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Evangelical church at centre of Wrightbus collapse scandal raked in nearly £3m last year

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Jeff Wright, lead pastor at the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena

Jeff Wright, lead pastor at the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena

Jeff Wright, lead pastor at the Green Pastures Church in Ballymena

The evangelical church at the centre of the Wrightbus scandal has reported a surplus of almost £3m in the last year, it can be revealed.

Green Pastures Church, which is situated in Galgorm outside Ballymena, has posted its annual accounts to Companies House which show it had a total income of £3.98m in the last financial year.

At the same time, the document shows that the church spent almost £1.17m, leaving it with a net surplus of £2.8m.

This contributed to the funding of the church's construction of a new facility, according to the report.

It has also revealed that the value of the capital assets belonging to the church stood at £21m at the end of April last year.

According to the accounts, Green Pastures Church, which is classified as a charity meaning it is eligible for rates relief, received more than £3.8m in charitable donations over the 12-month period.

It does not provide any detail on the source of the donations.

Protests were staged outside Green Pastures Church in the weeks after Wrightbus went into administration with debts of £60m and the loss of 1,200 jobs.

The company was founded by Sir William Wright, and it was his son, Jeff Wright, who controlled the Wright group at the time of its demise last year.

He is also a pastor at Green Pastures Church.

There was anger after it emerged that the Green Pastures Charity received charitable donations of around £15m over a six-year period through the Cornerstone Group, which ultimately controls Wrights Group.

At the time, some workers expressed their concern that the donations had weakened the business.

While hundreds of workers and their families staged a peaceful protest outside the church, Mr Wright addressed the congregation inside and said: "My heart for the company and its people means more to me than the vicious comments and the intimidation that my family have received in the last week.

"But I have learned from dad that there's a time to speak and a time to be silent."

The preacher later revealed his family received death threats following the collapse of the business.

Meanwhile, his father stopped to speak to some of the protesters outside the church as he arrived for the service and was applauded by many of them.

The directors' report for Green Pastures Church, which was submitted to Companies House on January 31, said it welcomed more than 60,000 people of all ages to services every Sunday over the last financial year.

In addition to this, it said there were many more people who took part in various ministry activities during the week.

It continued: "We celebrated with 89 people who came to a new faith in Jesus Christ, 38% of whom actively engaged in a discipleship programme, and 62 people were baptised throughout the year.

"The church also provided regular and accessible pastoral care, not only to its 900-plus adult members, but also to the wider community.

"During the reporting period, the church had 493 active volunteers contributing an estimated 40,000 plus volunteer hours toward its charitable aims.

"A significant portion of this investment is focused on community work, some of which is in connection with our partner charity, Connect Ministries.

"The church also continued to progress its vision for the 97-acre site in the south of Ballymena.

"The Gateway Project exists for the benefit of the local area, particularly Ballymena, and seeks to be a blessing to our city by providing social value and helping to stimulate the spiritual, social and economic regeneration.

"The company plans to continue its activities in the forthcoming years."

The report continued: "The church's desire is to be a reflection of God's heart through a vibrant 21st century church.

"We are committed to building a spirit-filled people who are inspired by Christ enjoying us, enjoying Him.

"A people who are driven by compassion to reach lost and hurting people, and to be a transforming presence in the communities we serve.

"The income of Green Pastures, The People's Church, is testament to the lovely giving heart of its people and to God's promise that if we act in faith with careful planning, He will release His provision."

Wrightbus had been in business for about 70 years, and was best known for manufacturing the red double-decker London bus, when it collapsed in September last year.

It was subsequently bought by the Bamford Bus Company.

It has since emerged that creditors of the bus building company were likely to receive no more than 3% of what they were owed.

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