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Grand Rapids Church Lawsuit and Messy Church Property Law

April 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Happy Friday!

I’ve previously posted articles about the messy nature of Church Property Law – who owns the church property in disputes?

You can review a previous article for some of the legal considerations under Michigan law here

Different jurisdictions come out with different rules. Michigan does things a little differently than most of the country.

Today, an article came out about a Grand Rapids church lawsuit that’s gone through the circuit court up to the Court of Appeals, and it looks like it’s going right back to the Circuit Court:

“MI Appeals Ct: Local judge to decide who controls GR church”

Check out the link here.

Messy Church Politics

According to the article, the split in the Grand Rapids baptist church was over a Pastor who allegedly embezzled funds. This caused a split in the congregation, and a transfer of board power that lead to the ultimate question:

who is in control – old church board or new church board?

When a lawsuit was filed, it looks like the Circuit Court wanted to stay out of the fray.

Courts traditionally stay out of issues of “church polity”.

Congregational v Hierarchical

Here, the Court stayed out of the fray, citing that it had no authority to get involved with issues of church polity. The Michigan Court of Appeals  apparently just sent it back in a recent decision.

Although I haven’t read the opinion, I’m guessing the Court of Appeal’s decision had something to do with the fact that the Grand Rapids church at issue was a “congregational” church. In that instance, Michigan law would look to “neutral principles of law” to decide legally who controls the church.

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

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