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Who Controls the Property of a Disaffiliated Church?

Court rules that a parent denomination retains control of a church's property.

Key point. The property of a local church affiliated with a hierarchical denomination may revert to the denomination if the church votes to disaffiliate.

A Maryland court ruled that a parent denomination retained control of the property of a local congregation that voted to disaffiliate. The congregation of a church affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church voted in 1993 to disaffiliate from the parent body as a result of what it perceived to be burdensome financial demands and a decline in moral conditions within the denomination.

Both the dissident congregation and the AME Church claimed the church's property, and a court was asked to determine the rights of the parties. The court ruled that the local congregation was entitled to retain its property. It based its conclusion on the fact that the church's deed did not contain a "reverter clause" transferring ...

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  • March 3, 1997

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