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Presbyterian Property Battles Heat Up


As the Presbyterian Church (USA) deals with the fallout from its June decision to loosen bans on gay clergy, battles are heating up over who gets to keep church property.

Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service, said at least five of the denomination’s 11,200 congregations have decided to leave the denomination since its national assembly in June.

Congregations may be able to split from the PC(USA) theologically, but legally it may not be so easy.

Conservatives argue that if the denomination can overlook rules against gay clergy, then it should also overlook rules that require breakaway congregations to leave their property behind.

But the church’s top elected officer, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, insists that church leaders “are bound to uphold the constitution of the church and do not have the power unilaterally to set aside any portion.”

Moreover, church leaders say the constitution is ironclad when it comes to property. Local congregations hold church property in trust for the denomination. If a congregation wants to leave, the stained glass stays. (RNS)

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