The Presbytery of Twin Cities Area (PCTA) will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review its property case against Prairie Community Church in Eden Prairie, Minn.
In July, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied a similar petition from the presbytery to review the decision the Minnesota Court of Appeals in favor of Prairie Community Church of Twin Cities (formerly known as Eden Prairie Presbyterian Church).
The Court of Appeals’ April 24 decision upheld the March 24, 2016 ruling by the Fourth Judicial District Court, which concluded that the Prairie Community Church of Twin Cities “owns the disputed property and that the disputed property is not held in trust for the PCUSA, and the PTCA and PCUSA have no legal interest in the disputed property.”
AC Report to Presbytery
The presbytery-appointed Administrative Commission announced its unanimous decision to petition the U.S. Supreme Court at the Sept. 12 presbytery meeting.
“This was not an easy decision for any of us. It was made, not through disappointment or anger, but rather a commitment to the PCUSA and our commitment to who we are as a church. We believe the court rulings go beyond a single church, a single property, or a single presbytery. We believe the Minnesota courts have failed to allow the presbytery and the PCUSA to govern ourselves without interference,” the AC’s report said.
It continued that the decision was based on several facts:
“First, we remain unsure of the effect of the MN court rulings, both on churches in this presbytery as well as PCUSA churches within Minnesota, and even churches in other states or other denominations. Part of that can, and must, be addressed by holding churches and elders accountable to our polity and to their ordination vows. But that action alone does not address what other parts of the PCUSA Constitution are vulnerable to civil court scrutiny.
“Secondly, we believe that this is a question of our fundamental freedom to govern ourselves as a church. It is a question of our identity as a denomination; our commitment to our ordination vows; and of our faith in and significance of our Constitution.
“Third is our belief that it is our responsibility, as part of the connectional church, to attempt to clarify the position of the courts on the property trust clause. Yes, we could wait for another presbytery or another denomination to ask SCOTUS for this clarification, but with our status at this point in time, we have the opportunity, perhaps duty, to pursue this avenue of appeal. We may not succeed in our petition to have the court hear our case this time, but we will have raised the issue before the court, and that could be an influence on a similar case in the future.”
The legal work will be done by the New York law firm Weil Gotshal, “which has agreed to serve as the lead counsel in the appeal to SOCTUS on a pro bono basis,” the report said. “Weil Gotshal has been involved in several cases in the PCUSA and knows our polity very well.”
Court of Appeals decision
The Court of Appeals ruled that the District Court was correct when it applied neutral principles of law. Under neutral principles, the court bases its decision in neutral, secular principles, looking at official documents such as property deeds and state statutes.
The court’s decision stated that while the church had created an express trust when it modified its articles of incorporation in 1999, it had also retained the right to modify the documents by a majority vote of the active church members at a properly called congregational meeting.
So, in 2010, when the church voted to remove all references to the trust and the PCUSA from its Articles of Incorporation, “it was within its rights.”
“Thus, EPPC retained the power to revoke the trust and properly revoked the trust by removing all trust language in 2010,” it read.
I wonder if the also considered what might happen if they lost at the Federal level? You then might have a Federal ruling that favored local church ownership that could dramatically reshape of number of state rulings to the contrary.
Note to Administrative State PCUSA: They were never your churches to “govern” in the first place. I think on last reading of the Book of Order, they do refer to Sessions and congregational decisions there of. The current property in trust clause of the PCUSA is like a bolder, balanced upon the head of a pin, from a legal sense. The system is balanced upon two legal and ecclesiastical absurdities.
That a religious denomination without Bishops or Popes can act and behave as such, due to some administrative fiat. Further that the Administrative State is entitled to some form of compensation for property they do have deed and title too, simply because they say so. As an extension, that said Administrative State is entitled to confiscation of corporate and at times personal assets based upon the idea that when people join the post 1983 PCUSA they with knowledge aforethought give up their constitution rights to freedom of assembly and association, worship. Again because the Administrative State says so.
Maybe in the Marxian fantasy, Cuba libre world the PCUSA inhibits of the relation of the individual to the State, Such a situation does exist. This is the USA last time I checked. Again, the Administrative State may prevail in this case, maybe not. But they will not prevail 100% in 100% of the various jurisdictions these cases process in. That cracking sound you hear is something coming down, a wise person would move out of the way.
Separate and apart from the Presbytery of the Twin Cities inflated egos to think the US Supreme Court cares about this bureaucracy which is trying to run roughshod of this community church trying to take their property or extracting a kings ransom, the Supreme Court will NOT want to get tied into an ecclesiastical power fight. It’s too easy for them to deny the appeal and let the lower court ruling stand. And I’d put money on that’s what they’ll do. And that will sink the PCUSA future claims based on the so called trust clause. And the Louisville mafia can hang the Presbytery of the Twin Cities from the yardarm for not quitting when only Minnesota and the environs of the Appeals Court were at risk, not the entire USA.
Churches able to leave for free is what upsets Rev Janet Edwards the most
It is time for the PCUSA to move forward from the “Property in Trust” agenda it has been holding onto. That concept has long gone by the wayside as congregations have paid off their property and now exercise outright ownership. It is 2017, guys. Time to move into a new reality regarding church property, just as the PCUSA is moving into the new social reality of inclusiveness and social awareness. If a congregation desires to leave the PCUSA, permit it to do so with prayers and good wishes, not the outright animosity and fighting we see today.
So? They joined for free. Christ did not instruct us to build property values and buildings. There is no theological ground.
The PCUSA may be a church but it ceased to be the Church of Jesus Christ when it committed apostasy by promoting pluralism and heresy when it approved homosexual ordination and same sex marriage.
It is the 80/20 rule. 80% of profits come from 20% of the customers. PCUSA is losing the 20% so they are trying to make them pay on the way out.
I’m thankful to God for the court’s decision. Local churches should also present a legal argument of downright criminal fraud in most of the cases. That’s right; I believe the presbyteries have engaged in criminal fraud by not informing members of critical financial and property issues.