Texas Faith Leaders’ Letter to the Texas Legislature

Dear Members of the Texas Legislature,

We, the undersigned Texas faith leaders write to express our concern over the state of small-dollar lending in Texas. Our concern stems not only from our common moral and scriptural understanding of usury, but also from the direct impact payday and auto title lending has had in our congregations and communities. Too often we witness families who struggle to make ends meet burdened by the weight of perpetual debt sold to them as help in their time of trouble. Our congregations, deacons and church leaders have responded time and again with direct aid through benevolence funds comprised of tithes and offerings. This aid, meant to help folks keep their lights on, often ends up subsidizing the payday lending industry. Our faith communities teach the value of stewardship of personal resources and many offer financial education classes. Some of us have even worked to provide alternative lending sources for the public. We are doing all within our power to offer a solution; we call on you to do the same.

Texas is one of only a handful of states that provides no limit on what payday and auto title lenders can charge borrowers. Historically, the United States identified usury as immoral by enforcing strict limits on fees and interest, particularly on loans given to our most vulnerable neighbors. The Texas Constitution states that unless otherwise regulated a loan of 10% per anum shall be deemed usurious and the finance code sets generous limits for payday and auto title loans. It is only through organizing under the Credit Services Organization code, originally meant to govern those who help repair credit, that lenders have found an egregious loophole with which to evade traditional usury standards. In fact, the average APR for a payday loan is now an unconscionable 617%. That means a $500 loan often ends up costing borrowers over $1,200 in just four months. We faith leaders call for a return to a traditional, moral view of usury in Texas.

Though the cost of any single loan would be more than enough to arouse our anguish and outrage, it is apparent that the corruption goes much deeper. It extends to the very heart of the business model upon which these lenders depend to reap exorbitant profits at the expense of the most financially vulnerable. Borrowers quickly become trapped in a cycle of debt that is designed to keep them in debt even after they have paid off their original loan many times over. A National examination of 15 million transactions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed that 75% of all fees generated by payday lenders come from the 48% of borrowers who take out 11 or more loans a year. In addition, the CFPB found that nearly 80% of all payday loans are used to pay off a previous loan. No lender should be allowed to set up a business model that profits most from borrower failure. It is time that the Texas Legislature promotes policies that emphasize family financial success as much as business success.

The undersigned leaders represent a wide swath of the faith community in Texas. We cannot be pigeonholed as uniformly conservative or liberal and may not often agree on other issues. We are neither anti-business nor anti-profit, but we agree that there must be moral boundaries to the market. Businesses that trap our most vulnerable neighbors must be regulated and we call on the state to step-in. We know that there will always be those who find themselves in a desperate need for money. It is just this desperation that makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous and unethical lending. For the vast majority of our history Texas laws were on the side of borrowers in such situations and put caps on interest rates. Finding a way to bend the law in lenders’ favor does not make the practice any more ethical. Lenders should be required to actually assess a borrower’s ability to repay a loan given both their income and expenses and within the initial term of a loan without relying on the need to re-borrow. In addition, Texas should limit the number of times lenders “roll-over” borrowers forcing them pay fees and interest again and again without ever reducing what they owe. The legislature should protect the right of cities to exercise local control and respond to their citizens with regulations that go beyond state limits. Finally, we call on the state to vigorously enforce the Military Lending Act rate cap of 36% so that those serving our country in this state are not exploited by lenders disregarding federal law.

We understand the forces behind payday and auto title lending are strong. Powerful lobbyists, well-funded business interest groups and strategic campaign donations have garnered many friends in the Capitol. We urge you to think also of the families you represent and act in their best interest.

