TMI President Mark Young said the Florida-based company has owned the site since 2017, when the church defaulted on its mortgage payments. Young said he wants to sell the 2.5-acre property — listed for $6.5 million — but has struggled to find buyers with the church still in the building.
Muse referred requests for comment to the church’s attorney, Lawrence Holzman, who said the 3,000-member congregation has been paying rent to an outside entity that has a contract to buy the building and lease it back to the church.
Church officials provided receipts showing payments, but declined to name the outside entity or provide a contract or lease agreement.
Young said his company agreed last year to drop its eviction case against the church if the building was bought by a third party, but the agreement was nullified when the deal failed to close.
Muse, 61, has developed a loyal following over the course of his long career as a pastor and a politician. He began working in the ministry at age 20, after fleeing violence at home as a child and being adopted by a United Methodist pastor.
As a delegate and then a senator, Muse pushed for criminal justice restructuring and improved services for victims of domestic violence. He often decried the political establishment in Annapolis, clashing with fellow Democrats on issues from the plan for a casino at National Harbor to same-sex marriage.
He left the legislature in 2018 and unsuccessfully ran for county executive, losing in the Democratic primary to the eventual winner, Angela D. Alsobrooks.
Muse’s church includes more than 50 ministries and 70 ministers, according to its website. When the church filed for bankruptcy in 2012, Muse said his middle-class members were still struggling to climb out of the recession, which had hurt donations.
It was the second time a church that he led experienced financial difficulties. When Muse resigned as pastor of Gibbons-Resurrection United Methodist Church in Brandywine in 1999, he left behind an unfinished building for which Methodist leaders said there was about $6 million in debt and bond payments that were “seriously in arrears.”
Muse left the Methodist church and became a nondenominational minister.
Ark of Safety used bonds to finance construction of its church starting in 2005, with TMI’s predecessor company representing the investors who bought the bonds. TMI also held the mortgage, as trustee for the bondholders.
After the bankruptcy filing, the court modified the terms of its mortgage, and the church made regular payments until it defaulted in 2017 and began leasing the property month-to-month, Young said.
TMI first listed the property for sale in October 2017, hoping to generate profits for the bondholders, who Young said have not received payments since the church defaulted on its mortgage.
“There are elderly people who believed in and invested in this church,” Young said.
Holzman is arguing that the church was not properly served notice of TMI’s intent to evict, court records show.
Young said several groups, including other churches and a charter school, have been interested in purchasing the complex. But he said they do not want to be seen as kicking out a church — especially one run by an influential former lawmaker. Muse is married to Pat Lawson Muse, an anchor for NBC Channel 4.
Rodney Bennett, the real estate agent who is selling the property, said he has put up two “for sale” signs in front of the church, both of which have been taken down.
“I didn’t get another sign, because that would just be me throwing away another $1,000,” said Bennett, a broker at Fairfax Realty Elite. “They are doing everything they can to prevent us from selling the church.”
Holzman said the church “denies any and all allegations made by the real estate agent.”