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Disaffiliating from a Parent Denomination

Two rulings address the control of church property.

Key point 7-03.3. Most courts apply the "neutral principles of law" rule in resolving disputes over the ownership and control of property in "hierarchical" churches. Under this rule, the civil courts apply neutral principles of law, involving no inquiry into church doctrine, in resolving church property disputes. Generally, this means applying neutral legal principles to nondoctrinal language in any one or more of the following documents: (1) deeds to church property; (2) a church's corporate charter; (3) a state law addressing the resolution of church property disputes; (4) church bylaws; or (5) a parent denomination's bylaws.

The Georgia Supreme Court issued two rulings addressing the control of church property when churches disaffiliate from a parent denomination. The two cases, involving an Episcopal and a Presbyterian church, are summarized below.

Case #1: Rector, Wardens, Vestrymen of ...

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  • November 1, 2012