Corinth Presbyterian wants property as it leaves the fold

At issue: First Presbyterian Church claims its lands and property are the congregations. The Presbytery of St. Andrew, a regional administrative authority, asserts the property holdings are held by the church in trust for the denomination, the Presbyterian Church of the United States Inc.

hed: Corinth Presbyterian wants property as it leaves the fold

– A hearing date hasn’t been set yet for the court to consider the lawsuit.

By Leesha Faulkner

Daily Journal

CORINTH – Members and leaders of the First Presbyterian Church want a federal judge to keep its denomination’s regional administrators from changing the locks on the sanctuary and other buildings.

The land and holdings of First Presbyterian have become an issue in a lawsuit moved recently from circuit court of Alcorn County to U.S. District Court in Oxford. The church wants the court to confirm it owns the land, to prevent the Presbytery of St. Andrew in Oxford from physically barring members and leaders from holding services there or taking other action to disrupt the status quo of the church.

A hearing date hasn’t been set. The church’s Jackson attorneys have asked the court to consider the case as soon as possible.

On the other side, the Presbytery has contended that under the constitution regulating the denomination, First Presbyterian Church holds the property in trust for the denomination and that the Presbytery has the right to determine ownership.

Tensions between the church and its administrative division began last summer after the 217th general assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA said ordaining bodies in the organization may choose not to comply with a constitutional prohibition against ordaining practicing homosexuals and adulterers. The general assembly also suggested alternative language to describe the Trinity, from Father, Son and Holy Spirit to Mother, Child and Womb.

First Presbyterian disagreed with the changes, saying, “These actions, in combination with many others, have caused a large number of congregations to question whether they want to remain a part of PCUSA.”

In November, the church voted to “go in the direction of leaving the PCUSA in 12-18 months or less and moving to a new place in another Presbyterian and Reformed denomination … unless or until there is action taken by the PCUSA that the Session of First Presbyterian determines is significant enough to change its opinion.”

The church is at 919 Shiloh Road in Corinth. It was founded in 1858, has 475 members and an annual budget of $550,000. First Presbyterian has six deeds, dating from 1949 until 1989 executed by the church’s trustees.

The legal pleadings filed by the church’s attorneys contend there is no language in the deeds accepting a trust over the property. Further, documents filed in the court claim the land was acquired and improved exclusively from financial contributions from church members.

Contact Daily Journal county-courts reporter Leesha Faulkner at 678-1590 or leesha.faulkner@djournal.com.

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