Sincerely,

Dr. David Hardage – Executive Director | Baptist General Convention of Texas*
Dr. Steve Vernon – Associate Executive Director | Baptist General Convention of Texas*
Kathy R. Hillman – Columbus Avenue Baptist Church | President of Texas Baptists*
Ruben Mendez – Iglesia Cornerston*
Corina Zuniga – Iglesia Fuente de Agua Viva*
Rev Dr. Daniel F. Flores – Sociedad Wesleyana Internacional*
Eliezer Bonilla – Abundant Life*
Dr. Tony Celelli – South Texas School of Christian Studies*
Dr. Steve Wells – South Main Baptist Church, Houston*
Dr. Joseph Parker – David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church*
Dr. Sterling Lands – Greater Calvary Bible Church*
Abel Lopez – President, Clay Student Leadership*
Dr. Derek Davis – First Baptist Church | Woodway*
Robert B. Kruschwitz – DaySpring Baptist Church*
Gerald Davis – Cornerstone Baptist Church | Baptist General Convention of Texas*
Patricia Ayres – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Frank Cooksey – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Former Mayor of Austin*
Vince Smith – South Main Baptist Church*
Don Jeffreys – Resurrection Ministries*
Anson R Nash Jr – Corpus Christi Baptist Association*
Dr. Marty Akins – First Baptist Church | Denver City*
Bob H. Dean – Dallas Baptist Association*
Paul Sadler – Wayland Baptist University*
Marv Knox – Editor, Baptist Standard*
Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan Baptist Temple | San Antonio*
Carolyn Strickland – Wilshire Baptist Church*
Dr. E. Britton Wood, Jr. – Fort Worth*
Dr. Charles R Wade – Pastor Emeritus | First Baptist Church | Arlington*
Dr. Phil Christopher – First Baptist Church | Abilene*
Michael Beaty – DaySpring Baptist Church*
Grant Lengefeld – First Baptist Church | Hamilton*
Meg Cooper – Seventh & James Baptist Church*
Ralph Cooper – Seventh & James Baptist Church*
Dr. Barry L Moak – First Baptist Church | Abilene*
Gayla Huff – First Baptist Church | San Antonio*
Robert Huff – First Baptist Church | San Antonio*
Janet Cauthen – Park Heights Baptist*
Jack Cauthen – Park Heights Baptist*
Maurice Fawcett – Columbus Ave. Baptist Church*
Bettye Fawcett – Columbus Ave. Baptist Church*
Helen S. Gray – Park Cities Baptist Church*
Wade Cline – Chair of Deacons | South Main Baptist Church*
Shirley McDonald – Greens Creek Baptist Church*
Mary Ann Patterson – First Baptist Church | Gilmer*
Debra Hochgraber – Pathways Fellowship*
Todd D. Still, Ph.D. – First Baptist Church | Waco*
Pam Mohundro – Director | Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County*
Aurelia N Newton – First Baptist Church | San Marcos*
Rick Gray – Riverbend Church*
Dr. David Lowrie – First Baptist Church | El Paso*
John Hillman – Columbus Avenue Baptist Church*
Dr. Bill Jones – Neches River Association*
Ralph C. Wood – Baylor University*
Barry Harvey – Baylor University*
Maurine E. Frost – First Baptist Church | Hewitt*
Kelly Herzog – Holiday Beach Baptist Church*
Richard Herzog – Holiday Beach Baptist Church*
Jesse Rincones – Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas | Pastor | Alliance Church*
Dr. Jeff Johnson – First Baptist Church | Commerce*
Jason Phillips – Columbus Avenue Baptist Church*
Vince Smith – Collin Baptist Association*
Richard A. Dunn – Mimosa Lane Baptist Church*
Rollie Richmond – The Heights Baptist Church*
Rucker Preston – Helping Hands Ministry*
Pat Ekern – First Baptist Church*
Paul Ware – Matthew Road Baptist Church*
E. Daniel Rangel IB – Mision de Paz*
John M. Litzler – First Baptist Church | Waxahachie*
Linda Ramsey – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Chip Brees – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Amy Brees – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Jonathan T. Chapman – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Carleigh Chapman – First Baptist Church | Austin*
Mary Helen Wheeclock – Deacon Chair | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Anne Monnig – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Evelyn Webster Ofong – Waco Regional Baptist Association*
Willard L. Teel – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Betty Arrell – Austin Baptist Church*
Jared D. Slack – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Doug Keenan – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Valinda Bolton – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Scott Chapman – Deacon Chair-Elect | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Rosalie Beck – Associate Professor of Religion | Baylor University*
