Ownership of Church Parsonages

A Tennessee court addressed this matter in an interesting case.

Church Law and Tax 1992-07-01 Recent Developments

Church Property

A Tennessee court addressed the issue of ownership of a church parsonage in an interesting case. In 1953, a donor gave a home to a church. The deed contained the following language: “This land is given by us to the church for the purpose for the home for the Baptist pastor and no pastor shall occupy said place as a home unless he preaches `that you are saved by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.’ And in the event he refuses to preach such doctrine he will not be permitted to reside in said parsonage.” Many years later, the church purchased other property for the purpose of constructing a new parsonage, and it sought approval from a court to sell the existing parsonage and apply the proceeds to the construction of the new home. The original donor’s surviving family members challenged the church’s position, and claimed that they would own the property if the church ever attempted to sell it. A trial court disagreed with the family, and ruled that the church was the absolute and unconditional owner of the parsonage. Accordingly, the church could sell the original parsonage and apply the proceeds to the construction of the new building. The family appealed this decision. The family argued that the original deed was “conditional.” That is, the donor intended for the church to own the parsonage only so long as a Baptist pastor lived in the dwelling who preached “that you are saved by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.” The family maintained that this condition would be violated if the church ever sold the parsonage, and at such time the title would revert to them. The state appeals court rejected this position, and ruled in favor of the church. It stressed that the alleged “condition” in the deed was not a condition at all, but rather “merely words stating the purpose of the gift.” The court concluded that the creation of a conditional deed requires language that clearly calls for a reversion of the property to the donor in the event a specified condition is ever violated. The language in the this deed simply did not satisfy this requirement, the court concluded. Mitchell v. Jerrolds, 1991 WL 39587 (Tenn. App. 1991 unpublished).

Related Topics:

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay