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Property of Disaffiliated Churches

In some cases, a church's property reverts to its former denomination when it secedes.

• A California state appeals court ruled that title to the properties of a local church that voted to disaffiliate from a parent denomination belonged to the denomination rather than to the church. The local church was the oldest Korean immigrant congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ("PCUSA"). It had participated actively in the Presbyterian Church for more than 80 years. PCUSA had assisted the church in acquiring its first properties, and in obtaining financing for various projects. A schism developed in recent years within the church, primarily over the views and leadership of the church's pastor. Attempts by the PCUSA to resolve the problems failed. As a result of the schism, a group (numbering up to 30% of the church's membership) left the church and formed a "church in exile." The pastor thereafter had the remaining congregation vote to disaffiliate from the PCUSA. ...

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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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  • May 1, 1992