Jimmy Dorrell – Church Under the Bridge*
Michael Evans – Pastor | Bethlehem Baptist Church*
Joe Bumbulis – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Sylvia Newsom – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Sue Searles – Deacon| First Baptist Church | Austin*
Kent Hemingson – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Carol Hemingson – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
William Eversole – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Jenny Eversole – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Lester Meriwether – Executive Director | Literacy ConneXus*
Garrett Vickrey – Pastor | Woodland Baptist Church*
Lyle Adair – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Wes Brown – Pastor | Cowboy Church of Collin County*
Phil Sanders – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
John Ogletree – Pastor | First Metropolitan Church*
R. Mark Grace – Chief Mission & Ministry Officer | Baylor Scott & White Health*
Kay Sanders – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
The Rev. James R. Fuller – Pastor | Calder Baptist Church*
Jo Betsy Szebehely – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Bruce Webb – Pastor | The Woodlands First Baptist Church*
Mike Hogan – Austin*
Beth Avery – CrossWalk Church*
Jay Abernathy – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Palestine*
Daniel Bramlett – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Hughes Springs*
Stephen M. Stookey, Ph.D. First Baptist Church | Arlington*
William Pherigo – Shady Oaks Baptist Church | Executive Director of WestAid*
Ben G. Raimer, MD – First Baptist Church | Galveston | CLC Commissioner*
LeAnn Kite Hampton – Wilshire Baptist Church*
Dr. Terry Colley – Pastor | Burton Hill Baptist Church*
Don Wilkey, Jr. – Pastor | Onalaska First Baptist Church*
Rev. Rob Johnson – Pastor | Christian Family Baptist Church*
Ronny Marriott – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Temple*
Anita Gordon – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Phillip Adkins – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
David Matthews – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
David Morgan – Pastor | Trinity Heights Baptist Church*
Glyn Murphy – Pastor | Lighthouse Harbor Church*
Rick Davis – Pastor | Brock*
Kris Knippa – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Lorenzo*
Dr. Elmo Johnson – Pastor | Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church*
Kevin Sinclair – Pastor | South Main Baptist Church*
Carolyn Porterfiled – Valley Ranch Baptist Church*
Patty Lane – Wilshire Baptist Church*
Dr. Chad R. Chaddick – Pastor | First Baptist Church | San Marcos*
Randall L. Evans – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Holland*
Milton R. Gutierrez – Hilltop Baptist Church*
Dwaina Six – Pueblo Nuevo Community Church*
Louise Avant – Minister of Music | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Dr. Daniel F. Flores – President | Sociedad Wesleyana*
Johnnie Musquiz – Iglesia Bautista*
Gabriel Cortes – Southwayside Baptist Church | Director | Hispanic Education Initiative | BGCT*
Taylor Sandlin – Pastor | Southland Baptist Church*
Carlos Alsina – Pastor | Primera Iglesia Bautista*
John Roman – Pueblo Nuevo Community Church*
Rolando Rodriguez – Meadow Lane Baptist Church | Director of Hispanic Ministry | BGCT*
John Raff – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Linda Miller Raff – Deacon | First Baptist Church | Austin*
Reverend H. C. Rockmore, Sr. Pastor | Red Oak Baptist Church*
H. Fritz Williams – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Lockhart*
Ward Hayes – Pastor | Valley Grove Baptist Church*
Dr. Stacy Conner – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Muleshoe*
Joe Franklin – Associate Pastor | First Baptist Church | Brownwood*
Bill Jones – Exec Director, Texas Baptists Committed | Wilshire Baptist Church*
David Stippick – Student Minister | First Baptist Church | Brownwood*
Tim Williams – Senior Pastor | Northside Baptist Church*
Ron Hill Senior – Pastor | The Fellowship of San Antonio*
Rev. Kevin Mitchell – Associate Pastor | Highland Park Baptist Church*
Jorge Zapata – Pastor | New Wine Church*
Rick McClatchy Trinity Baptist Church | Director | Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship Texas*
