Christian Banking Movement Regains Some Ground after Initial Effort Ended in Failure Two Years Ago

Article excerpt

Christian Banking Movement Regains Some Ground After Initial Effort Ended in Failure Two Years Ago

Atlantic Stewardship Bank, founded here by evangelical Christians, is approaching the end of its first year and has attracted deposits at about four times the rate management anticipated.

Meanwhile, other activists in the Christian banking effort are reporting modest successes in Lagos, Nigeria, and in Portland, Ore., where the first bank that pledged itself to Christian principles failed two years ago.

In the wake of the failure of the Stewardship Bank of Oregon, there is a new stress on the term "anchor' rather than "stewardship,' though the commitment to paying 10% of pretax profits to Christian charities remains the same.

Capitalized at $2 million when it opened its doors late last September, the Midland Park bank has $9,675,100 in deposits, according to Paul Van Ostenbridge, president and chief executive officer. Management predicted deposits of $2.5 million by the end of the first year.

Mr. Van Ostenbridge said plans project the bank to turn a profit in three years. He declined to give quarterly earnings figures, because, he said, "for the layman, those figures might have a negative connotation.' With seven full-time and 11 part-time employees, the bank is concentrating on finding customers among small businesses.

Robert E. Laughlin, owner of a food equipment supply company in Portland and a founder of the Stewardship Bank of Oregon, said in a telephone interview, "The term "anchor' is used, because here or anywhere in the nation or in Nigeria, the "anchor' of the economy is small business.

"There was excessive attention to the Christian association,' he said.

Mr. Van Ostenbridge said a group interested in establishing a bank in Orlando, Fla., had visited his bank, and Mr. Laughlin reported groups in Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Seattle-Tacoma that are considering organizing "anchor' banks. There is also a group in Nigeria.

Mr. Laughlin said that a group of United States businessmen in Nigeria had set July 1 as a target date for beginning to raise capital for an "anchor bank,' contingent upon approval by Nigerian banking authorities by that date. …