Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Contracts
A church's decision to discontinue making payments to a former pastor's widow did not amount to a breach of contract.
Key point. Financial commitments made by a church to a staff member are legally enforceable only if the church receives something of value ('consideration') in return for its commitments.

* A Tennessee court ruled that a church's decision to make biweekly payments to a former pastor's widow was unenforceable since the church received nothing of value ('consideration') in return for its commitment, and therefore the church's decision to discontinue making the payments did not amount to a breach of contract. In 1981 Pastor Dave began his tenure as senior pastor at a Baptist church (the "church"). He served in this capacity until his death in 1995. In return for his services, the church paid Pastor Dave a salary as well as various fringe benefits such as cell phone services, beeper services, lawn services, and vehicle maintenance. At Pastor Dave's request, the church orally agreed to provide most of these benefits directly to his wife (Darla). Before his death, Pastor Dave spoke to several deacons of the church and asked the church to provide for his wife if the church was able to do so. The church responded by entering into an agreement with Darla in which it agreed to provide her with $785 on the first and third Sunday every month until 2010 and would provide lawn services for her residence. Pursuant to the agreement, Darla would receive these benefits until one of two terminating events occurred: (1) her death; or (2) she remarried. However, if she remarried within five years of the inception of the contract, she would continue to receive these benefits for five years. If she remarried after five years, she would no longer receive any benefits.

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