Church Property – Part 1

Church Law and Tax 1990-05-01 Recent Developments Church Property Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Church Law and Tax 1990-05-01 Recent Developments

Church Property

A New York court ruled that a local church had the authority to withdraw from a Methodist conference. A Korean congregation was organized in New York City in 1972 as an independent church. In 1985, the church agreed to join the New York Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. A “joinder agreement” was signed that gave the local church the right to withdraw from the conference and retain title to its properties “if in three years there is unhappiness with being a United Methodist Church.” Soon after the agreement was signed, dissension broke out among church members and the church voted by a two-thirds majority to withdraw from the conference. The conference dismissed the pastor of the congregation, and demanded that the church turn over all property to the conference. It then filed a lawsuit seeking a legal determination of the rights of the parties. A state appellate court ruled that the joinder agreement was a valid legal document that gave the local congregation the right to withdraw from the conference within three years and retain its properties. The court further ruled that whether or not the right to withdraw from the conference was properly exercised would be determined by that section of the state religious corporations law that governs independent churches (and not the Methodist Church), since “for the purpose of exercising its contractual right to withdraw [the local church] must be considered an [independent] church.” New York Annual Conference of the Methodist Church v. Nam Un Cho, 548 N.Y.S.2d 577 (1989).

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