Cyndi Wehmeyer – Willow Meadows Baptist Church*
Sharon Sachs – Melody Lane Christian Renewal Center*
Chad Harrod – Church Under the Bridge*
Rev. Mary Wilson – Pastor | Church of the Savior*
Pastor Ronnie Linden – Pastor | Christian Fellowship Baptist Church*
Eric Howell – Pastor | DaySpring Baptist Church*
G. Dean Dickens – Agape Baptist Church*
John Moore – First Baptist Church | Abilene*
Heath Powers – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Winters*
Dr. Julio Guarneri – Pastor | Calvary Baptist Church*
Ryan Busby – Pastor | Bosqueville Baptist Church*
Hector Rodriguez – First Mexican Baptist Church*
Pearl Garza – First Baptist Church | Harlingen*
Dr. Kyle Childress – Pastor | Austin Heights Baptist Church*
Darrel Auvenshine – Pastor | Southside City Church*
Dr. Larry Davis – Pastor | South Garland Baptist Church*
Janna Calk – Nurse Educator | Del Rio High School*
Matt Peacock – Executive Director | Partners In Hope Lake Travis (Church at Bee Cave)*
Rev. Dr. Kenneth A Ritchie Pastor | First Presbyterian Church*
Froswa Booker-Drew – Cornerstone Baptist Church*
Mark A. Newton – Director for Church Engagement | Baylor University*
David Garland – Calvary Baptist Church | Professor of Christian Scriptures | Baylor University*
Joe Bailey – Pastor | Speegleville Baptist Church*
Daniel Camp – Pastor | Shiloh Baptist Church*
Jerry M. Becknal – Pastor | Cranes Mill Baptist Church*
Bea Mesquias – United Baptist Church | President | Hispanic Baptist Convention*
Jesus Guillen – Pastor | Iglesia Bautista Redencion*
Angel Vela – Primera Iglesia Bautista Sunland Park*
Chase Caldwell – Pastor | Lakeview Baptist Church*
Melinda Coats – Christ the King Baptist Church | Baylor University | School of Music*
Rev. Keith Stewart – Pastor | Springcreek Church*
Rev. Wes Helm – Missions Pastor | Springcreek Church*
Rev. Dr. Terrence Autry – Pastor| Christ Community Church*
Rev. Dr. Ouida Lee – Pastor | United Methodist Church of the Disciple*
Rev. Rachel Triska – Pastor | Life in Deep Ellum*
Dr. Lydia Bean – Faith in Texas*
Marvin Thompson – Emmanuel Baptist Church*
Erin Conaway – Pastor | Seventh & James Baptist Church*
Bryant Lee – Pastor | Higher Expectations Church*
Delvin Atchison – Pastor| Antioch Baptist Church*
Eddie Freeman – Elder Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship*
Cynthia Ellison – Western Heights Baptist Church*
Annette Brister – Lake Shore Baptist Church*
Rev. Katie Ferguson Murray Wilshire Baptist Church*
Rev. Heather Mustain – Wilshire Baptist Church*
Ikki Soma – Pastor City of Refuge Church*
Irma Alvarado – CLC Board of Consultants | Donna, TX*
Erasmo Alvarado Jr – Donna, TX*
Patrick P.T. Ngwolo – Pastor | Resurrection Houston*
David Bowman – Executive Director | Tarrant Baptist Association*
Ira Antione – Pastor | Minnehulla Baptist Church*
Rev. Asante Todd – Austin Presbyterian Seminary*
Scott Middleton, MD – First Baptist Church | Corsicana*
L. Jeff Harris Grace Pastor | Community Primitive Baptist Church | Bell County Tea Party president*
Steve Cannon – Director | Jail Ministry Inc | Belton*
William D. M. Carrell Meadow Oaks Baptist Church | Professor | University of Mary Hardin-Baylor | Belton8
Richard Hight – Feed My Sheep | Volunteer and Board Member | Temple*
Louann Hight – Seaton Brethren Church | Board Member | Temple*
Dr. Mike Bergman – Meadow Oaks Baptist Church | Temple*
Kaye Cathey – Feast of Hope | Vice Chair, Central Texas Homeless Alliance |Temple*
Judy Humphrey First Baptist Church Grand Prairie| Site Coordinator | CWJC in Grand Prairie*
Sandra Jones – C.I.R.S.- A | Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas | Temple*
Rachel Peterson – Executive Director of Family Promise East Bell County| Temple*
James Bartley – Columbus Ave. Baptist Church | Waco*
Jim and Gloria Helleson – Columbus Ave. Baptist Church | Waco*
Paul Briggs – Pastor | Axtell Baptist Church | Axtell*
Van Gladen – Columbus Ave. Baptist Church | Waco*
Ronald E. Miller – Pastor | Central Baptist Church | Waco*
Ruth Daniel – Bethel Church | Temple*
Kay Dunlap – Calvary Baptist Church| Waco*
Gene Presta – The Knights of Columbus Council #7196 | Belton*
Jamie Hipp – Missions Pastor | Highland Baptist Church | Waco*
Christopher G. McLain – Pastor | First Baptist Church | Crowell*

*Listed for identification purposes only, does not indicate church or organizational endorsement.