Here's an excerpt
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has selectively disseminated two "privileged and confidential" documents by denominational lawyers calling on presbyteries to use draconian measures when claiming local church property.
The tone of the documents is reflected in the words they use to describe the parties: the "true church" – meaning those who submit to the government and decisions of the PCUSA – versus the "schismatics" – meaning those who believe the denomination has abandoned its Biblical and Reformed roots. One recommendation for presbytery representatives is to portray themselves as the aggrieved party embattling the ungodly – "keep the presbytery in a 'defensive' secular legal posture. (Let the schismatics seek Caesar's help.)"
That proposal is interesting in that most litigation in church property disputes is begun by presbyteries filing civil complaints and congregations having to defend themselves.
The documents also suggest that presbyteries use "spiritual language" in staking their claims to local church property.
They call for aggressive administrative and/or legal measures designed to intimidate dissenting congregations from attempting to leave the denomination with the property paid for by their members.
The documents suggest that if the presbytery learns that a congregational majority is inclined to leave the denomination, it should look for a "loyal minority" in the congregation and declare it the "true church" with rights to the property.
If a loyal minority cannot be found, denominational lawyers suggest that the presbytery can simply declare the congregation dissolved and take the property.
Read the rest here. Mind you, this is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States. It is astonishing to see the same legal strategy being used - though how they will be able to maintain that they are also hierarchical like the Roman Catholics is beyond us, much as we still can't fathom how TEC seems to think that it is also Roman Catholic-style hierarchy (wasn't that one of the major points of the Reformation - to not create the Roman Catholic style hierarchy - this was certainly true for the church in Virginia, of which my own family has been part of since John Washington sailed over from England and married Nathaniel Pope's daughter, Anne in 1658, and, oh, but nevermind). Looks like not only do we have Ridley and Latimer spinning away, but now we have Knox and Calvin too. Wonder how the Methodists and Lutherans are doing?
There are moments when we wonder if there is something more going on, where these parishes and churches are seeking to remain grounded on the faith of their founders and not hoodwinked into capitulating to the latest cultural fad and fancy - which, when we go a bit deeper, turns out to be not so new after all, but very very old (someone get Mr. Arius on the phone). We find, for example through the Alpha Course, that these voting churches are closer kin than we are with our own denominations. Only last weekend we went to a wedding in Prince George's County, Maryland where the Baptist minister used the Book of Common Prayer marriage liturgy to perform the wedding. And it was Jesus-centered Gospel preaching wedding of "amens" and "that's right" and we felt right at home.
The same thing happens as Anglicans abroad. We find we are more "at home" in churches in Africa and Asia and Australia and in parts of the UK, then we are here in the States. What's up with that? And yet the denominational leaders, in freefall, turn to the courts and legal strategies to keep their power, their "deathly hallows."
Here's more - and doesn't this look very familiar:
Among the recommendationsMake sure to read the entire article. It does make for interesting - and very familiar - reading. Question: The Presbyterians are asserting that they are now hierarchical - which is absurd. Why is it we went through that whole business of the Reformation only to all want to be Roman Catholics now? No wonder the new pope looks happy. Perhaps all that Reformation business was much ado about nothing after all. Guess we'll leave it to the U.S. Courts to decide if the Reformation was real or if is memorex.
Quotation marks indicate verbatim statements that are used in PCUSA arguments.
- Lawsuits against dissenting congregations should pejoratively identify them as schismatics, even in the titles of the complaints. One document gave this suggested example of a complaint title: "Presbytery of Middle Wyoming v. The Schismatic and Purported Covenant Presbyterian Church of Landsburgh."
- Take steps to secure local church property by filing affidavits in public court "for the purpose of warning all persons the title to the real property is in dispute." "Moreover, send a letter to all banks and other institutions that hold accounts for the particular church." That letter would claim the presbytery has jurisdiction over the church; inform bankers and other institutions about the denomination's property trust clause; and direct them to release no assets or change their title pending notice from the presbytery.
- "Put the presbytery's and the local church's insurance companies on notice." The purpose is to prevent the dissenting congregation from using its insurance coverage to pay attorneys' fees in a property dispute.
- When necessary, change the locks and "secure" the property.
- Try to get the case before a judge whose religious affiliation (specifically, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist and Roman Catholic) would make him sympathetic to the property claims of hierarchical denominations. "For a judge from an Episcopal system (Catholic and Episcopalian), it is very helpful to say, 'The presbytery is the bishop.'" The recommendation warns against going before a Baptist judge.
- Keep the original church name and corporation within the PCUSA to ensure that the local congregation's endowments and future estates will be secure.
- "If case law is favorable to your presbytery, file a motion for summary judgment as soon as practicable. It is not helpful to allow the schismatics to develop a record."