-acre property are due by July 7, and an auction is scheduled for the next day.

The property, known to many by its former name, Carpenter’s Home Church, includes a Mediterranean-style structure built in the 1920s as a retirement home for a carpenters’ union. That building was used in recent years as a private school.

The property bordering Lake Gibson also includes the sports fields on the south side of Carpenter’s Way. Signs planted in the grass in front of the church are now advertising the auction.

Without Walls International, the Tampa church headed by Randy White, filed for bankruptcy in March. The church had been embroiled since October 2012 in a foreclosure court battle with the California credit union that holds the mortgage on the property.

Evangelical Christian Credit Union has said Without Walls owes it $13.9 million on the Lakeland property. The credit union also holds the mortgage on the home property of Without Walls International in Tampa.

Judge Michael Williamson of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa signed an order for the auction in April, following procedures outlined in Section 363 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Under Williamson’s order, there is a possibility the credit union could reclaim ownership of the property. The creditor is listed as a “qualified bidder” at the auction and may take part without facing the same requirements as the other bidders.

The court order says any other bidders must be willing to pay in cash and must provide a $100,000 deposit. Tranzon Driggers, a Florida affiliate of Tranzon LLC, is coordinating the auction.

If the credit union does bid on the property, any other bid would have to exceed its figure by $200,000 to gain clear title, subject to the judge’s approval. If another bidder fails to meet that threshold, ECCU has the option of still allowing the sale, said Jon Barber, a vice president with Tranzon Driggers.

The “open cry” auction is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 8 at the office of Stichter, Riedel, Blain and Prosser, the Tampa law firm representing Without Walls. A sale hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 9 at which the bankruptcy court will consider whether to approve the sale agreement.

An employee at Without Walls directed The Ledger to lawyer Stichter Riedel. He did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Evangelical Christian Credit Union also declined to comment.

Tranzon Driggers is handling a separate auction for Without Walls International’s property near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Without Walls’ bankruptcy filing from March named nearly 100 creditors, including Construction Management Associates of Winter Haven and Aerial Rigging Inc. of Lakeland. Construction Management Associates asserts it is owed nearly $163,000 by Without Walls.

Records show Without Walls owes Lakeland Electric $5,236.41. The church also has accrued $29,800 in fines from Lakeland’s code enforcement office for violations, city spokesman Kevin Cook said.

The First Assembly of God constructed Carpenter’s Home Church in 1985. The church split in 1989 and never again had a congregation large enough to fill the 9,600-seat sanctuary.

Without Walls International, a non-denominational charismatic church founded in 1991 by Randy White and his then-wife, Paula White, once ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing megachurches. The Whites announced plans to divorce in 2007, and Paula White departed to become senior pastor at an Orlando-area megachurch in early 2012.

Without Walls International bought the Lakeland property for $8 million in 2005, renaming it Without Walls Central. After struggling to attract a congregation, Without Walls International announced in 2008 that the property was for sale.

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SOURCE: The Ledger
Gary White

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