Sunday, November 16, 2008

Court Upholds Jurisdiction To Decide Which Faction Controls Church Property

Avondale Church of Christ v. Merrill Lynch, (TN Ct. App., Nov. 10, 2008) involves a dispute between two factions of a congregationally governed church. The dispute developed after the minister selected new leadership for the congregation. A Tennessee state appellate court affirmed the trial court's jurisdiction to decide who should control church funds and property and held that it acted properly in ordering a vote of the membership on that issue. However the trial court lacked jurisdiction to decide the propriety of the dismissal of the church's minister by the faction-- known as the Men's Business Committee-- that won the election or the identity of "church leadership" beyond control of church property.