Payday loans concern Wilmington-area clergy


By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com



Rev. Dr. Tom Stephenson of the Wilmington First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), foreground, and Dr. Carl Ruby, senior pastor of the Central Christian Church in Springfield, background, meet Wednesday with Clinton County commissioners.

Rev. Dr. Tom Stephenson of the Wilmington First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), foreground, and Dr. Carl Ruby, senior pastor of the Central Christian Church in Springfield, background, meet Wednesday with Clinton County commissioners.


WILMINGTON — Local clergy said Wednesday they are “deeply concerned” about practices in the payday loan industry, and asked county commissioners to lend their voices through support of payday loan reform in Ohio.

A letter bearing the letterhead of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association (WAMA), and signed by 10 Clinton County clergymen and women, was given to commissioners.

The letter states, in part, “In response and on behalf of the most vulnerable citizens of our county, we respectfully encourage the Clinton County Commissioners to join those [commissioners] of Ashtabula and Summit Counties, in support of House Bill 123 and encourage Speaker Cliff Rosenberger to move this much-needed bill forward.”

Ohio House Bill 123 will reform but not eliminate payday lending in Ohio, the letter states. The bill has a Republican and Democratic co-sponsor, commissioners were advised.

Rev. Dr. Tom Stephenson of Wilmington First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dr. Carl Ruby of a Springfield church who is director of a faith coalition supporting payday loan reform, and Rev. Elaine M. Silverstrim, a retired Episcopal priest and Clinton County resident, met personally with commissioners Wednesday. At the end of the appointment, commissioners indicated they expected to offer official support to the reform effort.

Stephenson said that in addition to the 10 local clergy named at the end of the letter, many other local faith leaders have said they agree with the intent of the initiative though their names are not listed.

Stephenson said it’s a matter of economic justice, and from a faith perspective, “it is nothing less” than what is required to be done for neighbors and for brothers and sisters in the faith community.

He added a member of his congregation who is on disability and is a single mom got into deep financial trouble with the debt she incurred through payday loan lenders.

“We spent a lot of time trying to get her out of that deep dark hole, while at the same time knowing there is some personal responsibility and accountability so that we required from the church perspective for her to do some financial counseling,” Stevenson said.

The woman ran the risk of losing almost half her monthly income as well as her vehicle, he added. Stephenson said the church responded to her immediate need and also tried to address a long-term solution by letting her know she has a part in this as well.

According to information distributed at the commissioners meeting, Ohio House Bill 123 seeks to establish a maximum interest rate on payday loans of 28 percent plus a maximum monthly fee of $20.

The WAMA letter is signed by Stephenson, Silverstrim, Rev. Daniel W. Mayo of the New Vienna Community Church, Rev. June Fryman of Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pastor Dave Hinman of the Dove Church, Rev. Deborah Linville of Wilmington Presbyterian Church, Chaplain Veronica Grabill of Clinton Memorial Hospital, Pastor Julie Rudd of Wilmington Friends Meeting, Deacon Ronald Keim of Wilmington Lutheran Church, and Rev. Jim Graham, a retired Presbyterian minister.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Rev. Dr. Tom Stephenson of the Wilmington First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), foreground, and Dr. Carl Ruby, senior pastor of the Central Christian Church in Springfield, background, meet Wednesday with Clinton County commissioners.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_tom_p_f.jpgRev. Dr. Tom Stephenson of the Wilmington First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), foreground, and Dr. Carl Ruby, senior pastor of the Central Christian Church in Springfield, background, meet Wednesday with Clinton County commissioners.

By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com