Church Loses Property after Withdrawing from Denomination

A deed to a church’s property may dictate who maintains ownership of the property in the event of a dispute.

To illustrate, the deed conveying title to a local church in Georgia read: "The aforesaid property is conveyed to the trustees above-named as trustees of First Evangelical Methodist Church, Lafayette, Georgia, affiliated with the Evangelical Methodist Church of Abiline, Texas, and other places, it is understood that this conveyance is made to the trustees hereinbefore named as trustees in connection with the affiliations aforesaid and that said connection is to be maintained in the use of the property herein conveyed."

The congregation voted to withdraw from the parent denomination, and a lawsuit resulted to determine whether the local church or the denomination had title to the church property. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded that the church is no longer "in connection with the affiliations aforesaid," and that said connection is not "maintained in the use of the property herein conveyed."

As a result, "title to the church parcel must be declared vested in the [parent denomination] and the local church, by virtue of the severance of its connection therewith, must be held to have forfeited its right of use and possession." First Evangelical Methodist Church v. Clinton, 360 S.E.2d 584 (Ga. 1987)

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