Monday, March 22, 2021

Court Continues 30-Year Old Church Factional Dispute

In Trustees of the General Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. v. Patterson, (ED PA, March 19, 2021), a Pennsylvania federal district court, in an 85-page opinion, granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the county sheriff from carrying out a Writ of Possession and Eviction Notice against plaintiff Church and Church Corporation which holds title to Church property. As explained by the court:

The instant action is one in a long line of other cases ... over the past three decades, in state court and federal court alike. The heart of each case is the same, though the procedural postures may differ. They all seek to resolve, once and for all, a question that has been posed since 1991, after the death of the late Bishop McDowell Shelton and the subsequent schism in the Church: Who gets to control the Church and Church Corporation and their assets?

The Writ of Possession at issue grew out of a 2006 Arbitration Award which was upheld in 2017. The court concluded, however, that the case giving rise to the arbitration award was between individual leaders of the two factions seeking control. Since the Church and the Church Corporation were not parties to that action, it was not binding on them. Thus a judgment is being enforced against them when they never had the opportunity to litigate the matter.