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Church News

Church at centre of Wrightbus scandal selling up for £6m

by Will Maule

Northern Ireland megachurch, Green Pastures, has put its large campus up for sale at a price tag of £6 million. The church, located outside the County Antrim town of Ballymena, hit the headlines last year after being at the centre of a scandal involving manufacturing company Wrightbus.

In September 2019, after Wrightbus announced it was going into administration, it emerged that Green Pastures had received some £15 million in donations from the manufacturer's parent company, Cornerstone, over a period of six years. With the monies originating at Wright Group, Jeff Wright, the Green Pastures founding pastor, majority shareholder in Cornerstone and controller of Wright Group, came under accusations of financial mismanagement. 

The scandal prompted redundant Wrightbus workers to stage mass protests outside Green Pastures and seek answers on the donation issue. Eventually, a takeover deal was secured with Jo Bamford, the founder of the JCB company. Around 700 people are now employed at the plant under the new management - roughly half of the nearly 1,400-strong workforce retained under the previous owners. 

In a statement to the church, Jeff Wright defended his actions at the time, saying: 

"There is no mystery to how, as a family, we were able to support our Christian commitment to these works. All dividends from Wrights Group were paid with the full knowledge of Bank of Ireland and Invest NI. 

"A view is being peddled that Cornerstone Group Limited was wrongly paid dividends by Wrights Group and that Cornerstone wrongly used these monies to make donations towards the development of our church - that could not be further from the truth and is extremely hurtful and damaging."

Despite the church's prior aspirations to expand its campus further, the sprawling site — including the bus building plant — is now up for sale, according to the Belfast Telegraph. 

As per its Facebook page, Green Pastures is currently hosting in-person and online services, along with a 'drive-in' option.

Despite its difficulties, public financial records indicate that Green Pastures received more than £3.8m in charitable donations last year.

 

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