“A FRIEND LOVES AT ALL TIMES, AND A BROTHER IS BORN FOR ADVERSITY” (PROVERBS 17:17)
At BMCFerrell, we have more than a business relationship with our clients. We share a friendship and covenant relationship in God’s kingdom.
Several years ago, we did some pro bono work for our client and friend, Cottonwood Church pastor Bayless Conley, after the church received a disturbing letter from their local city council. In September of 1999, Cottonwood Church had purchased 18 acres in the city of Cypress, California, with the intention of building a new church facility. They knew that they faced some hostility from their local government the following March when they were denied use of their own property to hold an Easter service, but they were shocked a few months later when they were informed that their land would be seized through the power of “eminent domain” and re-sold to a “discount warehouse type user.” The city assumed they could collect more tax revenue from a retailer and intended to take the land away from the church.
However, the city didn’t know Pastor Conley, the faith of the wonderful congregation, or the power of prayer. Cottonwood decided to fight the directive both spiritually and legally, so they prayed and went into action.
BMCFerrell decided to get involved from a public relations standpoint. We wrote a tabloid-style newspaper and mailed it to every address in Cyprus and neighboring Los Alamitos. The tabloid told the story of the church, the retailer, the city of Cyprus, and the injustice of the whole idea. We made our case for the unconstitutionality of this abuse of the city’s power of eminent domain – a power generally reserved for the construction of highways, railroads and other public necessities, not a privately-owned retailer. The paper caused quite a commotion and controversy, contributed to the people’s understanding of the church’s stand and rallied Christians around the church. At one point, an estimated 500 people packed a meeting at City Hall to support Cottonwood Church.
We brought in Fred Weinberg, a PR specialist with a history of effective work in controversial situations. We also met with high-ranking officials of the retailer, whom Weinberg called “a lot more reasonable than the people at the city,” and appealed to them to reconsider their involvement in this controversial transaction.
In August of 2002, the Superior Court finally made their decision. The judge decided that the city had overstepped its boundaries. The City of Cypress was barred from seizing Cottonwood’s property.
“This set a precedent for all churches in America in case the same thing happened to them,” Fred Weinberg says. “Already, the precedent has helped more than one church save their land.”
Today, over 5,000 people attend services every Sunday morning at Cottonwood. Recently, I had the joy and pleasure of visiting Pastor Bayless Conley and seeing the new campus. It was hard to hold back tears. What a victory for the kingdom of God!