Church’s Bylaws Vested Absolute Authority in Two Elders

A church's bylaws vested absolute authority in the hands of two elders. Either elder could

A church's bylaws vested absolute authority in the hands of two elders. Either elder could be disciplined or removed only by the other, and not by a vote of the congregation.

An internal dispute arose, and the church voted to request the voluntary resignation of both elders. This request was refused. Thereafter, the church secretary and treasurer (both of whom had been appointed by the elders) attempted to take over the administration of the church, resulting in their immediate dismissal by the elders. However, when they refused to recognize their dismissal, the elders sought a court order prohibiting them from exercising any further control over the religious or business affairs of the church.

An Illinois appeals court held that a court order was appropriate under the circumstances. The court reasoned that the elders in fact had absolute authority, that the secretary and treasurer had lawfully been relieved of their responsibilities, and that if the secretary and treasurer persisted in their actions, serious harm would result to the congregation. People ex rel. Stony Island Church of Christ v. Mannings, 509 N.E.2d 572 (Ill. App. 1987).

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