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Whose Church Is It?

California Supreme Court rules on ownership issue between national Episcopal church and local parish that seceded.

California Supreme Court rules on ownership issue between national Episcopal church and local parish that seceded.

Article summary. Applying the "neutral principles of law" approach, the California Supreme Court ruled that the national Episcopal Church owned the property of a local church that voted to disaffiliate from the denomination as a result of the ordination of a gay priest. Although for more than fifty years the deeds to the church property vested title in the local church, the court concluded that the local church, from the beginning of its existence, agreed to be part of the Episcopal Church and to be bound by its governing documents. These documents make clear that church property is held in trust for the general church and may be controlled by the local church only so long as it remains a part of the general church. When a church disaffiliates from the general church, it does ...

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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:
  • March 2, 2009

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