Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Church Property Dispute
Court rules that local congregation, not national church, has right to 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 South Carolina court ruled that a national church retained title to the property of a local congregation that voted to disaffiliate from the parent organization. The local church conceded that the national church was hierarchical in nature, but it asserted that it never became a part of this structure but rather operated as an independent congregation. The court disagreed:
Since its inception as a missions church, the local congregation consistently sent delegates to the national church's annual convention and submitted annual reports to the national church. The national church contributed $5,000 to the local congregation to help construct the church building. The current minister of the local church was appointed by the bishop of the national body at its annual convention. Finally, by letter … the entire local congregation submitted its resignation from the national church, evidencing that the members of the local congregation considered themselves members of the national church.

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Posted: May 1, 1997

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