Decision on 'Jesus Saves' Church Put Off by Council

Times Staff Writer

When the Los Angeles City Council finally got around to the controversial question Friday of whether to declare the downtown "Jesus Saves" church a historical monument--after making a crowd of about 200 people wait 3 hours and 25 minutes through unrelated debate--it acted quicker than you can say eschatalogical perusia.

But the issue was not resolved. Instead, the council shunted the matter to its Recreation and Parks Committee, which will hold a special meeting on the issue Tuesday. A final decision on the thorny, emotional issue was thus delayed at least another week.

The anti-climactic action came after the council's attorney, George Buchanan, ruled that the agenda, as written, would only allow a narrow discussion of a now-moot bankruptcy issue and not a discussion of the merits of monument status.

The delay frustrated the "save-the-church" movement led by colorful television minister Gene Scott. Although Scott was not present, his followers were out in force. Scott had encouraged their attendance with a coded message, asking for an "eschatalogical perusia"--or prophetic appearance--in a recent TV broadcast.

Scott told his flock that he would not attend the meeting because of the news media's tendency to focus attention on him, rather than on the question of whether the 72-year-old, 3,000-seat church is worth saving.

Meanwhile, the "sell-the-church" camp also showed up in sizable numbers. Pastor Dale Wolery of the Church of the Open Door, which owns the property, was prepared to detail the recent history of the church: how the council in 1985 approved its demolition, how Scott later bought the property but soon defaulted on the mortgage, how the Church of the Open Door now has a new $23-million contract of sale with Lincoln Properties--a deal contingent on the ability to demolish the building.

Wolery said he would also suggest a means of preserving the church's distinctive rooftop "Jesus Saves" signs for the Los Angeles skyline. The Salvation Army has offered to relocate the signs, putting one on their headquarters and another on one of their Skid Row missions, he said.

As it stands, both camps appear nervous about the council's ultimate decision.

Wolery said the Church of the Open Door's lobbyist, Kenneth Spiker, expects a "very close" vote.

Meanwhile, Mark Travis, Scott's chief of staff, voiced confidence that the council will declare the building a monument. But he also called Buchanan's ruling "highly suspect," suggesting that improper influence came into play.

Buchanan replied, "He should read the Brown Act," referring to the state public meeting law.

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