Thursday, December 12, 2019

Appeals Court Dismisses Suit To Enforce Board's Suspension of Church Pastor

In Stewart v. McCray, (IN App., Dec. 11, 2019), an Indiana state appellate court dismissed a suit seeking to enforce a suspension imposed by the Board of Directors of a Baptist church on its pastor. The trial court had found the pastor in contempt a the court's order enforcing the suspension.  As the court of appeals explained:
This matter stems from a years-long dispute between certain members of the congregation of the Canaan Baptist Church, in Elkhart, Indiana ... and its pastor, Reverend McNeal Stewart, III ... involving allegations that Rev. Stewart usurped the authority of the Church’s board of directors and disregarded the constitution and bylaws of the Church.....
The instant matter arises from Rev. Stewart’s suspension from his pastoral duties for his alleged failure to act in accordance with the Church’s Bylaws. Regardless of whether the parties, at times, failed to adhere to the Church’s Bylaws, at bottom, this is a dispute over the Church’s leadership. As such, this matter, at its core, is purely ecclesiastical and one which the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate.