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Disputes Over Congregational Churches' Property

A South Carolina court recently ruled on this issue.

• A South Carolina court ruled that a local Baptist church congregation had the authority to authorize its trustees to obtain financing to purchase a new building by mortgaging the existing facility. In 1952, a minister deeded a church building and lot to 5 individuals as trustees of his church. The deed provided that the trustees would hold the property for the benefit of the congregation, and subject to the "laws" of the Baptist church. In 1983, the church membership became divided over the issue of moving to a new building. The existing sanctuary had become dilapidated, and repairs were not feasible. The majority of the congregation voted to move to a new facility and to change the church's name. The minority resolved to remain in the old building and continue using the church's original name. Two of the original trustees, representing the majority faction, deeded the old church ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • July 1, 1991