By Michelle Casady, San Antonio Express-News.
The battle centers on who would have legal claim to the property (both real estate and finances) now used by First Presbyterian Church in the event the congregation left the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination: the local church or Mission Presbytery, its regional council.
“What this lawsuit is about is First Presbyterian San Antonio asking the court to declare that it owns all of its property free and clear of any trust in favor of any other party,” said Lloyd Lunceford, who represents First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, and has represented more than 60 other Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches in 20 states in similar litigation. “So that it would then be free to consider whether or not to leave without this gun to its head, if you will.”
Closing arguments were made in state District Judge John D. Gabriel’s 131st courtroom Thursday afternoon, and he instructed the parties to expect a ruling sometime after Labor Day weekend, allowing him time to review all the evidence, including videotaped depositions with some witnesses who couldn’t be at the hearing that lasted two days.