Key point 2-04.2. Some courts are willing to resolve disputes over the termination of clergy if they can do so without any inquiry into religious doctrine.
A North Carolina court ruled that it was not barred by the "ministerial exception" and "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" from resolving a claim by a pastor that his church had failed to pay him the salary and benefits to which they had contractually agreed. A pastor (the "plaintiff") was employed by a church in 1975 on a part-time basis. He also worked for a secular employer. In order to be eligible for retirement at his secular employer, the plaintiff was required to continue working until 2013. However, in 2001, the plaintiff resigned his secular job and entered into a contract with the church titled "Agreement of Full Time Pastorship." This contract consisted of several provisions, including the following:
The Pastor shall serve the church for an indefinite period since there is no scriptural support of tenure.
If the Pastor should become disabled to carry on his work, he shall be paid his full salary until the disability insurance begins to be paid (which is provided by the church) and relieves the church of its responsibility to Pastor.
Whereas, at any time the church shall become dissatisfied with the services of Pastor and ask for his resignation, the congregation at that time shall take a vote and be governed by the majority of voting members eligible (members in good standing with church). At that time the church shall pay the Pastor the total package in advance or his services shall continue until such time the church shall meet this requirement.