Agreement would limit demolition threat to iconic Oklahoma City church
First Christian Church would get a reprieve from the threat of demolition under terms of an agreement to be considered Tuesday by the Oklahoma City Council.
Protecting First Christian's iconic white-domed sanctuary from destruction has become a rallying point for historic preservation advocates as the dwindling congregation seeks a buyer.
The council will consider a memorandum of understanding among the city, First Christian and Crossings Community Church to stave off demolition while First Christian and Crossings negotiate a sale.
First Christian and Crossings announced Easter morning they were working on a deal.
First Christian, just north of downtown at 3700 N Walker Ave., could become a satellite campus in the heart of the city for Crossings, a megachurch whose main campus is at 14600 N Portland Ave.
Led by Senior Pastor Marty Grubbs, Crossings' membership is 9,000.
It has a satellite campus in Edmond, a clinic and community center, pre-K through 12th-grade school, and Sunday services at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.
"I feel blessed that we were able to come together and have productive discussions for what I believe will lead to a great result," Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher said by text Friday night.
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Crossings' main campus is in Stonecipher's ward.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper represents neighborhoods around First Christian.
Neighbors have been vocal in their efforts to preserve the church, along with the associated Jewel Box Theatre and education center on the 31.8-acre First Christian property.
Cooper said he met with leaders from Crossings and First Christian after the council deferred two weeks ago a vote to preempt review of First Christian's property for designation as a historic landmark overlay district.
Cooper said the proposed agreement would enable the city to work with both churches to protect the First Christian sanctuary, theater and education center from demolition and "preserve these historic buildings for future generations."
"Because of its unique architecture and the fact First Christian provided sanctuary to those in medical need in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, the city has a duty to preserve First Christian’s place in our city’s history," Cooper said.
The agreement applies to about 12 acres including the sanctuary and other buildings. It would:
• Withdraw the Historic Preservation Commission's vote to assess First Christian's suitability for designation as a historic landmark.
• Guarantee the buildings would not be demolished while Crossings and First Christian negotiate a sale, or for as long as Crossings owns the property, should the sale go through.
• Give the city authority to match any offer, should Crossings acquire the property and later decide to sell.
First Christian's distinctive domed sanctuary is described as an “excellent example” of neo-Expressionist design in American architecture’s Modern Movement.
The Oklahoman described its Dec. 23, 1956, opening in a story headlined, “Tradition-Breaking Church Dedicated.”